Wednesday, May 20, 2020

May 20, 1930 -- Lake Shore Drive Improvements Announced

May 20, 1930 – The Lincoln Park Commissioners begin a one-million-dollar improvement project in which three-quarters of that sum will be spent on projecting jetties along the outer drive and the other quarter-million spent on resurfacing and repairing all of the roads in the Lincoln Park system.  The Great Lakes Dock and Dredge Company will construct jetties between North and Fullerton Avenues.  The jetties are an especially important project since the outer drive has been closed for months as a result of its being undermined by waves in a winter that was stormier than usual.  Although no beach will be purposely constructed as part of the project, engineers believe that the new jetties will create a naturally forming beach in the three blocks between North Avenue and Fullerton.  Included in the work will be widening the outer drive in Lincoln Park so that it is ready when the bridge across the Chicago River’s mouth is completed.  The jetties did their work … in a normal summer the North Avenue Beach is packed on hot days, and volleyball players choke the beaches to the area north with dozens of games going on.  The above photo shows the Outer Drive, as it was called back in those days, as it moves toward Fullerton Avenue and Diversey Harbor at the top of the photo.  

May 20, 1965 – The Plaza of the Americas on the north side of the Wrigley building is opened, extending from the lot line on Michigan Avenue almost to Rush Street. This is the first of two great public spaces on Michigan avenue to be developed by private interests. Pioneer Court, jointly developed by the Tribune Company and the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, will open on the east side of the avenue in the upcoming month. The Plaza of the Americas is a joint undertaking of the Wrigley company and Apollo Savings and Loan Association of Chicago, which occupies the building just to the north of the Wrigley Building. That building is now the Realtor Building at 430 North Michigan Avenue. On this day in 1965 at 11:45 the flags of Chicago and the United States are raised, followed by the flags representing the nations of the Organization of American States. There is to be a pole set aside for the Cuban flag, but no flag will be raised. “It was decided that until Cuba becomes free, its flag would not be flown,” Edward P. Kelly, the chairman of Apollo Savings, says. [Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1965]
May 20, 1925 – The Chicago City Council passes ordinances authorizing the Nickel Plate Railroad to begin construction of the first part of a $6,000,000 industrial harbor in Lake Calumet. The ordinance allows the railroad to build a belt line around the harbor, providing additional land for terminal purposes.  In return, the Nickel Plate is obligated to spend at least $600,000 to dredge a channel 200 feet wide with two turning basins in Lake Calumet.  The material dredged from this part of the operation will be used to build up additional land, which will then be leased or sold to industries seeking space near the harbor.  It is anticipated that the revenue that results will “provide the city with ample funds to complete other phases of the project.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 21, 1925]. The council session is prolonged by two controversies.  One involves the number of votes needed to pass the ordinances. Those in favor of the plans maintain that only a two-thirds majority, or 33 votes, is required.  Opponents maintain that State statutes governing the sale or lease of public property must be approved by a three-fourths vote, or 37 votes.  The bill passes 36-9.  The second issue involves several amendments offered to the bill by Thirty-Seventh Ward Alderman Wiley W. Mills.  The first amendment would delete from the ordinance provisions that exempted the railroad from special assessments for the construction of a 100-foot street around the harbor.  The second amendment calls for the railroad to bear the cost of carrying One Hundred Third Street over the railroad's main line.  The original bill stipulated that the city would pay half the cost.  The third amendment eliminates language which entitles the Nickel Plate reimbursement of its entire investment if it fails to complete the work according to contract terms and the city steps in to complete the project.  Mills says, “Something is being put over here that makes other things in recent years pale into insignificance.”  As can be seen in the above aerial view, the railroad maintains a presence in the area. Although the Nickel Plate is long gone, the Norfolk Southern Railroad uses its Calumet Yard as a classification facility with some intermodal business as well.  The bridge running across the top of the photo is that One Hundred Third Street Bridge Alderman Mills was referencing.  Neat to see the city’s skyline way back there on the horizon.

May 20, 1914 – The board of the South Park Commissioners authorizes its superintendent, J. F. Foster, to begin “at once” the first phase of Grant Park improvement by beautifying a strip of land west of the Illinois Central tracks between Jackson Boulevard and Randolph Street.  Foster says, “These plans will be worked out by our landscape architects and gardeners from the original complete Grant park plan submitted by Olmstead brothers of Boston.  The park will be beautified in units.  The second portion to be improved will be that west of the Illinois Central tracks and running south from Jackson boulevard to the proposed new Illinois Central terminal to be built south of Twelfth Street extended.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 21, 1914] The above photo, taken in July of 1914, shows Monroe Street as it crosses the Illinois Central tracks.  The Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago sits on the right side of the street today on the lake side of the railroad tracks.

May 20, 1895 – The City Council takes another step in an effort to establish a lakefront park with the following order: “Whereas. The Second Regiment Armory and Battery D, located on the Lake-Front, between Madison and Washington streets, are being used for the benefit of private parties; and Whereas, It is important that these buildings be removed without delay; therefore, be it Ordered. That the Commissioner of Public Works is hereby directed to see that such buildings are removed at once.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 21, 1895] In debate over the resolution Alderman Madden observes that “the buildings were only used for dances, prize fights, dog shows, and bicycle races.” Alderman Coughlin counters that the city is using one of the buildings as a police station and a fire engine house and that “It was all very well to talk in time of peace, but when soldiers were wanted the Council gladly would accommodate the regiments controlling the armories.”  The bill passes by a vote of 51 to 10.  The armory can be seen in the above rendering on the far side of the massive Industrial Exposition Building, which was torn down to make way for the Art Institute of Chicago.

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