Wednesday, May 6, 2020

May 6, 1957 -- Lower Wacker Drive Opened to Traffic
May 6, 1957 – The lower level of Wacker Drive is opened to traffic as Mayor Richard J. Daley and other officials take part in ceremonies.  A year earlier the upper deck of Wacker, running along the west side of the Loop, was opened after the expenditure of $11 million on the project.  The upper level had no direct connection, though, to the new Congress Expressway, which is still under construction.  Traffic on that level of Wacker has to pass under Congress and turn right on Harrison Street, then right onto Wells and right again onto Congress.  The lower level will use ramps to take traffic on and off the new expressway.  There will be no way to head east on Congress from either upper or lower Wacker Drive.   Engineers estimate that of the 90,000 automobiles passing through the Congress plaza daily, 20,000 are expected to use the ramps to or from lower Wacker Drive.

May 6,1942 – Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Chick Evans, and Tommy Armour tee it up at the Edgewater Golf Club with the admission fees from the 3,500 spectators going to benefit the Fort Sheridan Athletic and Recreation Fund.  The team of Crosby and Evans win the match, 2 up, both men shooting 36, one over par. Armour cards a 37 and Hope a 38. The round ends after nine holes as overzealous fans “crowded [the players] at every step, seeking autographs or at least a walking proximity to the two stars. Small boys scale the Edgewater fences by the hundreds to follow Bing and Bob.” [Chicago Tribune, May 7, 1942] As a side note the 94-acre Edgewater Golf Club is now a part of the city’s Warren Park at 6601 N. Western Avenue. When the old golf course was re-zoned in 1968 to allow real estate development on the property, a grassroots effort to save the land as open space ensued. A third of the property became the first urban state park when Illinois purchased it for $8 million in 1969. The Chicago Park District condemned another 32 acres in 1972 and a new park, complete with a nine-hole golf course was opened in 1980. The golf course is dedicated to Robert A. Black, Chief Engineer at the Chicago Park District for more than 30 years. The layout of the old golf course is pictured above.  A look at what Warren Park looks like today is shown beneath it.  An awesome history of the course and the politics involved in its transformation can be found here.

May 6, 1929 –The South Park Board approves the lakefront ordinance, offering hope that the three-year dispute between the board and the Illinois Central Railroad is moving toward a conclusion.  Among other things the ordinance contains provisions for construction of the Randolph Street viaduct and an Illinois Central suburban train station in Grant Park. The station was originally intended to be completed by February 20, 1927, but disagreements between the park board and the railroad delayed the plan.  At the meeting of the South Park board two amendments are added to the ordinance. One holds the I. C. liable for any damage to viaducts resulting from the operation of trains.  The second assures the South Park board of complete control of the Roosevelt Road viaduct “with particular reference to the granting of franchises to public utilities companies to provide transportation to the municipal bathing beach and other attractions on the lake front.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 7, 1929] The above photo shows Grant Park in 1929.

May 6, 1909 – At a hearing before Major Thomas Rees, the Chief Engineer of the Department of the Lakes, representatives of river and commercial interests present their evaluation of conditions on the Chicago River, testimony which appears to strike “the death knell of the Lake street bridge and other center pier structures which have obstructed traffic in the Chicago river for years.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 7, 1909]   Attorney Edward Cahill, representing river interests, testifies that the old style bridges are “menaces to traffic.”  Captain Rardon, a mariner who was in charge of the first vessel to leave the Chicago harbor on October 9, 1871, leaving a burnt-out city behind him, said that “center pier bridges obstruct the flow of water, create a disastrous current in the river and otherwise make navigation dangerous.”  The only argument in favor of the swing bridges comes from the president of the Lake Street elevated who expresses his doubts that the federal government could interfere with his company’s contract with the city to run its trains over the bridge at Lake Street, a contract that has an expiration date of 1940.  The city generally agrees with the testimony while pleading for more time.  Alderman Charles M. Foell, speaking on behalf of the city, says, “The council agrees that these center pier bridges are a menace to river commerce, but we also assert that the city has no funds provided for the work of changing the bridges at present … we are anxious to cooperate with the government in this work, and urge that we be granted time to obtain the necessary funding.” The Lake Street elevated line, today's Green Line, is pictured above in 1909. 

May 6, 1883 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the excavation for the nine-story headquarters of the Pullman Palace-Car Company on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street has begun.  As the Home Insurance Building on La Salle Street is nearing completion – arguably the first metal-framed commercial skyscraper in history – the Pullman building will be “perfectly fireproof from cellar to garret – fireproof tile and iron beams being used throughout.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 6, 1883] The structure will have a dual purpose.  The Pullman headquarters will have an entrance on Adams Street while a number of apartments in the building will be entered through the Michigan Avenue entrance.  Company offices will occupy the first four floors of the building, and speculation is that the fifth floor will be given to the offices of General Phillip Sheridan.  The five upper floors will be devoted to apartments of from seven to ten rooms and a number of bachelors’ suites from two to four rooms.  The ninth floor will have a restaurant overlooking the lake with “a large covered promenade … making it a delightful resort in warm weather.”  The half-million-dollar building will have its boilers located in a separate structure, given “the prejudice against living in a building with large steam boilers in the basement.”  The Tribune assessment of the building concludes, “One of the objects sought by Mr. Pullman … was the furnishing to those employ√©s of the company who desired them living apartments of superior character more convenient to their business than those in which many of them now abide … Mr. Pullman has expressed a wish that such a structure might be erected for their benefit.”

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