Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 30, 1929 -- Grant Park, A Parking Lot?

Chicago Tribune Photo
Google Maps

June 30, 1929 – The Chicago Daily Tribune prints a photo essay, showing the amount of space in Grant Park given over to the parking of automobiles.  There was at the time a pay station for those who wanted to park in what is now primarily Maggie Daley Park, an area where between 5,000 and 7,500 cars were parked each day.  In the grainy Tribune photo above one can see the long lines of cars with the Illinois Central Railroad freight yard in the lower left corner of the photo.  The second photo shows another view of the parking lot.  The third photo shows what the area looks like today. 

June 30, 1961 – The land on which the 100 North La Salle Street building stands is sold to the building’s owners for $1,750,000 or $200 a square foot.  The sum is believed to be the highest price paid for land in the downtown real estate market since 1929.  Vincent Curtis Baldwin, president of the consortium that owns the building, says that the price paid eclipses the previous high for a lot on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street which sold for $115 a square foot. The corporation that owns the building was reorganized in 1942 under federal bankruptcy law after having fallen behind in rent, taxes and bond interest during the 1930’s Depression. Acquiring the land will allow the building’s owners to free themselves of the annual lease on the property, which, on an annual basis, amounts to seven percent of the purchase price.  Several years ago an Atlanta-based firm, the Bridge Investment Group, purchased the 47-story tower for $113 million.

June 30, 1950 – The formal dedication of Merrill C. Meigs Field takes place on the lakefront.  Although the airport has been open since December 10, 1948, it carried no name.  Speaking from prepared notes, Meigs, who had served as the head of the city’s Aero Commission, said, “When my name was brought up last year before the city council, there were objections that no airport should be named for a living person.  I was honored at the original suggestion but felt that the sacrifice involved—in order to qualify—was too great a price, even for that glory.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 1, 1950]   Special guests were drawn from 30 states—the Flying Farmers of Prairieland and the National Flying Farmers.  It is estimated that 890 of their planes, carrying 2,047 persons, landed at Chicago area airports.   

June 30, 1941 – Superior Court Judge Ulysses S. Schwartz awards $1,275 to A. F. Cuneo, the owner of two three-story buildings at 933 and 939 North State Street, an amount that covers the cost “of protecting the buildings against possible collapse as the result of subway excavation” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 31, 1943] related to the 8.75 mile subway we know today as the Red Line.  The case is seen as a precedent, impacting “millions of dollars” that are involved in the dispute between the city and property owners over damages incurred during the construction of the subway.  City officials plan on appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court, but a clause in the Illinois Constitution does not appear to support their case.  It reads, “Private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without compensation.”  Already 50 suits have stacked up, amounting to a million-and-a-half dollars, mostly costs associated with underpinning buildings to protect them from collapse as the subway tunnel is bored beneath them.  Construction of the State Street subway is shown in the photo above. 

June 30,1863 – The setting of the cornerstone of the Theological Seminary at the corner of Halsted Street and Fullerton Avenue takes place in a ceremony which opens with the assembled guests singing “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord.” Reverend Dr. Matthews of Monmouth, Illinois then presents the past history of the Seminary, after which he lays the cornerstone. Today’s McCormick Theological Seminary is the descendant of this seminary which, according to the McCormick website, “was born in a log cabin” in Hanover, Indiana with a faculty of two and a “handful of students.”  Seeking a Presbyterian seminary in Chicago, Cyrus McCormick provided a $100,000 donation to endow four professorships, allowing the Seminary to move to 25 acres in today’s Lincoln Park.  In 1975 the seminary moved to Hyde Park, a move that allowed the school to share resources with the Jesuit School of Theology and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.  The above photo shows the Halsted Street entrances of McCormick Hall, built in 1883; Ewing Hall, built in 1863, and the seminary chapel, built in 1875.  

Monday, June 29, 2020

June 29, 1965 -- Civil Rights Protests Continue over School Superintendent Willis

June 29, 1965 – Twelve civil rights demonstrators are arrested after they lay down in Michigan Avenue near Madison Street during a march from Buckingham Fountain to City Hall.  The remaining 60 or 70 marchers continue their walk, using the sidewalks, to City Hall where they form a single file and march around the building.  The march begins in late afternoon after civil rights leaders emerge from a meeting with the members of the Board of Education.  The march follows a demonstration two days earlier in which 75 people were arrested after they sat down at La Salle and Randolph Streets near City Hall.  The protests are a continuation of dissatisfaction with the tenure of Chicago School Superintendent Benjamin C. Willis, who has held his position for a dozen years.  For three years, beginning in 1963, civil rights leaders and Black students have angrily demonstrated, accusing Willis of actively fostering segregation in the city’s schools.  The most visible symbol of that was the collection of 625 mobile classrooms Willis placed on the city’s South Side to alleviate overcrowding at mostly Black schools.  In the heated opposition to Willis, they came to be known as “Willis Wagons”.  Willis continued in his position into 1966 when he retired four months before his contract was up.  The above photo shows a protest that was held against Willis on June 10, 1965.  At that time a boycott of schools was ongoing with some schools reporting as much as fifty percent of the student body absent from class.  This was nearly a half-century ago ... not hard to figure out why people are just a little bit impatient.

June 29, 1981 -- Marshall Field and Company announces the sale of its annex building on the southwest corner of Washington Street and Wabash Avenue to Bond Industries of New York. The Store for Men housed in the annex as well as corporate offices will move into the company’s flagship store on State street.  A month earlier the company’s president, Angelo R. Arena, said that the firm was looking toward “strategies for using our real estate to potentially reduce our short-term debt and interest levels.”  [Chicago Tribune, June 30, 1981]. It is estimated that the sale of the annex building will yield $10 million which will be used to reduce $50.61 million in short-term debt.   The chairman of Fields’ Chicago operation, George P. Kelly, looks at the movement of the Store for Men to the main building as a positive act, saying, “Our studies show that women do most of the shopping for men.  When we move those departments into State Street we’ll get more women in here and more business.”

June 29, 1954 -- Field Enterprises, Inc., the publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, completes the purchase of a six-story building on the southwest corner of Rush Street and East North Water Street for $300,000, adding the property to a site already owned by the company.  The building will be razed as soon as practical, and the 15,000 square foot lot added to the 45,000 square feet that the company already owns, a site that extends westward to Wabash Avenue on the north side of the river.  The Chicago firm of Naess and Murphy is already drawing architectural plans for a multi-level building that will cover the entire site and provide offices and printing facilities for the Sun-Times.  The building got built, stood for forty years and then gave way to today’s Trump International Hotel and Tower.  Additional information about the Sun Times building can be found in this entry in Connecting the WindyCity.  The new home for the Sun Times is shown under construction in the photo above.

June 29, 1926 –The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that William J. Lynch, the city’s Harbor Master, has reported the statistics for the opening and closing of bridges in 1925.  “The bridge operating section functioned without interruption during the year,” the report observes. “Forty-eight bridges were operated twenty-four hours daily … Three hundred and thirty-nine bridge tenders were employed, which includes forty men used during the three summer months on vacation related work.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 29, 1926] The total number of openings for 1925 was 94,684 with the average time for each opening estimated at 3.5 minutes.  All told, bridges were closed to street traffic for 5,689 hours during the year.  The report finds the movement of most excursion boats to the Municipal Pier helpful in the bridge opening problem, but the Tribune reports, “… the opening of bridges for sand scows, tug boats, dredges, and commercial craft of all kinds … will continue until the city adopts a permanent bridge policy.”

June 29, 1891 Chicago’s Health Department files six suits against the establishment of Benzo and Pieper, a livestock fattening concern located at the intersection of Addison Street and the north branch of the river.  Benzo and Pieper, situated on nine acres, is typical of many such enterprises located all along the river.  The Chicago Daily Tribune describes the grounds, “In a long, low shambling shed there are now kept eighty head of steers, though as many as 250 are at times fattened in this one building . . . rows of fattening bullocks, standing ankle deep in filth, bloated through overeating until they can hardly stand, and chained to one spot for five months without being able to take exercise.”  One thing that made this particular company noteworthy was that it held a contract for removing the garbage from “all the principal hotels” in the city with six teamed wagons collecting refuse from the alleys of those establishments.  In front of the cattle shed described earlier stood a building with nine tanks, each holding 45 barrels.  Again from the Tribune’s copy, “The garbage wagons drive alongside these tanks and empty their contents into them.  Water from the river is pumped into the tanks until the mass reaches the required consistency when fires are started underneath and the swill is kept boiling for some ten hours . . . And this is the stuff which goes to put flesh on the lean bones of scraggy steers . .    The article points out the incredible fattening qualities of this concoction by describing one of those scraggy steers, “ . . . so fat, in fact, that its legs could not support its body for any length of time, and in consequence it lay down nearly the whole time, this proving no interference to its eating, as the troughs are so low that they can be reached by the cattle without getting up.”  Such a bull would gain 100 pounds a month during the time it was confined.  August Benzo, one of the owners, “a good-natured German who owns a saloon at Clybourn place and Elston avenue” says that he will fight the cases in court.  The photo above shows the same area as it appears today.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

June 28, 1956 -- Pullman Gives Way to Borg-Warner on Michigan Avenue

June 28, 1956 – Using a golden hammer as 250 people look on, Champ Curry, the president of Pullman, Inc., chips the first piece of stone from the Pullman building at the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street.  The Speedway Wrecking Company will start razing the building in July to make way for the $12 million Borg-Warner building.  The demolition ceremony includes speeches by representatives of Pullman and Borg-Warner as well as the Los Angeles developers who will underwrite the cost of the new building. For more information on the Pullman building, turn to this entry in Connecting the Windy City.  The Pullman building is shown in the top photo and the Borg-Warner building that replaced it below that.

June 28, 1954 – The captured German submarine, the U-505, is towed by the Coast Guard tug Arundel to the Calumet Shipyard and Dry Dock Company on the Calumet River where engineers will begin preparing it for eventual display at the Museum of Science and Industry.  The submarine has been tied up at a dock next to Tribune tower for the previous three days. The engineer in charge of the project, Seth Gooder, says that the first step will be to pump the fuel oil out of the boat’s bunkers and steam clean them.  Then the sub will be moved to the American Shipbuilding Company on the Calumet River at One Hundred First Street for structural work.  It is anticipated that sometime between mid-July and mid-August the U-505 will be moved across Lake Shore Drive and on to the museum grounds.  An account of that move across Lake Shore Drive can be found here in Connecting the Windy City, and more information about the sub's proposed arrival in the city can be located here.  The above photo shows the captured German submarine tied up at a dock next to Tribune Tower prior to the boat's departure for repairs on the Calumet River.

June 28, 1951 – Big day at Sheridan Road and Diversey Boulevard as the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen begin to move into new headquarters at 2800 Sheridan Road.  Patrick E. Gorman, the Secretary-Treasurer of the union, says, “Our union of 250,000 retail butchers, sheep shearers, packing-house workers, and dozens of other craft workers in the industry needed a place to call ‘home.’  We hunted around for a location, one that would lend dignity both to our union and to Chicago.  We finally hit on the idea that the place for us was at Diversey and Sheridan, where a ramshackle building needed tearing down.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 28, 1951]  The “ramshackle mansion” had a long history, originally constructed for Rudolph Schloesser, a banker, an associate of Potter Palmer, Marshall Field and George Pullman, who, after the Chicago fire of 1871 built one of the most impressive buildings in the city, the Schloesser block, that stood where Phillip Johnson’s and John Burgee’s 190 South LaSalle building stands today.  Later, Schloesser’s home gave way to other families, and then to a restaurant called the Maisonette Russe, ending its life as the campaign headquarters for Charles S. Dewey.  The new headquarters for the Amalgamated Meat Cutters will feature meeting rooms, a clubroom, a library, and executive offices.  Classical music will be piped through the rooms of the building at half-hour intervals and televisions will be located in the recreation and dining rooms.

June 28, 1864 – The members of the Chicago Packers’ Association agree on four resolutions at a meeting in the Tremont House.  They are as follows:

Resolved, That it is the sense of this association that the various stock yards of this city should be consolidated into one.

Resolved, That said yards should be conducted by a joint stock company, the stock of which should be accessible to all.

Resolved, That the said yards to meet the requirements of the different interests concerned ought to be located near the city limits of the South Division.

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to confer with the committee of the Common Council in relation to the sanitary condition of the Chicago river, and that such joint committee examine each and every slaughter, rendering and packing establishment and their relation to the condition of the river.

In this same year of 1864 the Union Stockyards opened on 320 acres of swampland just southwest of the city, land that was purchased for $100,000.  Within five years the area would be incorporated into the city.  On July 20, 1974 the enterprise closed, 110 years after the four resolutions were adopted in the Tremont House on the southeast corner of Lake and Dearborn.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

June 27, 2001 -- Soldier Field Renovation Approved

June 27, 2001 –A Chicago Park District committee gives preliminary approval to a measure that will lead to a $582 million renovation of Soldier Field.  Testimony at the meeting is split between opponents and backers of the plan with the biggest outcry coming from veterans demanding assurances that the Chicago Bears will not sell the name of the field to a corporate sponsor. Korean and Vietnam War veteran Norvel West says, “If anybody is crazy enough to put their name on Soldier Field, we will stop buying their product.” [Chicago Tribune, June 28, 2001] Ultimately, Park District Superintendent David Doig receives authority to enter into four agreements to renovate Solider Field, tear down the old park district headquarters, add 17 acres of parkland to Burnham Park, and give the Chicago Bears a 30-year lease at the renovated stadium.  The above photos give a pretty good idea of the results of the measures approved that day.

June 27, 1965 – Ira Bach, the Chicago Plan Commissioner, predicts that the Chicago River in the downtown area will be transformed into “one of the world’s most beautiful waterways in the next 10 years.”  [Chicago Tribune, June 28, 1965]  He only missed the mark by forty years.  “The new Pioneer Court dedicated . . . by the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States and the Tribune company, is the latest exquisite example of how the river bank can be beautified by an unusual development,” Bach said.  “With other major riverbank construction programs on the planning boards, other plazas and landscaped open spaces can be expected to be created along the river in the next decade.”  Three years ago in June Bach’s prediction proved, for the most part, to have come true as the 100 million dollar Riverwalk opened the entire south side of the river from Lake Michigan to Lake Street.

June 27, 1899 – The Lincoln Park Commissioners sign an agreement with the N. P. Glann Construction Company to complete the paving of Diversey Boulevard form Clark Street to the North Branch of the Chicago River.  This will be the last link in the chain of boulevards that connect Lincoln Park with the West Side park system.  It has taken three years to get final approval for the project with the work twice being put out to bid with all of the bids subsequently rejected because, according to a park commissioner, “the lowest was too high.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 28, 1899] The board will follow the wishes of the property owners on Diversey in determining whether crushed cobblestone or crushed granite will be used as the roadbed.  The above photo shows the intersection of Diversey Parkway, Broadway and Clark Street just about this time.


June 27, 1888 – A day before the big picnic for “waifs,” 600 boys are given baths at the Emeline Baths at 63 West Madison Street, which would be in the 500 block of West Madison Street today, just west of the Ogilvie Transportation Center.  Some of the lads “met their fate with heroic fortitude, and some of them quailed when the awful moment arrived,” according the Chicago Daily Tribune.  The paper follows a bath first-timer by the name of Billie who has his doubts about the adventure.  “I’ll bet yer I gets drownded,” he confides to a comrade as they queue up to enter the baths. When he sees the tub of water upon being escorted to a room, he “struggled, he kicked and he yelled,” but an attendant grabs him and “a loosening of one suspender, a yank at the shirt, and Billie was clad only in a coating of dirt.”  Into the tub he went, screaming, “I’m drownded.”  The ordeal is over in minutes, and standing upon solid ground once again, Billie observes, “I never knowed I was so white afore.”  When the last boy is scrubbed and shampooed, “Every bath-room was covered with water from floor to ceiling, and the bottom of every bath-tub was covered with soot and dirt … about two bushels of hair was swept off of the floor of the barber shop.”  The manager of the bathhouse, A. L. Lehmann, observes, “A great many of those who came for the first time on this occasion last year have come every week since and paid their five cents for a bath.  I suppose some more will do it after today.  The annual free bath shows them what it is.”

Friday, June 26, 2020

June 26, 1961 -- Ogden Slip Real Estate to Be Developed ... Sometime

June 26, 1961 – Officials of the Chicago Dock and Canal Company announce that the firm will be conducting a study to assess the potential of a 45-acre plot along the north bank of the Chicago River, surrounding the Ogden Slip and the adjoining area east of Lake Shore Drive.  The firm, founded by the first mayor of Chicago, William B. Ogden, has owned the property since 1857.  All good things take time.  It will be 25 years before the company seals a joint agreement with the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States to pool the 45-acre site of Chicago Dock and Canal with 50 acres to the west that is owned by Equitable.  In June of 1986 it is viewed as a $3-billion development deal, involving 20 to 25 million feet of space running along the north of the Chicago River in close proximity to Lake Michigan.  The three pictures above show the change over time.  The first one, taken in the 1950’s shows the shaded area controlled by Chicago Dock and Canal with the Ogden Slip shown in blue.  The second photo shows Lake Point Tower as it nears completion on the east side of Lake Shore Drive.  The final photo shows the area as it exists today. 

June 26, 1919 – The steamer Lake Granby with Captain John Klang in command casts off her lines in the Chicago River and starts her run to Liverpool with a cargo of meat products.  This will be the first shipment of goods from Chicago directly to a foreign port. The Lake Granby carries a Chicago crew and was built in the Chicago area.  Before departure, lunch is served on the steamship for a group of businessmen and a bottle of champagne is broken over the ship’s bow.  The Vice-President of meat-packing company Morris and Co., Charles M. MacFarlane, explains the purpose of the trip, saying, “The advantages of this mode of sending shipments to Europe are great, as it eliminates rail shipment to New York.  It relieves the congestion at the seaboard and does away with all the reloading, demurrage, and other charges usually incident to shipment to the seaboard.  Shippers from points west of Chicago, on the Missouri river and the other points in that direction are all interested in the development of this branch of the service because it means their own commodities can be handled to much greater advantage through Chicago than by having them shipped to New York.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 27, 1919] The through-freight rate from Chicago to Liverpool by the all-water route is $1.25 per 100 pounds for the meat products the Lake Granby is carrying.  The rate would be $1.45 per 100 pounds for the same cargo, using the railroads to New York and a ship to Liverpool.  Notice how high the Lake Granby rides in the water in the above photo.  Because the maximum depth in the Welland Canal locks permits only 14 feet of draft and the Lake Granby draws 25 feet when loaded to the water line, the ship will stop in Montreal to take on additional cargo.

June 26, 1893 –On the occasion of its sixtieth anniversary, the Chicago Daily Tribune provides a history of the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago.  The church, located in 1893 at Indiana and Twenty-First Street, was formed on June 26,1838 inside the walls of Fort Dearborn.  Twenty-six members made up the first congregation, 16 of whom were soldiers stationed at the garrison. The first real meeting place for the new congregation was situated “on a lonely spot at the southwest corner of Lake and Clark Streets.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 26, 1893] People approached that first church “across a large slough, bridged with benches from the meeting-house.”  It was here that “North-Siders came, not as you come to church now in carriages, but braving the angry flood in a canoe and climbing along the fences to escape the unknown depths of prairie mud.”  Classes in the first public school in Chicago were also held in the 40- x 25-foot building. The church has moved several times over the years.  For a number of years services were held in a substantial stone building at Twenty-First Street and Indiana Avenue.  The present Gothic-Revival building at 6400 South Kimbark Avenue was dedicated on October 24, 1928 and came about as a result of a merger of the First Presbyterian congregation and the Woodlawn Park Presbyterian Church which was formed in January of 1885.  Today the congregation is known as the Woodlawn Collaborative First Presbyterian Church. The congregation's church building at Twenty-First and Indiana Avenues is shown in the above photo.

June 26, 1886 – An accident at Dearborn Street on the Main Stem of the Chicago River sets the river on fire.  While a ship is being unloaded at the Chicago and North Western Railroad dock at Dearborn Street, a barrel of kerosene is accidentally dropped, the contents of which spread across the surface of the river.  After the ship departs, a dock worker throws a lighted match into the river “just to see if the stuff would burn.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 26, 1886]. It did.  A sheet of flame shoots across the river toward the Clark and State Street bridges and surrounds the excursion boat Albert J. Wright.  An alarm is sent in from the corner of Clark and South Water Streets, but before the engines can arrive, the fire burns itself out, leaving only a blackened set of pilings along the edge of the river., The State Street bridge and the Dearborn Street bridge beyond are shown in this photo taken a few years earlier.

June 26, 1862 – The Chicago Tribune begins yet another editorial about the Chicago River in this way, “It is conceded by all men that something must be done immediately to improve the sanitary condition of the Chicago River.  The good name of our city, the lives of thousands of our citizens, and, its commerce, growth and prosperity imperatively demand immediate and energetic action . . . In its present condition, a week of hot weather will render a block or two on each side of the river uninhabitable.  And, besides what is to become of our vast shipping interest—the men who navigate our tugs and attend to the bridges, and virtually are forced to live during the season amid the intolerable pestilence-breeding stench of the river, and the crews of our propellers, canal boats, and vessels that are obliged to live upon the river from one to three days at a time?  A week of hot weather will drive them from the river, and no man is so stupid as not to know that Chicago is nothing without her commerce.”  The paper has solutions.  Pumps at Bridgeport “can clear it out and, aired by the process and mingled with the water of the Des Plaines it will pass South without inconvenience or offence to any body.”  But the North Branch, with virtually no current, is a different story, and the Tribune has a solution for that as well:  “Place one or half a dozen pumps, if necessary, driven by wind mills on the Lake shore, at or near the north end of the old cemetery, and let the water be discharged in a ditch running due west into the North Branch.  Let the pumps be of the largest size, and such are now used upon our railroads.”   How different North Avenue would be today if instead of its popular beach and nautical-themed boathouse it was the site of a half-dozen windmills, churning away in the Windy City, pumping lake water west to the river.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

June 25, 2008 -- Tribune Tower Up for Sale?

June 25, 2008 – Tribune Company Chairman and Chief Executive Sam Zell discloses that he is exploring options for selling the company's headquarters buildings, which house the Chicago Tribune in Tribune Tower as well as the Los Angeles Times in Times Mirror Square.  Zell has asked a number of real estate firms for ideas on how to use the Tribune and Times properties to pay down the debts of the company.  He says, “We are not rushing this process, and I can assure you we will not accept anything but full market value for these assets.”  [Chicago Tribune, June 26, 2008]The debt load faced by the Tribune Company stands at $13 billion, and the company has already sealed a deal to sell its Long Island, New York newspaper, Newsday, for $650 million.  Plans are also in place to sell the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field.  One estimate places the value of Tribune Tower, the 36-story headquarters for the Tribune finished in 1925, one of the first high-rise office towers to be constructed north of the Chicago River, at $200 million.  Steven Kelley, a vice-president at Appraisal Research Counselors, says that earlier in the decade – before the market crash of 2007 and 2008 – the tower “would have been a definite redevelopment candidate for residential condos, but that market has stalled.”  It will be eight more years before the Michigan Avenue tower is sold to Los Angeles-based developer CIM Group for a reported $240 million.  Interior demolition of the tower began in October, 2017 with the Chicago architecture firm of Solomon Cordwell Buenz in charge of the plan to convert the building into 165 residential units with retail space on the lower level.  Another Chicago firm, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, will design a super tall residential building on the site to the east of the original tower that will rise close to 1,400 feet.  That plan was just approved. 

June 25, 1953 – Federic Clay Bartlett dies at his home in Beverly, Massachusetts at the age of 80.  Bartlett was born in Chicago in 1873 and at the age of 19, instead of pursuing a university degree, he headed for Europe to study art.  He returned to the city at the age of 27 and took up professional residence in the Fine Arts building, from where he worked on notable commissions for murals at the University of Chicago and the University Club of Chicago.  Bartlett’s first wife, Dora, died in 1917, and in 1920 he married Helen Louise Birch, a relationship that led to a life of art collecting, in which the couple amassed an impressive array of French avant-garde paintings.  In 1924 Bartlett became a trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago, and with the museum in mind the Bartlett’s made what would be their single-most important acquisition, purchasing George Seurat’s Sunday Morning on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the work of an artist that up to that time had not been represented in any major collection.  When Helen Birch Bartlett died in 1925, Bartlett presented the collection of paintings the two had assembled to the Art Institute of Chicago, and a part of the Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection has been on display ever since.  In reacting to the artist’s death the director of the Art Institute, Daniel Catton Rich, says, “Frederic Bartlett was talented as a painter and it was with a painter’s eye that he judged the great French art of this period … He and his wife built up a collection of remarkable quality.  The center of the Birch Bartlett collection is Seurat’s great mural-like painting … This has sometimes been called the greatest painting of the nineteenth century … Frederic Bartlett gave a gallery of these paintings to the Art Institute in 1925.  This became the first room of modern art in any American museum … It remains as a monument to its generous collector, the rare example of a group of paintings gathered with deep knowledge, taste, and warm understanding.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 26, 1953] Bartlett and Helen Birch Bartlett are pictured above.

June 25, 1912 – President Charles H. Markham of the Illinois Central Railroad heads for New York with a copy of a new contract between the railroad and the Chicago south park commissioners that is designed to bring about electrification of the line’s suburban service within five years. This is a BIG DEAL for the city.  The railroad agrees to remove its Twelfth Street station east of Indiana Avenue, allowing for the widening of Indiana Avenue from Thirteenth to Twelfth Street, thus providing space for the proposed Field Museum.  The I. C. will also provide a 40-foot wide piece of land to the city on the east side of Michigan Avenue south of Twelfth Street so that Michigan Avenue may be widened at that point.  The contract states, “. . . that no building of any dimensions whatever, excepting such as may be required for passenger service accommodation and the like, shall be directed or maintained upon any part of the right of way between a line 500 feet north of Twenty-ninth street and Fifty-first street, and that this portion of the right of way shall not be used as a railroad yard, or for the storage of cars, locomotives, or equipment, or be put to any use except for the passage of trains, and that there shall not be erected upon this portion of the right of way any advertising signs or other obstructions to the view of the adjacent property or lands.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 24, 1912]  With this understanding in place, another step is taken in providing unobstructed green space along the lake shore.  The photo above, taken in 1893, shows the Van Buren Street terminal in what today is Grant Park with the Illinois Central station and office building to the left of the photo in the distance.

June 25, 1911 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the Chicago Plan Commission will launch a campaign in the coming week “to convince the residents of the city of the need of building for the future along lines that are both practical and beautiful …” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 24, 1911]. To launch the campaign, 150,000 copies of “Chicago’s Greatest Issue, an Official Plan” will be printed.  The publication will be “profusely illustrated” so that “each of the three sides of Chicago can readily grasp their import to their respective sections.”  The publication’s three main sections will include congestion, regulation of traffic and the adequate means of recreation for citizens.  Particular attention is given to the need for more diagonal streets, cutting across the strict grid of roadways, with all of the street systems of the city “linked by means of a wide, parklike boulevard to sweep the entire southwest, west and northwest sides of the city.”  A consolidated civic center where city, county and national government buildings will be grouped at Halsted Streets and Congress Avenue is also urged. A proposal is included to create a 20-mile series of parks from Jackson Park to Wilmette with islands, 600 to 1000-feet wide, off the shore.  Failure to act, the publication predicts, would be disastrous.  “Other cities have faced the situation Chicago faces today,” the text warns.  “They have crowded narrow streets. They have tried for years to avoid cutting new ones. They have lost millions upon millions in trade and finally have been forced to do, at a cost multiplied many times, what should have been done years ago.  So it will be with Chicago.”

June 25, 1880 –The Chicago Daily Tribune publishes the census numbers with an analysis of how the city has changed between the last census in 1870 and 1880.  In the preceding decade, the city has gained 170,083 people, an increase of 60 percent. The figures show that the city’s population stands at 705,000 souls.  The article indicates that the First Ward shows the most dramatic change over the decade, reporting, “Previous to the big fire, Wabash and Michigan avenues south of Madison street were lined with private houses, in which hundreds of young men employed in the wholesale houses on Lake and South Water streets found their homes.  Now there is nothing of any moment on Michigan avenue, with the exception of the Gardner House, the Pullman Block, and the Exposition Building, until Harrison street is reached.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 25, 2018] Wabash Avenue, according to the article, has been completely rebuilt on the east side of the street “with large mercantile houses.” The west side of the street is in a “very ragged condition” between Van Buren and Eldredge Court, due to a fire in July of 1874 which destroyed 709 stores and dwellings, 89 barns, 8 churches, 4 hotels, a post office, a school and a theater. [Chicagology.com] On State Street the Palmer House is the most imposing structure with retail stores running south from the hotel as far as Congress Avenue.  The west end of the First Ward, formerly occupied “by the lowest classes of humanity …. Dives in which flourished the most abandoned characters; boarding-houses in which drunken brawls were of nightly occurrence …” has become the dry-goods district of the rebuilt city.  The transition has forced about 50 percent of the 1870 population of that area to move to other wards.  The above photo from 1880 looks south on State Street at the Palmer House Hotel from Monroe Street.