Saturday, June 13, 2020

June 13, 1967 -- Monadnock Avoids Becoming Leaning Tower of Chicago

J. Bartholomew Photo
June 13, 1967 – Efforts to correct the sinking north wall of the Monadnock building are finished.  After a real estate investment group headed by Carroll H. Sudler, purchased the building for more than two million dollars, it was discovered that the 1891 structure is sinking.  For the preceding two months, according to the Chicago Tribune, 31 pipes, each of them 14 inches in diameter, have been placed under four supporting piers of the north wall and then filled with concrete.  On this date the work is completed.  The Monadnock is safe, but Jackson Boulevard on which the narrow north face of the Monadnock sits, is a mess, “slumping badly in sections,” according to the Tribune as a result of excavation work for the new Federal building that is being constructed directly across the street from the Monadnock.

June 13, 1922 – Representing the Illinois Athletic Club, John Weismuller smashes four world’s swimming records at Kahului on the island of Maui.  Weismuller takes 14 seconds off the previous record in the 400-yard freestyle, finishing in 4:40.4.  In the 400-meter freestyle he breaks the old world’s record by six seconds.  He also sets a new record in the 500-yard freestyle and the 500-meter freestyle events.  In addition to the records Weismuller also takes gold in the 100- and 50-yard freestyle races. The champion’s family came to the United States from Germany when he was just seven-months-old, eventually settling in Chicago where his father, Peter, worked as a brewer.  When the young man contracted polio as a teenager, a doctor suggested he take up swimming to combat the ravages of the disease.  He dropped out of Lane Technical High School, working as a lifeguard on Chicago beaches, eventually ending up as an elevator operator at the Illinois Athletic Club.  It was there that he was given a chance to show his skill.  A little over two years after his success in the Hawaiian Islands, Weismuller will compete in the 1924 Olympic games in Paris, taking four gold medals.  Four years later in the Amsterdam Olympic games he will win another two gold medals.  In the early 1930’s he will ink a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, beginning a career that is notable for the six Tarzan movies in which he starred.
June 13, 1903 – McKinley Park is formally dedicated as 10,000 people gather at Thirty seventh and Western Avenues to view the proceedings.  The 35-acre park hosts a baseball field, tennis courts and a 350-foot long swimming pool.  President Henry G. Foreman of the South Park Board makes the speech of dedication, talking more about the board’s plans for future city parks, specifically Grant Park, than about the park being dedicated. He says, “It is intended to make greater Grant park the finest city park in America, if not in the world.  In this park we shall have more than 202 acres, with the business district on the west and Lake Michigan on the east, and residence and business property to the north and south.  There is a lake shore frontage here of about one and a quarter miles. Just stop and consider such a place for a park in the heart of a big city!”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 14, 1903].  According to the Chicago Park District’s website, the South Park Commission elected to name a new park after William McKinley, the twenty-fifth president of the United States in October, 1901, one month after his assassination.  McKinley Park was the beginning of a noble experiment as J. Frank Foster, the South Park superintendent at the time, “envisioned a new type of park that would provide social services as well as breathing spaces” [] in sections of the city that would allow access to residents living in overcrowded tenement areas.  To accomplish this, the district began acquiring land near the Union Stockyards, much of which had formerly been the Brighton Park Race Track.  McKinely Park would be the first of a whole system of neighborhood parks on the south side, the first ten of which were Sherman, Ogden, Palmer, Bessemer, and Hamilton Parks, and Mark White, Russell, Davis, Armour and Cornell Parks.  This system of neighborhood parks led the nation in introducing natural areas that would serve dense population centers.  McKinley Park proved so popular that the South Park Commission obtained more land, doubling its size to its present 71.75 acres.  McKinley Park can be seen lying a few blocks south of the river in the lower left corner of the above graphic.

June 13, 1879 – Pipeman Henry T. Coyle, working on a hose-truck belonging to Engine No. 11 of the Chicago Fire Department, drowns when the truck is driven into the river at full speed.  The night is dark, and the driver, next to whom Coyle is seated, cannot see whether the State Street bridge is in position for crossing.  Unfortunately, the rotating bridge is in the open position, and the truck’s driver “dashed on through the darkness to the terrible catastrophe which followed.” [Chicago Tribune, June 15, 1879]  The driver and another truckman leap from the truck, but Coyle drowns.  It takes the better part of a day to find the body of the missing firefighter.  The whole affair prompts the Chicago Daily Tribune to react strongly to the danger that the rotating bridges pose in this way, “The bridges of Chicago have been a continual source of danger and annoyance to the impetuous people of Chicago … Scarcely a week passes by that some accident does not occur at some of them, mostly on account of the impatience of pedestrians … Why people, great and small, will persist in swarming upon and over the bridges of our main thoroughfares while they are swinging, at the risk of life and limb, it would be hard to tell.  The wonder is that more fatal accidents do not occur.”

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