Tuesday, June 16, 2020

June 16, 1907 -- Michael Reese Hospital Dedicated

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June 16, 1907 – After two years of construction Michael Reese Hospital opens with a ceremony of dedication on the front lawn of the building at Twenty-ninth Street and Groveland Avenue, today's Ellis Avenue.  Richard Schmidt, the architect, presents a key to the new building to members of the building committee, and it is accepted by Leon Mandel, the chairman of the committee, and Edwin G. Foreman, the hospital’s president.  Illinois Governor Charles S. Deneen is present and tells the 1,500 people in attendance, “… it is a pleasure to see that private effort and initiative have kept pace with the most advanced ideas in methods of hospital management and can still, as always in the past, offer to the guardians of our public institutions the highest examples of hospital construction and equipment and the best suggestions regarding their wise and efficient management.  The opening of the new Michael Reese hospital is, without doubt, of great significance to the advancement of the science of medicine in Chicago and in the west.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1907].  A. J. Pflaum, the hospital’s secretary, tells the crowd that the hospital’s mission will go beyond the practice of medicine, saying, “It is not enough that we cure our patients of their bodily ailments and send them away.  We must investigate our patient’s social condition and endeavor to improve it where this is possible.  Home surroundings have as important a bearing on a case as mere physical condition, and the care of the convalescent and the chronic invalids – a department of work which is much neglected – should have as much attention as the care of the sick.”  The hospital is named after Michael Reese who was born on August 15, 1817 in Bavaria and came to the United Sates in 1836.  Starting as a peddler in Baltimore, Maryland, he worked in various jobs, becoming enormously wealthy through land speculation in the west along with investment in Nevada silver mines.  Although he never lived in Chicago, six of his sisters and his brother made the city their home.  When Reese died in 1877, his will left his estate to them.  Jacob Rosenberg, a brother-in-law of Reese, was a trustee of the United Hebrew Relief Association of Chicago, which was formed in 1859 and which built the first Jewish Hospital in the city in 1868 at La Salle and Schiller, an institution that was lost in the great fire of 1871.  Rosenberg proposed that the UHRAC build a new hospital, using funds from Reese’s fortune.  Two guidelines were to be followed … It was to be named Michael Reese Hospital, and it was to be open to all, regardless of religion, race, or sex.  [Hektoen International, A Journal of Medical Humanities].  This hospital was finished in 1881 at Twenty-Ninth and Groveland.  The second building on this site was the one dedicated on this date in 1907.  Changing demographics within the city and the isolation of the campus brought about the demise of the institution, and in 1998 the number of beds was reduced from 1,100 to 450.  By 2007 that number was reduced to 150, and on September 28, 2008 the hospital filed a letter of intent with the state to close by the end of that year.  By 2012, despite the historic value of buildings designed by Richard Schmidt and, later, Walter Gropius, everything except a small administration building had been razed.  The site remains vacant today.  The two pictures above show the hospital as it once appeared and the site as it appears today.


June 16, 1936 – One of the two trunnions that will support the two north leaves of the Outer Drive bridge over the Chicago River is lowered into place.  Weighing 80 tons, the trunnion is set in place by two huge cranes.  Everything about the bridge is massive.  It will bridge 220 feet of open space across the river with two 40-foot wide roadways and 14-foot sidewalks on either side.  The sidewalks on the upper deck are gone today, but that does not diminish the monumental undertaking of completing the link bridge for which the city had been desperately hoping as traffic filled its downtown streets with little space to head north or south across the river.  When the bridge was finished in 1937, it was the longest and heaviest bascule bridge in the world.  The above photo shows the bridge as it progressed in the fall of 1936.



June 16, 1932 – George “Red” Barker is gunned down as he walks in front of 1502 North Crawford Avenue.  An abandoned machine gun and spent cartridges are found on the floor of a room at that address.  Indications are that there were shots fired from across the street as well.  Two men and a woman walking with Barker are unharmed. They drag Barker into a car and speed to the Keystone Hospital on North Kostner Avenue where they find the doors locked.  Kicking in the door, they command the night nurse, Miss Elizabeth Curran, to attend to their companion, but he has already died from his wounds.  Barker had a criminal record going back 16 years and had served time in the prison at Pontiac, Illinois.  There was little mystery behind the execution.  As the Chicago Daily Tribune observed, “Underground rumors for some months had indicated that Barker, with Jack (Three Fingers) White and Murray Humphreys, former Capone gangsters, had formed a triumvirate with the intention of taking over extensive liquor and gambling territories held by the Sicilian survivors of the Capone regime, who had control of practically the whole of the county.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1932]  The son of a policeman, Barker heads to his grave at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in style.  4,000 people observe his final ride as 18 carloads of flowers follow the hearse.



June 16, 1909 – Work on the People’s Gas Light and Coke building on the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street interrupts a trial in the adjoining Municipal court building just to the north.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “An iron girder weighing more than a ton and which was being put in place on the new building of the Peoples Gas Light and Coke company … crashed against a window of Chief Justice Harry Olson’s court on the twelfth floor yesterday and interrupted a trial.  Jurors and attorneys rushed to the other side of the room where they remained alarmed until the cause of the accident was learned.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1909] One might conjecture, I suppose, that the courtroom bailiff was tempted to cry out, “Girder in the court!”  But probably not.  In the above photo the People's Gas Light and Coke building, designed by the office of Daniel Burnham, is shown as it is being constructed.


RailwayAgeGazette1914
June 16, 1891 – City and U. S. government officials take a ride on the Chicago River to inspect the shipping hazard posed by the Canal Street bridge.  At 2:15 p.m. the captain of the steamer Saranac guides the vessel away from the dock opposite La Salle Street, guided by the tugboats O. B. Green and T. T. Morford. There are a number of delays, “sometimes to avoid a collision, at other times to let a vessel pass through a bridge, and once or twice to have a boat at a dock moved away in order to let the Saranac proceed.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1891]  Finally, the ship reaches the bridge at Canal Street, a structure that has been widely condemned by vessel men as a dangerous hindrance to river traffic.  The Saranac proves the opinion as, in moving past the bridge, “her side scraped the bridge and her stern rubbed the lumber dock.”  The general opinion on the Saranac was that the bridge should be removed, one passenger stating, “There is no use for a bridge there at all.  The road from it eastward leads across an alley with railroad tracks covering it, and it ends in a sand bank.”  The bridge measured 223 feet, 6 inches from end to end and was put in service in 1883.  The bridge that replaced it, the only vertical lift bridge remaining in the city, was opened on July 19, 1914.  When the replacement bridge was completed, it had the heaviest lift span in the United States. Today, it serves a variety of trains including Metra, Amtrak, and Norfolk Southern and stands as a Chicago Landmark just off Ping Tom Park on the South Branch of the river.  The above photo shows the new bridge, under construction in the foreground with the dangerous swing bridge to the south.  Notice the curve in the river beyond the older bridge ... it took delicate hands in the wheelhouse to squeeze through the bridge and make the bend in the river just beyond.

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