Wednesday, June 17, 2020

June 17, 1962 -- Soldier Field Hosts 116,000 for Last Day of Billy Graham Crusade
June 17, 1962 – Billy Graham ends a 19-day Crusade in Chicago at Soldier Field before an audience of 116,000.  During his time in Chicago Graham has attracted a total of 703,000 with most events held in McCormick Place.  Prior to the Soldier Field event the largest crowd the evangelist had attracted was slightly more than 100,000 in Yankee Stadium in 1957.  Graham concludes his crusade with these words, “Today should not be thought of as the end of the Crusade, but only the beginning.  You have witnessed only a sample of what could happen to a city.  What we have seen in Chicago should be an example to other cities throughout the nation.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 18, 1962].  Graham’s roots are planted in the Chicago area, where he attended Wheaton College, met his wife, and began his career as a pastor of Western Springs Baptist Church.  “It is here that I got my education, it is here I found my wife, and it is here that I had my first church,” he says.  Therefore, my heart belongs to Chicago in a very peculiar and unique way.”  The Soldier Field event takes place on a day when the temperature climbs to 100 degrees.  More than 400 people are prostrated by the heat, many of them before Graham even comes to the speaker’s platform.  Thousands of people arrive more than three hours before the scheduled 3:00 p.m. starting time in order to find a prime seat.  They sit, sweltering in the hot sun, as the event is delayed for 45 minutes to accommodate all the people who could not find parking places in the area.  The first call for doctors and nurses comes at 2:25 p.m.  The two first aid rooms in the stadium are filled to capacity, and over 50 people are stretched out beneath trees outside the venue.  One registered nurse estimates that she treated more than 200 people.  The above photo shows Reverend Graham early in the Chicago Crusade, speaking to prisoners at the Cook County Jail on May 29, 1962. 

June 17, 1978 – Work on the new $17.4 million State Street mall project begins.  The work kicks off with all traffic except for buses and emergency vehicles excluded from State Street. Already there is some griping about the plan.  One bus driver says, “You just can’t make time moving like a train.  Buses weren’t meant to move like that.  To make time you got to be able to move around, but now it’s strictly stick to your one lane.”  {Chicago Tribune, June 20, 1978] In the 17 years between the time that the mall was finished in 1979 and 1996 when traffic returned, most of the great department stores that lined State Street shut their doors.  Certainly, other factors were involved in the closing, but one can’t help but think of the prescient words of a street sweeper as he watched work on the mall begin, “I hate change.  It only makes things worse.  I’ve been to Rockford and I’ve seen the mall there where all the stores are vacant.  These malls have nothing to do with the people.  They’re the hallucinations of politicians.”

June 17, 1932 – The Chicago Daily Tribune announces that the world’s tallest building will be constructed on Illinois Central Railroad air rights south of the Chicago River and 200 feet east of Michigan Avenue.  A 100-year lease is finalized and the architect, Walter W. Ahlschlager, has been chosen with a plan, already in place, for the great Art Deco tower of 75 stories.  The building is to have 1,000 hotel rooms, but its primary purpose will be to consolidate all phases of the apparel industries in one location.  Amenities will include parking on the lower levels for Pullman cars, a 1,200-car garage, two auditoriums and an open-air swimming pool on the roof.  Even at this early date at least four-dozen firms have committed to occupying space in the building that will cover two city blocks.  W. R. Dawes, the president of the Chicago Association of Commerce, in a letter to the president of the Apparel Manufacturers’ Mart Building Corporation, writes, “The Chicago Association of Commerce heartily endorses the project.  We feel that the centralization of the apparel industry in the city of Chicago, and the erection of the magnificent building which you propose to construct on the premises will be of benefit to the entire apparel industry and to the city of Chicago. The completion of this project will be an achievement worthy of one of the greatest industries and of one of the greatest cities in the country.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1932]  Ten months later the project dies mysteriously.  Four decades will pass before this space on Wacker Drive begins to transform itself from a railroad freight yard to a developed piece of real estate.  For more on the plan and another one that also failed to rise, head here.  The Hyatt Regency Chicago stands on the river in this location today.

June 17, 1895 – The Illinois Chapter of the American Institute of Architects passes the following resolution:

  Resolved, That the Illinois Chapter of the American Institute of Architects is in favor of the extension and improvement of our Lake-Front as a public park.
  Second—That there are various buildings dedicated to the instruction and amusement of the public that can best serve their purpose if located in a central position such as this park will afford.
  Third—We believe buildings can be arranged on the Lake-Front in such a manner as to leave unencumbered all the park demanded by the public.
  Fourth—Nevertheless, we deem it unwise to discuss the question of buildings at the present time, because such discussion would retard the action necessary to secure the park.
  Fifth—Therefore we respectfully urge upon the Board of Aldermen of this city the passage of an ordinance for the building of a breakwater on the dock line established by the government and permitting the dumping behind this breakwater of suitable material under the direction of the Commissioner of Public Works; and we recommend the postponement of all questions of the control of the park when completed and of the buildings that may be erected thereon until the public shall have had due time to consider these subjects.
  Sixth—We respectfully request our Board of Aldermen that when the proper time shall arrive this chapter of the American Institute of Architects, representing the architects of this city, may have an opportunity of presenting for public consideration a plan or plans showing suitable arrangements of buildings.
  Seventh—This chapter commends the action of the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds in the formation of the Chicago Municipal Improvement League, and we pledge our cooperation with other societies of this league to secure the proper improvement of our Lake-Front.
  Eighth—We refer all questions pertaining to buildings on the Lake-Front to our Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds in cooperation with the Chicago Municipal Improvement League and we request the members of this chapter to refrain from making public any plans for the Lake-Front Park or buildings thereon until the whole subject has been more thoroughly discussed and the proper time arrives for deciding upon the details of the enterprise.

After years of quibbling about what the land along Lake Michigan adjacent to the center of the city might become (it came within a couple of weeks of being sold for $800,000 to the Illinois Central Railroad in the late 1870’s) … here is a sensible plan.  The A.I.A. essentially saying ... let’s get the land filled in so that it LOOKS LIKE a park before we start quibbling about what the park will hold.  The above photo shows the park, looking north in the early 1890's.  Note the string of Illinois Central Railroad boxcars running along the edge of the lake.

June 17, 1884 – The Chicago Daily Tribune takes on the river shipping interests as it laments the amount of smoke that is poured over the city by the 65 tugs that work the Chicago River from which “are daily emitted dense volumes of black, dirty smoke.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 17, 1884] Two years earlier the city council had passed an ordinance imposing stiff penalties for emitting excessive amounts of smoke within the city “but the tugs have kept on smoking and the buildings, with a few exceptions, have kept on smoking, and the farce of the Smoke Inspector has been continued.”  In the fall of 1883 the ordinance was tested in the courts with the Illinois Supreme Court upholding the city’s right to fine violators of the law.  Smoke Inspector Merkl says, “They [the tug-men] have been making threats against the Mayor and the City Council.  They claim the enforcement of the smoke ordinance is a drive against the soft-coal interests of Illinois.  This is nonsense.  It is a matter of fact that there is not a tugboat on the Chicago River that uses Illinois coal … Illinois coal is too dirty for even the tugs.”

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