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. [] 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.

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