Friday, July 31, 2020

July 31,1985 -- Arlington Park Race Track Destroyed by Fire


July 31, 1985 – More than 150 firefighters from 25 communities fail to save the clubhouse, grandstand, and exposition center at Arlington Park race track.  The fire begins at approximately 1:30 a.m. with the first alarm turned in about 45 minutes later.  The loss is devastating, coming just a little more than three weeks before the “Arlington Million” is due to be run on August 25.  The State of Illinois takes in about seven percent of the $1.5 million that is bet each day of the racing season at the track, and the final 55 days at Arlington are out the window as the complex is a total loss.  Estimates are that 1,000 people will be left without jobs.  Because the 1929 Post and Paddock Club, where the fire began, had been remodeled a number of times over the previous half-century, the number of false ceilings and concealed spaces between floors allowed the fire to spread in ways that could not be detected.  The sprinkler systems were ineffective because of the concealed nature of the flames, which eventually spread from the club to the grandstand.  At one point demolition experts were even brought in from Ft. Sheridan to see if part of the grandstand could be blown up in order to stop the flames from advancing.  By noon, though, it was clear that nothing more could be done, and the fire burned itself out at about 5:00 p.m.  None of the 1,900 animals at the track was endangered.  It would be four years before the track would reopen.



July 31, 1930 – Announcement is made that Mrs. Kersey Coates Reed and Mrs. Charles Schweppe, the daughters of the late John G. Shedd, have given the Chicago Latin School at 1531 North Dearborn Parkway a nine-acre athletic field on the west bank of the North Branch of the Chicago River.  The new field stretches from Addison to Grace Street bordered on the west by California Avenue.  George Morton Northrop, the Head Master of the school, says, “It may be that eventually it will seem wise to move the upper school to this new location.  In time a boathouse, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, and five courts could be added.  Eventually it might be well to have a dormitory for housing a number of boarding pupils and some of the younger, unmarried masters.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 1, 1930] The new athletic campus was purchased from the Commonwealth Edison Company and the estate of Sophie Beyer for approximately $125,000.  The campus served the Latin School until 1959 when it was sold to Gordon Technical High School, now DePaul College Prep.  Funds from the sale were used to complete the upper school at North Avenue and Clark Street and the roof gymnasium, which was completed in 1992.  The parcel originally given to the Latin School is outlined above.



July 31, 1922:  The city is thrown into turmoil as a storage tank of the Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company collapses and explodes at West Twenty-Fifth and Throop Streets, injuring a hundred people, severely burning the majority of them.  Since the location sits on the bank of the Chicago River with a neighborhood close by, most of the injured are teamsters, pedestrians, or children playing in the area.  The tank, which was 180 feet high and 180 feet in diameter, contained 4,000,000 cubic feet of illuminating gas.  The tank collapses at about 12:30 in the afternoon with the Chicago Daily Tribune describing the scene in this way, “Wild scenes followed immediately.  Men, women, and children attacked by the weird flames ran screaming.  Some threw themselves flat on the ground.  Others flung their clothing over their faces and hands in frantic efforts to escape the fire.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 1, 1922]  The chief engineer for the company, J. H. Eustace, says that there was no explosion, adding, “In fifty years of experience in gas manufacturing I have never heard of anything like this . . . In some way the crown of the tank was ruptured, and gas, escaping in great quantities, ignited.  What caused the rupture is a mystery; and what would ignite escaping gas from the top of a holder high in the air is equally a mystery.”

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July 31, 1919 – Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson signs the Illinois Central Electrification and Lake Front ordinance at noon after representatives of the South Park Board of Trustees and the railroad accept the city’s proposal.  The act calls for an expenditure of $110,000,000 for the electrification of the Illinois Central tracks along the lakefront, the construction of a new railroad station at Roosevelt Road and Michigan Avenue, the completion of a huge park along the lakefront as well as a new harbor south of Grant Park.  Charles H. Wacker, the chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission, is present at the ceremony, along with representatives of the Association of Commerce, the Chicago Real Estate Board and other civic organizations. The mayor says, “As far as jokers are concerned, I have read the ordinance carefully, and am convinced that it is a good one.  [Illinois Central attorney] Schuyler, whom I have known since we were boys together, has given me his word of honor that there is no joker in this ordinance.  In addition to that I have every confidence in Mr. Wacker of the commission.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 1, 1919]  The above photo shows the lakefront in 1913 with a maze of railroad tracks and smoking steam engines running between Michigan Avenue and the lake in the area that would one day become Grant Park.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

July 30, 1927 -- Johnny Weissmuller Takes First in River Swim

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July 30, 1927 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that Johnny Weissmuller of the Illinois Athletic Club has won the nineteenth annual river swim.  The race begins on the north side of the Municipal Pier, today’s Navy Pier, where a huge crowd watches the swimmers as they dive into the lake, making their way around the east end of the pier before heading into the river.  The piers, bridges and docks on the river are crowded with spectators.  Weissmuller takes the lead at the start and pulls away from the field, finishing with a time of 54:29, bettering the old record of 56.20, established five years earlier.  Of the 43 entrants who start the race, 36 finish. 


July 30, 1997 – The Chicago Tribune reports that Highland Park and Highwood have agreed to pay $5.75 million – or $41,000 an acre -- to the United States Army for 140 acres at Fort Sheridan, for which the Army, at one point, was demanding $20 million. At the time, the average price for an acre of North Shore real estate along Lake Michigan came in at a million bucks. Bret Herskee, a member of the Ft. Sheridan Rehabilitation Advisory Board, says the price “is unbelievable. They stole it.” [Chicago Tribune, July 30, 1997] The Army walked away from the base on May 28, 1993, and the 140 acres that the two cities are purchasing is composed of a historic district that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.  Part of the agreement limits the number of housing units in the Historic District to 551, made up of 275 homes carved out of the 90 original buildings on the base with 276 new units to be constructed.  If the number of residences goes above or below 551, the cities will have to pay the Army $45,000 for each additional unit of surplus or shortfall. There are still significant obstacles to overcome before development can begin, not the least of which is a site in which two landfills from the old base that will somehow have to be safely eliminated.



July 30, 1967 -- As the dedication ceremonies draw near for Chicago’s Picasso statue, the Chicago Tribune prints comments about the artist’s gift from a variety of sources.  William E. Hartmann, an architect for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the man most responsible for bringing the sculpture to Chicago, says, “Chicago Picasso has an excellent sound.  The two words have the same number of syllables, and they represent an affinity for two strong spirits."  Bud Holland, an art gallery owner, states, “I refuse to comment on a work I haven’t seen, but even if I hate it, I’m going to love it.  I think the idea of a major work by someone of Picasso’s stature standing in such a public position is so exciting that it’s going to raise the level of public sculpture not only in Chicago but in the entire nation.”   James Brown, IV, a trustee of one of the groups underwriting the cost of the Picasso, says, “There will come a time when we can’t imagine anything else being in the plaza except the Chicago Picasso because it is so appropriate to the site and backdrop.”   Alderman John J. Hoellen, pretty clearly not a big fan, says, “The statue represents the power of city hall, stark, ugly, overpowering, frightening . . . They could take this monster to Lincoln Park, where it would be in close proximity to the Chicago zoo.  Incidentally, the rib cage on the thing offers a very fine roosting place for pigeons.”



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July 30, 1943 – The first C-54 Skymaster to be built in the Douglas Aircraft factory at Park Ridge roars into the sky on its maiden flight. Dedication ceremonies are held prior to this first flight as Major General Harold George, commanding general of the air transport command, is the principal speaker.  He observes, “Geography smiled generously on Chicago.  One needs only to study a map of the world to see that the city is at the crossroads of many of the great air routes.  How important will be the position which this great city will take in the air transportation of the future depends on the vision of its people, on their ability to see what lies in wait just over the horizon.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 31, 1943]. The huge transport plane has wings that measure over 117 feet from tip to tip and a rudder that is over 27 feet above the ground.  With a full load it can cruise at 222 miles an hour at 10,000 feet, using only 60 percent of the power of its four engines.  The new factory in Park Ridge is equally impressive.  It covers 25 acres and is constructed almost entirely of wood with 150-foot trusses weighing 70 tons supporting the roof over the main assembly area.  It is the largest building under one roof in the world. “Some day we will turn again to peace,” George says. “Then, as now, it will be good common sense to choose Chicago, the geographical and economic transportation center of the North American continent, as the center of production for this and other transport aircraft to follow.”  Over 1,250 C-54 Skymasters, in various versions, were built in less than three years between 1942 and the end of World War II in 1945.



July 30, 1917 – Three women and five men are arrested at the Oak Street beach as “Several thousand proletarians of the Twenty-first and nearby wards rose against the Lincoln park board and the patricians of Lake Shore drive … for the right to leave their weary feet and cool their perspiring persons in the waters of Oak Street beach.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 31, 1917] The trouble begins early in the evening when a crowd, estimated to number between 3,000 and 5,000 people, gathers in the area as about 150 girls and 15 or so children enter the water for a swim.  A Lincoln Park policeman orders the bathers out of the water and is ignored.  Finally, he removes his uniform coat and wades out, dragging one of the bathers to shore.  The assembled crowd revolts, moving on the police, “battering two or three of them.”  Shouts are heard … What’s the idea we can’t get cool … T’ell with the millionaires … Nine out of ten houses are closed on the drive.  It is up to the Lincoln Park Commissioners to decide what should be done since in 1884 the residents along Lake Shore Drive gave up their riparian rights to the commissioners in exchange for a promise not to allow any building construction along the lakeshore in the area. Since the commissioners had made no attempt to build bath houses or comfort stations at Oak Street, the beach was, either in fact or in appearance, a private amenity for the wealthy families, including the Potter Palmers, who lived along the drive. Those who head down to the beach at Oak Street these days will still find nothing permanent at the beach ... the bistro is taken down and re-assembled each year.  Oak Street beach is just off the above photo to the right.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

July 29, 1966 -- Mayor Daley Meets with Activist Women



July 29, 1966 – Mayor Richard J. Daley hosts an hour-long meeting with 30 members of the Women Mobilized for Change while 250 other members wait on the sidewalk at the La Salle Street entrance to City Hall.  Pledging support to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, the women urge Daley to abandon the use of tall public housing in favor of low-level housing.  The group’s spokeswoman, McHenry County resident Mrs. Kay Holper, says that the group was formed shortly after riots on the west side of the city and includes both Chicago and suburban women.  The group asks Daley to bring together civil rights leaders and city officials in order “to develop a cooperative coordinated approach to problems of Chicago.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 30, 1966].  The group also speaks out in favor of the recent open occupancy executive order issued by Illinois governor Otto Kerner.


July 29, 1936:  The motor ship Material Service sinks early in the morning a mile north of the lighthouse at Eighty-Sixth Street as she is caught in an open-water gale for which she was not designed.  Although seven members of the crew are rescued, Captain C. D. Brown and 15 other crew members die.  First Mate John M. Johnson says upon his rescue, “We were going along as usual when suddenly the vessel listed to port.  Then it came back on an even keel, but immediately began to sink.  We had the usual complement of lifeboats, but the sinking was so sudden that there was no chance to launch them.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 29, 1936]  The ship had hauled a load of gravel from Lockport to Chicago, and had left the mouth of the Chicago River around midnight, headed south for a dock in the Calumet Harbor area when disaster struck.



July 29, 1934 – The Dymaxion, a three-wheeled automobile, arrives at the Century of Progress World’s Fair with Buckminster Fuller, its designer, driving the vehicle onto the fairgrounds where it will be exhibited at the Crystal House on Northerly Island.  Nineteen feet long with front wheel drive and a single wheel at the rear, the car is capable of traveling at 120 miles per hour.  The photo above shows the Dymaxion beside architect George F. Keck's "Crystal House" on Northerly Island.



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July 29, 1918 – Stink bombs “which distributed a most pungent and overmastering odor” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 30, 1918] are thrown “with great liberality” on Wells, Madison, La Salle, and Randolph Streets, with the final detonation occurring in the Celtic barroom in the Hotel Sherman.  The last bomb sends guests in the hotel “into the open air with tremendous alacrity.”  It is believed that the attacks are the result of a feud between warring taxicab organizations, the Checker Cab Company and the Yellow Cab Company. This was just the tip of the iceberg in a battle that would last throughout most of the Roaring Twenties. Checker, the smaller firm, made up of owner-operators operating, like Uber or Lyft, under a single name, battled it out with the much larger Yellow Cab Company.  When Checker began using Loop taxi stands, previously exclusive Yellow Cab turf, the fight was on.  Things got so bad by June, 1921 that two aldermen introduced a resolution in the City Council, calling on the police chief to keep cabs from both companies off the streets until cabmen stopped killing each other.  Things got even more heated when Yellow Cab divided into two factions, one composed of union drivers and the other of non-union chauffeurs.  The whole thing finally calmed down by the end of the 1920’s when the owner of Yellow Cab, John Hertz, sold his stock in the company and got out of the business.  Ultimately, Yellow Cab and Checker merged, and the city found a way to damp down violent competition and make money at the same time by selling taxi cab medallions that limited the number of cabs on the street.  A terrific explanation of the whole mess can be found here





July 29, 1914:  Destruction begins on the swing bridge at Canal Street to make way for the new vertical lift bridge for the Pennsylvania Railroad as the new bridge stands, nearly complete, above it.  The new bridge will be the heaviest lift span in the country.  Today it is the only bridge of its type on the Chicago River system.  When it is raised, the bridge provides 130 feet of clearance for traffic on the river below.  According to historicbridges.com “The lift truss span was constructed outward from the towers with the use of special falsework that angled back into the tower so that it would not be in the river obstructing boats … As built the bridge contained 6,941,000 pounds of structural steel and machinery. An interesting design feature of the bridge was that the northern piers of the bridge were built overly wide, so that half of these piers could support half of a second vertical lift bridge, should the railroad have wished to add more trackage to the line.”  The top photo shows the new bridge towering above the original swing bridge in 1914.  The color photo shows the bridge today in its lowered position.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

July 28, 1975 -- Navy Pier Hosts American Freedom Train

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July 28, 1975 – The American Freedom Train begins the first of seven days at Navy Pier as Mayor Richard J. Daley, along with several thousand inner city children, are among the first visitors to view the twelve cars that provide a walk through 200 years of the country’s history.  After a ride on the moving walkway through the train, Daley calls it “impressive and convincing,” adding that “It restores confidence in our country.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 29, 1975].  The 425-ton Reading T-1 locomotive used to pull the train is not at Navy Pier because it is too large to make it around the sharp curves of the tracks leading to the pier.  It is left steaming at Clinton and Kinzie Streets.  The Freedom Train tour, undertaken to commemorate the bicentennial of the United States, began its tour of the 48 contiguous states on April 1, 1975, a tour that ended on December 31, 1976 with ore than seven million Americans visiting the train and millions more watching as it passed their towns.  Its ten display cars carried more than 500 different artifacts, ranging from George Washington’s copy of the Constitution to Judy Garland’s dress from the Wizard of Oz to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s pulpit and robes. 

July 28, 2010 – The jury begins deliberations in the corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blogojevich, sooner than expected and without testimony from a number of witnesses, including Blogojevich himself.  Assistant U. S. Attorney Reid Schar says, “This guy had more training in criminal background than the average lawyer and somehow this guy is the accidentally corrupt governor?” [Christian Science Monitor, July 28, 2010] One of Blagojevich’s attorneys, Sam Adam, Jr., says, “He’s got absolutely horrible judgment on people.  And that’s the case and they want you to find him guilty of these horrible things because of that.”  As they went through their closing arguments the opposing attorneys exhibited different styles with Adam “pacing, sweating and alternately shouting and whispering to the jury” while Schar “did not raise his voice throughout his argument,” which concluded with his saying, “I don’t know how you begin to put a price on the damage defendant Blagojevich has caused.  The time for accountability for the defendants is now.”  On August 17 Blagojevich was convicted of one count of lying to federal agents while a mistrial was declared on the other 23 crimes with which he was charged because the jury could not agree on a verdict.  A retrial was then set to begin on April 20, 2011.  


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July 28, 1994 – The United States Department of Veterans Affairs announces that it has chosen 1,000 acres of the former Joliet Army Ammunition plant as the site of what will be the country’s largest national cemetery. The United States Forest Service lays claim to most of the remainder of the 23,500-acre grounds of the former munitions plant as the site of a tall-grass prairie reserve.  U. S. Representative George Sangmeister, who led the effort to restore the property to productive use, says, “The cemetery location was probably the centerpiece or hub or catalyst for putting the whole 23,500 acres together … I would hope that by 1996 … at the latest ’97, there ought to be interments there.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 29, 1994]. It is anticipated that the national cemetery will serve over a million veterans and their spouses and dependents within a 75-mile radius and will be the largest of the 114 cemeteries administered by the VA. The selection appears to put to rest the effort to locate the cemetery at Fort Sheridan on the North Shore as the VA fell about $30 million short of the price that the Army was seeking for the base near Highland Park and Highwood. The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery was officially dedicated in 1999, the one hundred seventeenth national cemetery, with a capacity of over 400,000 burial spaces. 



July 28, 1970:  The day after a Grant Park riot occurred when a crowd of 35,000 to 50,000 waiting for a concert by Sly and the Family Stone reacted violently as the concert was delayed and ultimately cancelled, Mayor Richard J. Daley orders that all rock concerts planned by the Chicago Park District Board be cancelled.  The mayor calls the fighting “A riot, a brawl, and mob action.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 29, 1970]  He continues, “There were a lot of liquor and wine bottles thrown at the policemen.  I believe the young people who attend these concerts should assume some responsibility for policing themselves.”  At least 162 persons are injured in the turmoil and hundreds of windows are broken all along Michigan Avenue opposite Grant Park as well as on some side streets between Michigan and State Streets.  Damage to police vehicles is estimated at $10,000 with one car destroyed by fire.  As the mayor reacts, three men and two women are arrested near the Grant Park band shell after a report that the performance venue will be set on fire.  Police search the truck belonging to Mike Patrick of Brommel, Pennsylvania and find a five-gallon can of gasoline and one-fourth pound of marijuana, almost never a good combination.




July 28,1864:  The Milwaukee Sentinel publishes a story, most probably apocryphal, about the Chicago River from a “reliable gentleman” who had gone to Chicago some days earlier and reports “A heavy fog rested over the water as they approached that city [Chicago], rendering objects even close at hand indistinguishable.  Under these circumstances the boat came near running past the city entirely, and would have done so but for the fragrance of the Chicago River, which fortunately enabled the Captain to run his craft safely into port. Light-houses dwindle into insignificance beside this all powerful guide to mariners." Whew!” [Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1863]

Monday, July 27, 2020

July 27, 2000 -- Water Tower Park Re-Dedicated

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July 27, 2000 – Mayor Richard M. Daley leads a contingent of “men in crisp, white linen suits and women sporting designer sunglasses and well-groomed miniature terriers” [Chicago Tribune, July 27, 2000] at the dedication of the renovated Water Tower Park at Chicago and Michigan Avenues. Work began on refreshing the 26,400-square-foot park in 1998 and included the planting of 500 velvet green boxwoods, 18,000 English ivy plants, along with locust and elm trees.  The green space is framed by 18-inch-high stone walls topped with decorative iron fencing.  Daley says, “It’s not just a place for new fountains, trees and flowers, but a wonderful addition to Chicago’s already vast collection of public art.”  The new fountain is a design by Marvin Schienberg, who has designed dozens of city fountains at city locations ranging from the Art Institute of Chicago to Garfield Park.  Landscape architect Scott Byron is the principal designer of the gardens in the renovated park.  Of the approximately $600,000 spent on the redesign of the park, the city kicked in $150,000 with a large sum donated by Marshall Field and Company.


July 27, 1970 – Returning to police headquarters at Eleventh and State Streets, patrolman John Keane says, “I wouldn’t go back there unless I was in a tank.” The place to which the officer is referring is Grant park where a concert featuring Sly and the Family Stone, scheduled to go off at 4:00 p.m. turns violent as impatient attendees, fueled by rumors that the headliner wasn’t going to show, end up on a rampage.  One opening act, Fat Water, runs through its set, but when the second group, the Flying Burrito Brothers, gets ready to perform, the crowd hurls a wave of bottles, cans, stones and broken pieces of park benches at the stage.  The headliners, who had scheduled the free concert in the first place to make up for three shows the band had cancelled in Chicago earlier in the year, cancelled this one, too, asserting that it was too dangerous to go onstage.  The crowd courses through the park, some people acting violently, some just watching.  A police car and a driving instructor’s car are overturned and set on fire, and the violence spills into the Loop where windows of the Brooks Brothers and Fanny May Candy stores are broken, and some looting occurs.  The violence doesn’t die down until past 10:00 p.m. as 162 people are injured, 126 of them police officers, and 160 are arrested.  For the reaction to the violence you can turn to this entry in Connecting the Windy City.

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July 27, 1970 – Sears, Roebuck and Company, the largest retailer in the world, announces its plans to build the world’s tallest building on South Wacker Drive between Adams Street and Jackson Boulevard.  With 4.4 million square feet of interior space, the $100-million-dollar building will be the largest privately-owned office building in the world.  Gordon Metcalf, the chairman and chief executive officer of Sears, says that the building’s 1,451 feet is as high as the Federal Aviation Administration will permit.  About 16,000 workers are expected to work in Sears Tower with Sears initially occupying less than two million square feet, leasing the remainder of the building.  Mayor Daley greets the news enthusiastically, saying, “On behalf of the people of Chicago, I want to thank Sears for the confidence they are showing in the future, in planning and designing the building which will adorn the west side.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1970].  Sears Tower will rise on a two-block piece of land that has been assembled by private developers over a five-year period, beginning in 1964.  A total of 15 “grime blackened” buildings, purchased from 100 owners, will be torn down to make way for the project.  Sears will also pay the city $2.7 million to vacate Quincy Street between Franklin Street and Wacker Drive.  The architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill will design the tower with Bruce Graham acting as lead designer on the project.  These are heady times for the company as sales in 1969 reached $8.9 billion with net income totaling more than $440 million. Metcalf says that the company expects to increase sales by a billion dollars in 1970.  It is expected that the project will increase the redevelopment of the south branch of the river, where momentum for change has gained headway with the development of the Gateway Center on the opposite where two 20-story buildings are already complete and a 35-story tower is under construction.  The above photo shows Sears Tower in 1973 as it begins to come out of the ground.



July 27, 1919:  Sparks from the smoke stack of the lake freighter Senator start a fire that destroys the coal sheds of the Peoples Gaslight and Coke Company on the east side of the north branch of the Chicago River at Hobbie Street.  The freighter had run aground as it moved past Goose Island, and the tug Racine was assisting it.  The sparks from the ships set the roof of the coal sheds on fire, which then spread to two buildings at 1145 Larabee Street, prompting a 4-11 alarm, another day at work on the North Branch. The Senator didn't catch a whole lot of breaks.  On October 31, 1929 she was rammed amidships by the steamer Marquette and went to the bottom, taking seven crew members and a load of 241 brand new Nash Ramblers with her.




July 27, 1890 – With all of the news today focusing on the effects of global warming and rising seas, it is interesting to look back on a feature in the Chicago Daily Tribune 127 years ago, an article that dealt with the changing nature of the city’s shoreline and how the forces of erosion and addition affected the Chicago River over the years.  Originally the “little block-house fort” at Fort Dearborn on what is now the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive stood where the Chicago River bent “more than 90° and finally emptied into the lake at or south of Madison Street.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 27, 1890] The sharp bend to the south was formed because the mouth of the river was blocked by a sandbar that prevented all but barges and flat-bottomed boats from entering. In 1835 the United States government cut a channel through the sandbar on a line with the channel to the west, building piers on the north and south sides of the new channel at the same time.  The pier on the north side drastically changed the natural flow of sand along the lake shore that resulted from the erosion of lakeside bluffs on the north shore.  As a result, the shore between the new mouth of the river and the area around today’s Chicago Avenue expanded so that by 1872 a new shoreline that extended 1,500 feet into the lake had accumulated just north of the river gradually diminishing to about 500 feet at Chicago Avenue.  In the preceding years the Illinois Central Railroad and various private property owners had been busy filling in the lake for freight yards opposite the ends of South Water, Lake and Randolph Streets.  In 1871 this process was increased as “debris from hundreds of acres of burnt buildings had to be disposed of, and in addition a place of deposit had to be found for hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of earth dug from the cellars of the new buildings which were being built.”  With the article the paper prints a map, showing the difference in the shoreline over three-and-a-half miles between 1839 and 1890.  Between Indiana Avenue and Randolph street, the shoreline had been extended nearly a half-mile into the lake..  The newly created land between North Avenue and the river had increased by 180 acres.  The amount of ground added to the city between Monroe Street and today’s Congress Avenue was about 32 acres.  Awaiting adjudication was the issue of entitlement to this newly made land.  It would be years of court cases, suits and counter-suits before the issue would be resolved.  Still pertinent today is the conclusion of the article, “Lake Michigan is the one grand topographical feature of the city, distinguishing it from other cities, tempering its climate, and causing the health-giving breezes which remove atmospheric impurities … We need the water more than we need the land … The filling of the lake for park purposes may be a necessity of the present public exigency, but not a foot more should be allowed to be converted to private or corporate uses.”

Sunday, July 26, 2020

July 26, 1983 -- State-Lake Theater Signs Television Deal

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July 26, 1983 – An agreement is signed between the city and the American Broadcasting Company in which ABC will convert the State-Lake Theater into television studios.  According to the deal the theater’s impressive marquee will be removed and the theater auditorium will be divided into two levels for broadcasting studios, one of which will hold an audience of 250 people.  Although the Chicago City Council still must approve the agreement, ABC plans also to obtain the 12-story office and retail building at 190 North State Street in which the theater is located.  The company plans to remodel the building, including the terra cotta fa├žade and retail space on the State Street and Lake Street sides of the structure in an effort that will cost over $11 million.  The renovation will also include the elimination of the fire escapes on the south side of the building, the creation of new sidewalks along the Lake Street side and landscaping along State Street.  Dennis Harder, the city’s deputy planning commissioner, says, “ABC’s proposed renovation will be a first-class rehabilitation effort, giving the building an economic life comparable to new construction which will occur in other parts of the North Loop renewal zone.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 27, 1983].  A good retrospective of the 190 North State building and its site can be found here.


July 26, 1940 – A grade separation in Lake Shore Drive north of North Avenue opens although the $750,000 project will not eliminate traffic problems in Lincoln Park immediately.  Ramps onto and off the drive are now open, but work still continues on Lake Shore Drive north of the bath house at North Avenue while the connection to Clark and La Salle Streets to which the Lake Shore Drive ramps will lead is not scheduled to open for another two weeks.  The pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive at North Avenue is also still under construction.  Basically, the roadway that opens on this day will only allow motorists access to the parking area at the North Avenue beach.  Otto K. Jelinek, traffic engineer for the park district, says, “The capacity of the pavement has been reduced by about a third, so it’s impossible to get the efficiency that we had when Beach drive was in service.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 27, 1940] The 90,000 motorists trying to find their way through Lincoln Park during rush hour look forward to the end of construction.



July 26, 1902 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the People’s Gaslight and Coke Company has purchased a building and leasehold interest of the property at the northwest corner of Adams Street and Michigan Avenue for $200,000 from the Lake Hotel Company.  This will be the site of the company’s new headquarters, a 21-story building designed by Daniel Burnham and Company, to be finished in 1911.  Although People’s Gas moved out in 1995, the building still makes a statement across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago with each of the columns at its base made out of a solid piece of granite that is 26 feet tall, four-and-a-half feet in diameter, weighing 30 tons.  The photo above shows the new skyscraper going up in April of 1910.  The building was built in two sections with a hollowed-out middle, the north section being completed first.



July 26, 1885 – A reporter for the Chicago Daily Tribune writes a summary of a day he spends with Health Inspector De Wolf. Beginning on La Salle Street, what was then Pacific Avenue, between Harrison and Polk Streets, “the Inspector led the way past a number of those disreputable resorts whose lawlessness has already given a name to the locality.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 26, 1885] The Inspector leads the way into a two-story frame building near Polk Street. In “a subterranean region, of whose existence no one viewing the premises from the street would have guessed” the group finds one room, twelve-feet square, in which the landlord lives with his wife and nine male boarders.  They all sleep in the same space.  Across the hall a widow is living with her three children, who “lounging on chairs about the room looked in need of fresh air and better food.” Her husband was a merchant who died in unfortunate circumstances and left her nothing. She takes in washing to make ends meet, and the Inspector laments, “It seems hard that a decent woman should have to rear her children in such a place, surrounded by vicious and depraved people.”  The group moves on to a tenement on the corner of State and Twelfth Streets.  The frame and brick building is packed with tenants and, until an earlier Health Department inspection there was not a single water-closet on the second or third floor.  The article states, “The consequences of this were during the summer months horrible to contemplate.  Not only the back-yard but the roofs of the surrounding sheds were knee-deep in garbage, which needed only the returning spring to make it a veritable mine of disease.”  Despite some of the conditions, though, the trip ends optimistically as the reporter praises the work of the health inspectors, writing, “Every yard was already cleaned or being cleaned and all the rubbish under the houses gathered into heaps and carted off.  In some places the garbage had lain four or five feet deep, and the exhalations from this bulk when it was stirred up by the men were deadly.”  Still, there was much work left to be done.



Saturday, July 25, 2020

July 25, 1919 -- Wingfoot Express Tragedy Unfolds at Inquest


July 25, 1919 – In Room 1123 of the county building Coroner Peter M. Hoffman conducts an investigation into the cause of the fire that sent the dirigible Wingfoot Express into a fatal plummet through the skylight of the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank on La Salle Street, setting off a gasoline-fueled conflagration that kills a crew member, two passengers, and ten employees of the bank.  Dramatic testimony comes in the person of the airship’s pilot, John A. Boettner, who testifies that there were no sparks or flames thrown from the engine and that the engines were running when the fire was spotted.  “I discovered the flames near the front of the bag and up above the equator,” Boettner says, “I rose to my feet and holding the wheel with one hand turned and by motions and shouts told the others to jump.  I saw them go over and then the bag buckled.  As the gondola shot forward I took a long dive toward the ground.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 26, 1919]  The above photo shows the skylight  of the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank through which the dirigible fell to the banking floor.   

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July 25, 1913 – Dr. J. R. Pennington, one of the few surgeons in the city who has operated on a patient who has been administered anesthesia, explains how anesthesia rightfully is “one of the greatest discoveries of the age.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 25, 1913]. “I have seen a patient lying apparently asleep during a serious abdominal operation,” Pennington says.  “His color was natural and when he awoke he felt no pain. He did not suffer during the operation and showed little of the usual unfortunate reaction. The local anesthetic blocks off the wound from the brain centers.”  It had been just a year before that the first medical textbook on the subject was published by anesthesiologist Dr. James Taylor Gwathmey and the chemist Dr. Charles Baskerville.





July 25, 1890 – Choosing two industries that the general populace associates with good times, a Chicago Daily Tribune editorial then puts the candy makers and the soap manufacturers squarely in the spotlight in order to once again rail against the smoke that chokes the city.  “Almost the entire output of a candy factory,” the editorial observes, “is for outside consumption … The furnaces refuse utterly to eat the smoke for which they are directly responsible, and insist on giving it in large and unpalatable doses to the public at large.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 25, 1890] Of the “cakes” of soap manufactured in the city, the paper writes, “They smell so delicious that the little Indian maids under the care of Christian missionary ladies insist on eating them and going dirty.  If the smoke that comes daily from the chimney of a big soap factory jutting on the river near Rush street bridge should get a fair shake at the delicately perfumed packages the young aborigines would get over a bad habit with dispatch.” The smoke that the city’s industries produce is so bad that “Over towards the Adams street bridge a dog in a leading string is necessary for guidance.”  No one is exempt from the critical eye.  Bookbinders and printers “whose chimneys belch out stuff as black as the ink imprints that Guttenberg’s genius made possible.”  Merchants “turn out a tremendous stock every hour of the day, and foist it on their neighbors without money and without price – a practice conducive to mining life and wages in the coal regions.”  The editorial ends with a warning of government’s newfound seriousness concerning the smoke-choked city, “The city authorities will prosecute offending smokers hereafter without the preliminary of a warning.  Warnings in the past have failed of effect, and now the service of summons will be the first intimation received by owners and occupants of buildings that their presence is desirable in court.” 




July 25, 1877 – The Battle of the Viaduct takes place as a mob of over 10,000 people do battle with the police and federal troops at the Halsted Street viaduct over the Chicago River north of Bridgeport. On July 14, a strike begins in Martinsburg, West Virginia when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad cuts workers’ wages for the third time in a year. The strike quickly spreads, bringing violence to cities as far apart as St. Louis and San Francisco.  On this day, it is Chicago’s turn as thousands of men, women and children march on a route that takes them through rail yards and the stockyards and north up Halsted Street to the viaduct that crosses the Chicago River.  On the north side of the bridge the police meet the angry mob and force them back south, firing at the protestors as they flee.  Tempers run high as the rioters, angered at being fired upon while retreating, stop street cars attempting to cross the viaduct.  One car is overturned, and cars that follow “were stopped, the conductors rifled of the contents of their pockets, and the passengers compelled to ‘get up and act’ under various threats.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 25, 1877] Farther up Halsted the gun store of M. J. Pribyl is cleaned out. Reinforcements swell the ranks of the police who are joined by the Second Regiment of the United States Army, and the confrontation turns even more deadly as the police fire at the mob for a half-hour.  Ultimately at least 18 rioters – some estimates place the deaths at 30 -- are killed, over 100 are wounded, and 13 police officers are injured, one fatally. Relative calm returns on the following day, but the event begins a period in the city’s history that will lead to the confrontation at the Haymarket in 1886 and the violence that will come with the Pullman Strike in 1894.