Friday, July 10, 2020

July 10, 1966 -- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Delivers Soldier Field Address

Chicago Tribune Photo
July 10, 1966 – The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. heads up a rally at Soldier Field, beginning a summer-long Chicago campaign against segregation in education, housing and employment.  It was a brutally hot day with the temperature standing at 98 degrees … the city’s beaches were crowded with over 100,000 people.  Before a crowd of 30,000 people, King declares, “This day we must declare our own Emancipation Proclamation.  This day we must commit ourselves to make any sacrifice necessary to change Chicago.  This day we must decide to fill up the jails of Chicago, if necessary in order to end slums.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 11, 1966].  “We are here,” he continues, “because we’re tired of living in rat-infested slums.  We are tired of having to pay a median rent of $97 a month in Lawndale for four rooms while whites in South Deering pay $73 a month for five rooms … We are tired of being lynched physically in Mississippi, and we are tired of being lynched spiritually and economically in the North.”  Following the Soldier Field rally, King leads a crowd of tens of thousands to the La Salle Street entrance of City Hall where he uses adhesive tape to affix a series of demands, calling for an end to police brutality and discriminatory real-estate practices, increased Black employment and a civilian review board for the police department.  The next day he presents the demands to Mayor Richard J. Daley in person.  As tactful as he has ever been in his political career, Daley observes, “Dr. King is very sincere in what he is trying to do.  Maybe, at times, he doesn’t have all the facts on the local situation.  After all, he is a resident of another city.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 10, 2016).  Operating from an apartment at 1550 South Hamlin Avenue in Lawndale, Dr. King directs a campaign that lasts throughout the summer, culminating in an open-housing agreement between Daley and him that was signed on August 28, an agreement that many consider a template for the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
July 10, 1941 – Members of the German consulate in Chicago leave the city, one day ahead of the U. S. State Department’s deadline.  The chancellor of the consulate, Dr. Wilhelm Freidel, turns over the keys to the consulate offices to the manager of the 333 North Michigan Avenue building, the site of the German consulate for the previous decade.  Office furniture and equipment is placed in storage.  The diplomatic contingent will sail from New York on July 17, bound for Lisbon, Portugal on the S. S. George Washington. From there the individual members of the group will return to their homes in Germany.

July 10, 1929 –The Clark Street bridge is dedicated in a program arranged by the North Clark Street Committee of the North Central Association.  A parade starts on North Avenue and Clark Street with marchers and floats and several members of the Sac and Fox tribes in native dress, an acknowledgement that Clark Street began its life as a trail for Native Americans.  After the ribbon for the new bridge is cut, participating dignitaries adjourn to a luncheon at the Sherman Hotel.

J. Bartholomew Photo
July 10, 1925 – Building Commissioner Frank Doherty gives approval for the proposed 40-story Jewelers’ Building, today’s 35 East Wacker, recommending that Corporation Counsel F. X. Busch issue the necessary building permits as quickly as possible.  There is one major hang-up in getting the construction started – Fire Commissioner Joseph Connery wants a delay in construction until considerable modification is made in a scheme that would see 572 cars parking in the lower levels of the structure.  Connery believes that nothing will eliminate the hazards attendant to a huge parking garage in a skyscraper.  The Corporation Counsel seems ready to take the chance, saying, “Recent surveys indicate that an average of 3,000 automobiles are parked daily in loop streets.  Five or six other such buildings with equal facilities would nearly solve the parking problem and certainly relieve street congestion.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 11, 1925]  

July 10, 1893 -- Halfway through the greatest event in the city’s history, tragedy occurs on this day.  A day later the lead in the Chicago Daily Tribune captures the depth of the tragedy as the paper reports, “The World’s Fair received a baptism of fire and blood yesterday afternoon, the Cold-Storage Building proving a funeral pyre for twelve firemen, twenty-four persons receiving serious injuries.”  The cold storage building, the location of the tragedy, was erected by the directors of the Hercules Iron Works and sat on the east side of Stony Island Avenue just south of the Sixty-Fourth Street entrance to the fairgrounds.  The building, designed to resemble a Moorish palace, was five stories high and included a skating rink on the top floor.  There were four towers on each corner with a central tower, encasing the boiler flue, the central tower rising 191 feet above street level.  A promenade encircled the central tower about 70 feet below its inaccessible top.  The flue that ran up this central tower had been a subject of considerable debate since it veered so dangerously away from original specifications and had been subject to minor fires that had flared up in June, causing the cancellation of most of the insurance policies on the building.  At 1:30 p.m. an alarm went out when a small fire was spotted at the top of the flue stack in the tower’s crowning cupola, an area that was supposed to have been made of wrought iron instead of wood and lined with asbestos.  About a dozen firemen climbed to the gallery around the tower, nailing boards to the structure to get closer to the fire.  As they climbed, a puff of white smoke at the roof level of the warehouse preceded flames that cut off the escape of the fourteen firefighters trapped on the narrow ledge surrounding the tower.   As 50,000 fair-goers watched, the trapped men began to jump, one by one, leaping 60 feet onto the burning main roof.  The paper described the horrific scene, “Strong men turned their heads away and women fainted by the score.  The crowd was so dense that escape was impossible.  Down on his knees in the center of the plot surrounding the Pennsylvania railroad exhibit went a well-dressed man, and with hands uplifted he prayed to the Almighty to avert the awful calamity that seemed imminent.  As he prayed tears streamed from his eyes and his words were lost in the sobs and groans of those around him.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 11, 1893]  Twelve brave firefighters lost their lives on that July day, along with three civilians.   

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