Tuesday, July 14, 2020

July 14, 1909 -- Blackstone Theater Plans Debut

July 14, 1909 – Announcement is made that a new theater will be erected in Hubbard Court just west of the Blackstone Hotel.  No timetable is given for the project although “the lease requires the erection of a fire-proof building prior to 1921, taking in all the Wabash avenue frontage and on Hubbard court west of the theater, to be not less than eight stories high and to cost not less than $200,000.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 15, 1909]  The Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company holds a 143-year lease on the property on which the theater will stand, land that was acquired in several transactions between 1902 and 1904.  The architecture firm of Marshall and Fox, the architects that designed the Blackstone Hotel, will design the new theater, which will be “one of the handsomest and best appointed theaters in the country.”  Developers will be Tracy C. Drake and John Drake, who would go on to develop the Drake Hotel on Michigan Avenue, which Marshall and Fox would also design.  Both the theater and the hotel next to it were named after Timothy Blackstone who occupied a mansion that stood on the site.  He served as president of the Chicago and Alton Railroad, the city’s first railroad, from 1864 to 1899.  He was also the founding president of the Union Stock Yards.  After he died, his widow donated the Blackstone Memorial Library to the city as the first branch library in Chicago.  Today the theater carries the name of Merle Reskin, who, along with her husband, made a large donation to the Theatre School of DePaul University, which now operates the theater.

Curbed Chicago
July 14, 1966 – In response to a question from the Chicago Tribune, officials at City Hall concede that beautification of the south bank of the Chicago River between Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive may not begin until the fall.  The delay is the result of a case that is pending before the Illinois Supreme Court in which the city, the Illinois attorney general, and four citizen plaintiffs are challenging the Illinois Central Railroad’s claim to air rights over its tracks from the river south to Fifty-First Street.  The chairman of the I. C., in the meantime, asserts that the maintenance of the river bank has been the obligation of the city ever since 1919 when an ordinance was approved, granting the city a permanent easement with a width of 112 feet along the river bank for the eventual extension of Wacker Drive from Michigan Avenue to Lake Shore Drive.  The unsightliness of the area has been a source of contention between the city and the railroad since at least 1959 when Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Chicago prompted an intense tidying up and a new look at some of the eyesores along the south bank of the river that most Chicagoans had simply taken for granted.  At that time the city did spend nearly $30,000 to repair pilings and the wall along the south river bank.  That was a start, but the Tribune notes, “… nothing has been done to landscape the bank and eliminate the weeds, piles of brick, and the exposure of unattractive warehouses and other similar structures.  Once the air rights battle has ended, this area may become one of the city’s most exciting developments of modern office buildings and apartment skyscrapers.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1966]. Clearly, that prediction held true as the city has just completed a face-lift for this section of the river walk, spending over $12 million to refresh the area from the DuSable bridge to Lake Shore Drive.  The top photo shows the area in the early 1970's.  Note the piles of dirt and stone on the south side of the river in front of the building under construction, today's Hyatt Hotel.  That is the area pictured in the photo below, looking fro the opposite direction, the present docks for Chicago's First Lady Cruises and the architecture tours offered by the Chicago Architecture Center.

July 14, 1928 – Announcement is made that the plan for the new Palmolive building, under construction at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Walton Street, will be amended to include 37 stories rather than the 15 stories that were originally proposed.  The architects for the project, Holabird and Root, had specified foundations for a taller structure, but the Palmolive-Peet Company and Colgate Company had decided on a more modest office building at the outset, changing the plan to a taller building as the project begins.  The tower promises to be a sensation, “of modern architecture” with “no exterior fire escapes to mar the architectural effect”.  The tower will be clad in Bedford limestone on all sides “with interesting light effects through the placing of flood lights on the various setbacks.”  The new building opened in 1929 with six series of set-backs on all four sides.

July 14, 1918 – Four persons are killed and 28 injured when a North Shore Electric railroad train strikes a truck carrying a Chicago picnic party at the north entrance to Fort Sheridan.  The General Manager of the North Shore line blames the driver of the truck for failing to obey the warning signals at the railroad crossing, saying, “There is a clear view of the track for more than a mile at the point of the accident.  The motorman was sounding his whistle and the wig-wag danger signal was in operation.  The motorman slowed down to ten miles an hour as he approached the crossing because he had a regular stop to make.  The truck was hit by the coach and toppled into the ditch.  I am told the deaths and injuries were not caused by the actual collision, but in the fall into the ditch.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 15, 1918]

July 14, 1877 – Beginning at the offices of the West Park Commissioners at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Halsted Street, a line of carriages, led by the Great Western Light Guard Band, starts out at 2:00 p.m. for the formal opening of Humboldt Park.  Upon reaching the park, “the procession rolls solemnly along for a considerable time, much to the admiration of the assembled ladies and small boys, the latter tearing through the grounds barefooted after the brass band.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 15, 1877]  Coverage of the dedication is favorable although the park is still “in its infancy and cannot be expected to show off as well as some of its older neighbors.”  According to the Chicago Park District’s history of the park, the park is named for Baron Freidrich Heinrich Alexander Von Humboldt, a German scientist and explorer.  The original design for the park was the work of William LeBaron Jenney, and the 219- acre park was designed as a part of a unified whole using a system of boulevards to join three great parks, Humboldt, Garfield and Douglas.   Humboldt Park grew slowly, but as it grew Jenney’s original plan was followed only in the park’s northeastern section. 

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