Monday, July 27, 2020

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

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