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.

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