Tuesday, July 7, 2020

July 7, 1889 -- Chicago River ... It Stinks

July 7, 1889 --  A Chicago Daily Tribune article provides a graphic description of the condition of the Chicago River, which it describes as “unprecedentedly horrible”.  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 7, 1889]. With journalistic tongue in cheek, the article describes dredging boats on the South Branch, “dipping up the heavy effluvia which rose from the surface,” depositing the odors on the shore where workmen cut them into blocks “resembling building stones,” claiming that “the Chicago River smell makes better material for foundations than concrete.”  The river is clearly in bad shape.  The article states, “As far out towards the lake as State street the surface is a mass of rising, shifting iridescent bubbles filled with deadly gas.  Generated in the filth below, they rise, float and sparkle for an instant, and go out with a gasp of poisonous breath.”  The lumber district of the South Branch presents “a solid surface of stagnant putrescence,” but that cannot compare to the waters of the South Fork – Bubbly Creek – where “the bloated carcasses of dead animals are lying on the surface everywhere.  A dozen at a time may be seen – and smelled – as the stagnant mass is stirred up.”   Farther south conditions continue to deteriorate as “The sputtering bubbles have here turned into boiling springs.  A mass of the slime ten feet across will suddenly commence to boil, and then it gurgles and surges, liberating thousands of feet of pestilent gases, and stopping only as another conglomeration of pollution commences its horrid bubbling.”  Pumps at Bridgeport, capable of moving 45,000 cubic feet of water a minute have no effect since they are pumping clear water that comes from the Ogden Slip and Mud Lake and has, because of recent rains, overflowed into the river itself.  Two of the eight pumps are out of order and two more are in bad shape … even in perfect conditions they are located too far south on the river to create enough of a current to move the mess that is upstream and cleanse it.  The article concludes, “The river in its present condition is a pestilence-breeding cesspool, a menace to everyone its foul breath reaches, and, as some of its filth may return through our water-faucets, it is a menace to the whole city.”  The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which would reverse the flow of the river and help to solve the problems that the river brought to those living near it, would still be 11 years away.

J. Bartholomew Photo
July 7, 1994 – The Lake County board agrees to join Lake Forest, Highland Park and Highwood in a committee that will determine ways in which Ft. Sheridan can be used.  The county and the three towns agree to appoint representatives to the committee, which will be given the responsibility for drawing up a comprehensive land-use plan for the closed Army base.  Lake Forest, Highland Park, and the County board will pay 30 percent of the committee’s costs while Highwood will contribute 10 percent.  Cook County board member Robert Buhai of Highland Park says that approval of the coalition at the county’s board meeting clears the way for the group to apply for federal grant money to help move the process along.

July 7, 1994 –Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, a “slender Cypress, Calif. prodigy who has been hyped as a future ‘Michael Jordan’ of golf,” competes in the opening qualifying round of the week-long Western Junior Open.  Observing a Par 4 on the sixteenth hole at Cog Hill’s No. 2 course in which Woods flied the green, landed behind a small tree, bumped the ball from there to within 18 feet of the pin, and made the putt, his father, Earl Woods, says, “He does that all the time.  He gets deep in trouble and comes out with a par—sometimes a birdie.  I’ve told him, ‘You’re gonna give me a heart attack.’ He just laughs.” [Chicago Tribune, July 8, 1994] Woods goes on to bogey Number 17 and 18, finishing the day with a 72, four strokes behind leader David Griffith of Aurora, Ohio.  The score leaves him in good position to make the group of 32 qualifiers out of a field of 178 players who are 19 years-old or under.  After the round, Woods says to reporters, “The attention I receive has been a big hassle, a pain in the butt.  No matter how I play, the media asks questions about my golf. My father tries to tone this down, but the questions are always there.”  As the photo above shows, six weeks later Woods would take the championship trophy at the U. S. Amateur Championship at the Tournament Players Club in Ponte Vedra, Florida, after being five down with twelve holes to play.

July 7, 1977 – The Chicago City Council sets up a special assessment district to collect revenue from State Street merchants for the cost and maintenance of the State Street pedestrian mall, scheduled for completion by March of 1979.  With suburban malls springing up as fast as they can be built and with many patrons who traditionally do their shopping on State Street moving to the suburbs, the thinking is that closing the street to all but bus and pedestrian traffic will make it more attractive to shoppers.  The idea comes a tad too late, and in the 17 years that the mall is open Wieboldt’s, Sear’s, Montgomery Ward, Goldblatt’s, Baskin’s, and the Bond store all go out of business.  There are as many reasons for the mall’s lack of success as there are people to share them.  Chicago’s Planning Commissioner in the 1980’s, Elizabeth Hollander, said, “The mall took the excitement out of State Street.”  Adrian Smith, the lead architect in putting the street back together again, said, “The buses would line up, one after another, like a herd, with their diesel fumes.”  Mayor Richard M. Daley, who hitched a ride on one of the machines that began breaking up the mall in 1996, said, “As Mayor I have found it difficult to find out whose idea this was in the first place.”  [New York Times, February 1, 1996]

July 7, 1954 – The vice-president of the New York Life Insurance Company, Otto Nelson, announces that the company will embark on the construction of the final 1,040 housing units needed to complete the 1,640-unit Lake Meadows housing project on the south side. Moving forward on the completion of the project was contingent on the city’s commitment to build a new school on two acres of ground near Thirty-First Street and the Illinois Central Railroad tracks, land that the insurance company would provide. Although the board of education, represented by the Superintendent of Schools, Benjamin Willis, could not give that commitment because its funds for 1954 and 1955 had already been allocated, assurance was provided that a school would be ready by the completion of the project.  The John J. Pershing School for the Humanities is the school that currently stands at that location.  Lake Meadows is shown in the above photo -- the glassy towers marching south in the right third of the photo.  Toward the right corner is the Pershing School, sitting just west of the railroad tracks.

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