Thursday, August 13, 2020

August 13, 1946 -- Chicago Park District President Gives Nod to Northerly Island Airfield

August 13, 1946 – The Chicago Park District’s newly elected president, James M. Gately, says that he and other commissioners favor “immediate action to create a first class auxiliary flight strip on Northerly Island.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 14, 1946].  Although no formal proposal has been made, it is clear that Gately’s statement gives momentum to the creation of an airfield convenient to the business district on 80 acres “of the now rubble strewn and neglected island.”  Although Northerly Island, a man-made island created for the Century of Progress World’s Fair in the summers of 1933 and 1934, is nearly a mile long, only 3,200 feet is needed for the landing strip.  Previous park district commissioners have opposed the creation of a landing field on the island, but Mayor Edward Kelly has gone on record as saying he believes the air strip to be essential.  Along with Chicago Aero Commission head Merrill Meigs, the mayor envisions the field as a means of providing air taxi service from the city to Douglas Airport (now O’Hare International Airport) as well as a place from which privately-owned or company-owned aircraft can land and take off.  Construction begins on the new field almost immediately, and on December 10, 1948 it is officially opened.  On June 30, 1950 the airport is named after Meigs, the publisher of the Chicago Herald and Examiner and one of its early boosters.  One the night of March 30, 2003 Mayor Richard M. Daley ordered city crews to render the runway unusable with bulldozers carving huge X-shapes along the length of the strip.   For more information on the field, you can turn to this entry in Connecting the Windy City.  The above photo, taken in 1947, shows the field under construction.  The second photo shows Northerly Island as it appears today. 

August 13, 2009 – Bank of America initiates a suit against Shelbourne Development Group Inc., the developer that began construction of the 150-floor Chicago Spire, construction that was subsequently halted after foundation work was completed.  Bank of America claims that the developer has defaulted on its loan.  The bank says that it is filing a suit in United States District Court in Chicago, seeking $4.9 million in principal and interest from Shelbourne and its chairman, Garrett Kelleher. The complaint alleges that the firm has failed to obtain an “irrevocable construction loan commitment” from a lender, leading the Bank of America to declare a default. [Chicago Tribune, August 14,2009] The photo above shows the remains of the project as they look today.

August 13, 1969 –The chairman of Illinois Central Industries, Inc., William B. Johnson, announces the formation of Illinois Center Plaza Venture, the corporation that will develop the 83-acre site east of Michigan Avenue, between Randolph Street and the Chicago River.  Jupiter Corporation, Metropolitan, Inc., and the Illinois Central Corporation will be equal partners in the plan, which will see the new company purchasing the property from the Illinois Central Railroad for a base price of $83,625,000 with an escalation rider over a 15-year development period.  The site on which the proposed Standard Oil building will be constructed as well as the site of the 111 East Wacker Drive building, which is under construction, along with two adjacent sites, are excluded from the sale. The Prudential building and the Outer Drive East apartments were constructed on air rights in which the Illinois Central did not share in the profits of the buildings.

August 13, 1928 – Construction begins on the Merchandise Mart on the site of the old Chicago and North Western station on the north bank of the Chicago River between Wells Street and Orleans.  A force of 5,700 workers will speed the construction, using cement brought from Wisconsin by boat, and by May 1,1930 the first 200 tenants will begin moving into the 4,000,000 square foot building.
August 13, 1883 – On this day Ivan Mestrovic is born in Slovania, an eastern section of what is today Croatia, the son of a sheep-breeder.  At the age of 16 he began working under the guidance of a master stonemason in Split, and by 1905, after studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, he offered his first exhibit of sculpture.  By 1908 he had developed an international reputation. Auguste Rodin hailed him as “a phenomenon among sculptors.”  [].  Between 1925 and 1928 he was invited to stage exhibitions at 18 different museums in the United States and Canada, a time during which he also oversaw the installation of his Native American equestrian figures at the Congress Street entrance to Grant Park.  In 1955, at the age of 62, Mestrovic came to Notre Dame University from Syracuse University in New York, where he had taught wince 1947.  He lived in South Bend with his wife, Olga, until his death in 1962. At one point in his life Mestrovic observed, “Throughout my life I carried with me an incomparable inheritance: poverty; poverty of my family and my nation.  The first helped me to never be afraid of material difficulties, for I could never have less than at the beginning.  The second drove me to persevere in my work, so that at least in my own field my nation’s poverty would be diminished.”

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