Friday, August 14, 2020

August 14, 1972-- Bridgeview Disaster Narrowly Averted

Chicago Tribune photo
August 14, 1972 – During the evening rush hour, the temperature in the Chicago area drops quickly from 94 degrees to 71 as winds from the west at over 60 miles-per-hour kick up.  As the dark storm clouds move quickly toward the city, 800 people in Bridgeview are gathered in a circus tent, watching the elephant act of the Rudi Brothers Circus. Fortunately, officials at the site spot the storm moving toward them, and order the tent cleared before winds topple four 50-foot poles onto the empty bleachers, covering the area with torn and twisted canvas.  Bernard Mendelson, one of the managers of the circus, says, “When you’ve been around a circus as long as I have, you develop a sixth sense about these things.  I told [my partner] Rudy, ‘Get those people out now, right now.’”  [Chicago Tribune, August 15, 1972]  The ringmaster, Charles Cox, is alerted and announces, “Ladies and gentlemen there’s a little wind blowing up.  Would you please leave the tent by the front entrance because the elephants will be going out the other way.  Please walk, don’t run.”  As people file out, the musicians continue to play as the tent begins to shudder in the wind.  Circus performers spend most of the night, clearing the debris so that the circus, sponsored by the Confederation of Police as a fund-raiser for drug abuse information programs and a legal defense fund for its members, can go on the following day in an improvised setting.

August 14, 1960 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that a building at 739 North State Street has been raised, and the rubble is made up of the remains of the flower shop that Dion O’Banion ran, a place “where murders, boot-legging, and hi-jackings were planned amidst flowering plants and the scent of roses.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 14, 1960] Ironically, at the time “the same building that once served as the headquarters of a bloody band of killers during the guzzling decade of the twentieth century” was most recently used as a meeting place for the Young People’s club of Holy Name Cathedral.  In April of 2017 it was disclosed that JDL Development had agreed to pay $110 million to the Archdiocese of Chicago for the 90,000 square-foot property three blocks west of North Michigan Avenue.  On January 18, 2018 the Chicago Plan Commission approved a project to build two towers on the site, the taller of which will be the eighth Chicago "supertall" building at 1,011 feet. The killing of Dion O’Banion in the shop in 1924 touched off a gang war that lasted for five years, pitting the North Side gang of O’Banion against Al Capone’s gang from the South Side.  The black and white photo shows the flower shop.  The second photo shows the future of the site -- it will hold the sixth tallest building in the city, One Chicago Square.

August 14, 1936 –Nathan Goldblatt signs a contract for the purchase of the residence built by Benjamin Marshall in Wilmette on Sheridan Road opposite the Baha’i Temple. It is reported that Marshall, the architect who designed the Drake Hotel, the South Shore Country Club and the Blackstone Theater and a host of other impressive buildings, had reportedly spent over a million dollars on the home and its furnishings.  The Spanish-influenced home commanded a view of Lake Michigan … the Sheridan Shores Yacht Club used the home’s basement as its clubhouse. Marshall’s work studio had a space for 45 draftsmen.  The home had a 50-foot-high, 75-by-100-foot tropical garden with palm and banana trees. The home’s swimming pool was lined with turquoise tiles from Algiers. Goldblatt reportedly paid $60,000 for the home but did not stay there long, and in 1950 Wilmette had the home razed.  Only the wrought-iron gates remain on the property, which is today owned by the Baha’i Temple.

August 14, 1933 – Joseph Hastings, a Chicago policeman married for only four months, is shot to death during a gun battle with two thieves who rob a city office on Navy Pier.  He is the eleventh policeman to die in the line of duty during 1933.  The money that is stolen was intended for men on emergency relief who were employed by the city to do work at the pier.  Thomas B. Rawls, an official of the West Englewood Currency exchange, used it to cash checks from the workers at a fee of 15 cents a check.  It is unclear why a representative of a private enterprise is cashing checks in an office of the city street department.  Hastings, hearing a shot fired, runs into a second floor office at the west end of the pier. One of the dozen clerks in the office, Charles Eddy, outlines the ensuing events, “Hastings came in the door with his revolver drawn . . . The man at the side wall opened fire.  The policeman fell to the floor and fired two shots in return.  The robbers ran to the door.  Hastings got up, and one of the robbers turned and shot him as he rose.  The robber then grabbed Hastings’ gun and ran out. . .” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 13, 1933]  Morris Cohen a barber, is captured 30 minutes later at 1331 North Clark Street.  His two companions remain on the lam.  The above photo depicts Navy Pier as it appeared in 1933.

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