Tuesday, August 4, 2020

August 4, 1902 -- Subway Needed in Chicago

August 4, 1902 – Aldermanic members of the City Council’s Local Transportation Committee return from an East Coast visit to three cities where they inspected subways and streetcar lines.  They all agree that a Chicago subway is a necessity as is an operating agreement between the different traction lines that carry passengers into the city.  The men speak glowingly of Boston’s unified management of streetcars.  Alderman Charles Werno says, “The service of New York and Boston is so much superior to that of Chicago that comparison is impossible.  The companies in these cities do not allow any passengers to stand on the front platform of a car; neither do they allow anyone to stand on the footboard.  Cars are run during the rush hours at intervals of twenty seconds.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 5, 1902].  Alderman Foreman adds, “The surface cars should handle the short haul, or local, traffic.  They should be a business auxiliary, a means of communication between business houses and offices downtown.  They should serve the same purpose as an elevator in a large building.  People who are through with their business downtown and ready to go home should be furnished with means of going without interfering with people who need the district for business purposes.”   Alderman Bennett is optimistic about the city building a subway with relative ease, “In New York the excavation had to be made through miles of solid rock.  I believe that a subway can be constructed in Chicago much cheaper, because the soil here can be more easily worked.  The work can be done more quickly.  Chicago can have a fine subway at a relatively small cost.  It is only a question of money.”  Bennett’s optimism must have faded as year piled upon year.  The city’s first subway would not open until October 17, 1943.

August 4, 1946 – The Auditorium Hotel and Theater are sold to Roosevelt College for $400,000 and a promise that the school would pay back taxes amounting to $1,300,000.  Edwin R. Embree, president of the Rosenwald Fund and chairman of the college board of trustees, and Edward J. Sparling, president of the college, say that the purchase will provide additional space for an increasing student population, boosted by the number of ex-service personnel returning to school.    Sparling says, “We had an enrollment of 2,500 last spring, and we’ll have that many in addition this fall.  Our quarters on Wells Street are inadequate, and we’re building now not only for this immediate present but for the future.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 4, 1946]. Sparling vows that the college will return the theater to its glory days.  He says, “The college will put the Auditorium theater, one of the great acoustical wonders of the world, into condition for public service.  Undoubtedly the school will use it, but the theater will be used for great theatrical and operatic productions and for rallies and meetings by the community.”  Roosevelt College, only a year in existence, was formed when a group of educators split from the Central Y.M.C.A. college with help from the Rosenwald fund and the Marshall Field Foundation.  Its plan is to turn the Auditorium Hotel into an instructional facility, combining rooms and suites to create classrooms and lecture halls.  With an optimistic budget of $500,000 to renovate the building, the college still has to deal with issues surrounding the land on which it is built.  Half the hotel and the area on which the Auditorium’s stage, orchestra pit, lobby and seats are located fall under the ownership of a group of investors who purchased the property in 1945, along with the Fine Arts Building to the north, for $750,000.  

August 4, 1928 – Plans for the 47-story One North La Salle Street are announced, a building in the art deco style to be built at the northeast corner of La Salle and Madison Streets.  It will replace the Tacoma building.  Work is expected to begin on May 1, according to K. M. Vitzhum and Co., the architects of the building.  Speculation is that the building will be seven feet shorter than the Pittsfield building on Washington Boulevard and six feet shorter than the First United Methodist Church of Chicago building on Washington and Clark, the two tallest buildings in the city.  The first eight floors of the building will be “artificially ventilated” to “reduce the ear strain caused by wailing taxicab brakes and the miscellaneous street uproar which supposedly blends into a soothing medley of sounds by the time it reaches the ninth floor.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 5, 1928] The Tacoma building, which will be razed, was completed in 1887, following the plans of Holabird and Roche, a tower that some claim to be the first metal-framed skeleton building in the world.  Below One North La Salle above is a photo of the Tacoma Building as it stood at the corner of La Salle and Madison.

August 4, 1903 -- President Foreman of the South Park Board receives a letter from Marshall Field in which the merchant and real estate baron shares his desire to move forward with his offer to pay for the Field Columbian Museum as soon as the lakefront ground is ready for the site.  In the letter Field writes, “I am ready to go forward with the building whenever materials and labor are at reasonable figures, which probably will be as soon as the ground is ready for building.  Regarding the exact location, I think that can be safely left to your board.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 5, 1903]  The site the park board ultimately chooses for the museum is exactly the location of today’s Buckingham Fountain, east of the railroad tracks and at the foot of Congress Street, extending north and south from Van Buren to Harrison.  Foreman responds to the offer, saying, “The Field museum will be the central gem in the greater Grant Park.  It will stand on a slight elevation, will be visible from all directions, and will present an especially imposing view.  The building, I am sure, will be the finest of its kind in the world.  Mr. Field is not in the habit of doing things half way or half-heartedly.”  Field would die in 1906, and it would be another 15 years after his death before his namesake museum would be opened after a decade of acrimony and lawsuits contesting the choice of the original site in Grant Park.   

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