Friday, August 7, 2020

August 7, 1978 -- Illinois Center's First Residential Building Begins Rising

August 7, 1978 – Construction begins on Columbus Plaza, the first residential building to go up on the Illinois Central Railroad property between Randolph and Wacker Drive on the south and north and Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive on the west and east.  The 47-story building will contain 552 studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments. Five buildings have already been erected on the 83-acre site since development began in 1969, but they are all commercial or hotel buildings.  Two residential buildings have been completed east of Lake Shore Drive in this time period, the Outer Drive East condominium and Harbor Point; today they can be found to the west of the reconstructed Lake Shore Drive.  The tower is the product of the architectural firm of Fujikawa Conterato Lohan and Associates.

August 7, 1973 – Following the third murder of a woman in Grant Park in less than a year, the Chicago Tribune editorializes about “Our Unsafe City.”  [Chicago Tribune, August 7, 1973] “That women should be killed in the front yard of downtown Chicago,” the editorial states, “is shocking and shameful.  That the murders remain unsolved compounds the shame.”  The Tribune offers three areas that should be considered immediately.  “The facts call for more than hand wringing.  They call for more rigorous police work in the future than in the past,” the editorial states.  Along with that, “The facts call also for constant concern on the part of everyone for the safety of both oneself and of others.  Public awareness of risk needs to be heightened, tho of course short of panic or neurosis.” And, finally, “… prudence suggests staying away from wooded areas without sight lines to passers-by, even when those areas are in heavily used public parks … Broad daylight is not sufficient protection.”  The editorial concludes, “It is shameful that, more and more, people have reason to become wary like antelopes among predators.  The harsh fact is that vicious crime in public places is an ever present possibility in cities, including Chicago.  Heightened vigilance by both police and public offers the best—tho an imperfect—defense.”

August 7, 1968 – For the second night in a row electrical malfunctions at the Chicago River lock trap sight-seeing boats and pleasure craft inside the lock in stifling summer heat.  For more than two hours passengers fume as boats bob up and down, trapped between lake and river.  Passengers on board the Sea King finally decide they have had enough and demand to get off, “clambering onto the sea wall looking strangely like a platoon of middle aged marines in mufti making an invasion landing.”  [Chicago Tribune, August 8, 1968].  Passengers in boats already out on the lake get a far longer ride than the one for which they paid as the boats sail up and down the lakefront, waiting to get back to their river docks.  The owner of Mercury Sightseeing Boats, Art Agra, greets the suggestion from a reporter that river passengers got a nice ride with, “Let’s face it – the river is junk, and this whole affair is a pain in the neck.”  Navy Pier in 1968 is circled in the distance of the top photo.  The area has changed considerably as can be seen in the second photo. 

August 7, 1910:  The Chicago Daily Tribune once again editorializes about the evil of the Illinois Central Railroad, writing, “Yesterday was a perfect day in Chicago.  The sky was cloudless and the lake a blue turquoise, save along the eastern edge of the south side.  There the vile smoke from a hundred coughing locomotives of the Illinois Central railroad made it seem the gateway to the inferno.  All along one-half of what should be the most magnificent city water front of the world went the disfiguring trains drawn by engines, the stacks of which belched forth clouds of smoke and showers of embers.  The public library, the Art institute, the hotels, the business blocks, and miles and miles of private residences are all begrimed and polluted by this nuisance.  Books, pictures, and furniture are discolored by it, health is endangered, and a property loss of millions constantly increased.” The paper presents only one viable alternative:  electrification.  Yet, it is pessimistic about such a remedy ever occurring.  “A corporation like the Illinois Central never improves its service until the balance goes against it,” the editorial ends.  “Or until a municipality takes it by the back of its corporate neck and squeezes it into compliance with a popular and imperative demand.”  At this point the Illinois Central operated over 300 steam trains into and out of Chicago.  It would take 16 more years before the commuter tracks were electrified from downtown to Matteson.

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