Wednesday, September 30, 2020

September 30, 1947 -- Chicago Transit Authority Begins Operations

September 30, 1947 –
Chicago’s surface and elevated lines are absorbed into the Chicago Metropolitan Transit Authority, a corporation created by the Illinois legislature with the intention of allowing the city to purchase the lines and operate them as a publicly owned transportation system.  Hoping for a smooth transition, the new system’s management has directed that all senior staff members of the old system should continue in their current positions until the change-over is completed.  The biggest difference for riders will be an increase in fares – from 9 to 10 cents on surface lines.  Rides on elevated trains will continue at 13 cents.  The last hurdle in the process was cleared in August when $105 million in revenue bonds was sold to finance the new corporation.  Of that sum $75 million will go to the present owners of the surface lines, and $12 million will be paid out to the owners of the elevated lines.  The necessity for the move came just before the end of World War II when a federal district court judge ordered the two transit companies into bankruptcy, making it clear that providing public transportation in Chicago could only occur through public ownership of the system.  Philip Harrington, the chairman of the new transportation authority and an engineer, says, “For decades our local transportation has been partly frozen.  It is not to be wondered at that there is a tremendous job in taking over.  We are going to move as rapidly as we can, but not until we are sure where we are going.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 30, 1947].  In 1952 the new authority would purchase the assets of the Chicago Motor Coach Company, the bus line under the control of Yellow Cab Company founder John D. Hertz.  At that time surface transportation was handled primarily by electric trolley coaches – in the 1950’s the city’s fleet of 700 trolley buses was the largest such fleet in the United States.  []  That era ended with a natural disaster … the blizzard of January 26-27, 1967 demonstrated that the trolleys were unable to maneuver around abandoned vehicles without disconnecting from trolley wires, and the whole city shut down.  The last trolley coach ran on March 25, 1973.

September 30, 2016 – The Chicago Department of Transportation announces that construction on Phase 1 of the Wells-Wentworth Connector improvement project has begun.  The three-phase project is designed to create a new roadway between the Loop and Chinatown, a plan that was originally proposed in the Chicago Plan of 1909.  CDOT commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld says, “This project exemplifies Chicago’s strong commitment to the economic growth of the Chinatown community.  By creating direct road transit and bicycle access to Chinatown’s thriving commercial center, we hope to strengthen the community’s identity and economy.”  []  The first phase of the project will widen the existing right-of-way on Wentworth Avenue between West Seventeenth and West Nineteenth Streets, laying new sidewalks on both sides of the street and providing a buffered bike lane, additions that will improve pedestrian and bicycle access to Ping Tom Park and its field house.  This three-phase project is the first of several major infrastructure improvements planned for The 78, a 62-acre tract that is bordered by Clark Street, Roosevelt Road, Sixteenth Street and the Chicago River.  This, the newest of Chicago’s neighborhoods, according to the developer, Related Midwest, will be “showcased in a half-mile riverfront experience connecting to the existing Chicago Riverwalk and on par with the greatest urban waterfronts of the world – all while featuring undeniable ‘Chicago Soul.’”  []

September 30, 1990 – The Chicago White Sox defeat the Seattle Mariners, 2-1, in the last game the team will play in Comiskey Park, the oldest baseball park in the major leagues.  The last pitch is thrown by Bobby Thigpen who gets Seattle’s Harold Reynolds to hit a grounder to Sox second baseman Scott Fletcher who throws to Steve Lyons at first for the out.  Tickets for the final game sell out in two hours when they go on sale on June 9, and a crowd of 42,849 is on hand to bid farewell to the old ball yard.  These are the last of the 72,801,381 fans who have watched the Sox compile a record of 3,024 wins and 2,926 losses in Comiskey since it opened on July 1, 1910.  Said Sox pitcher Wilbur Wood, “It’s a shame they’re closing it down . . . It’s like with all of the older parks, not for the players but for the fans.  The new parks are so symmetrical that you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.  And the fans are so far away.  I hope the fans are close at the new park like they were at Comiskey.”  [Chicago Tribune, October 1, 1990] 

September 30, 1983 – The Wild West comes to Wacker Drive as three men waylay the 121 Wacker Express bus and hold up the 27 passengers aboard, relieving them of “about $500 in cash, miscellaneous jewelry and wallets and purses.” [Chicago Tribune, October 1, 1983]. The bandits board the bus at State Street and announce a hold-up after stuffing a few dollar bills in the fare box. Police say that the bills will be dusted for fingerprints. This is the third bus robbery of the year. On October 28 a 23-year-old South Side man is indicted on charges of armed robbery in the commission of the crimes.

September 30, 1982 –The United States Naval Reserve ends its 89-year presence on Chicago’s lakefront as it leaves its three-story Art Deco building at the foot of Randolph Street.  The 50-year-old building will be torn down to make way for the widening of Lake Shore Drive and the straightening of the “S” curve where the drive crosses the Chicago River.  Reserve units have been transferred to Park Forest, the Great Lakes Naval Station, Glenview and Gary.  The Navy Reserve in the city began operation on September 30, 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition. [Chicago Tribune, September 30, 1982] The reserve eventually moved to a building at 20 North Michigan Avenue before it moved into an old converted freighter on the Chicago River.  Illinois approved funds for construction of the armory in 1927 and the armory, which cost $465,000, opened in 1932.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

September 29, 2004 -- Cubs Fade in the Stretch

September 29, 2004 – Still in the hunt in the National League wild-card race, the Chicago Cubs are drooping like end-of-summer marigolds.  There is still hope despite the team’s losing four out of five games to the New York Mets and the Cincinnati Reds, teams with losing records that, when combined, place them 55 games out of first place.  The team has scored only 11 runs in 44 innings, but still is only a half-game out of the lead for the wild-card position.  Manager Dusty Baker says, “We have no choice.  We either keep fighting or roll over and die.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 30, 2004].  On this day, riding on a strong effort by starting pitcher Glendon Rusch, who leaves the game in the seventh inning with a 1-1 tie, the Cubs take the lead in the bottom of that frame when Moise Alou’s sacrifice fly gives them a 2-1 edge.  LaTroy Hawkins is impressive in the ninth as he gets Cincinnati’s first two batters, and goes 0-2 on D’Angelo Jiminez, before surrendering a triple, followed by a game-tying double by Austin Kearns. The score is still tied as the Reds come to bat in the twelfth when relief pitcher Jon Leicester walks Jiminez and Kearns hits a home run.  Catcher Michael Barrett says, after the Cubs are unable to score in the bottom of the inning, “I can’t imagine a more frustrating loss than this one.”  With only four games left in the season, things look bleak for the team, which has played 26 games in 24 days.  On September 25 the Cubs had led San Francisco by 1.5 games in the Wild Card race with only nine games left in the season, but the weary warriors lost six of the final eight games, and the Houston Astros won the Wild Card.  In the last game of the season slugger Sammy Sosa requested that Baker allow him to sit the game out, and when Baker refused, Sosa left the locker room in the early stages of the game.  It was the last time he would wear a Cubs uniform.

September 29, 2003 – The new Soldier Field opens to a national audience as the Chicago Bears take on the Green Bay Packers. The renovated stadium is the product of years of wrangling about what an appropriate venue would be for the Monsters of the Midway and exactly how much taxpayers should be expected to pay for it. As the stadium welcomes its first fans, reviews are mixed.  Joe Antunovich, the chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Council, says, “We’re stuck with what we have, which I believe is much less than we could have had. It’s an eyesore of the Nth degree. It’s just awful.” [Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2003]  Herbert Muschamp, the architecture critic for the New York Times, disagrees, writing, “If your commitment is to classicism, you will find a more authentically classical urbanism in the recast stadium than was present when the concrete colonnades stood alone.  And if your commitment is to conflict, as a city lover’s ought always to be, the field’s controversial reception will not let you down.” [New York Times, September 30, 2003]  The new Soldier Field will hold 61,500 fans, 3,500 fewer than the old stadium, and in the second largest market in the National Football League, it will be the second smallest stadium.  However, 60 percent of the new venue’s seats will be on the sidelines; in the old stadium that number was just 40 percent.  A unique feature of the stadium is that all of the suites and club seats are on one side while all the general-admission seats are on the other. As a result, the west grandstand is 20 feet higher than the east side, which will have four levels of $300,000-a-year luxury suites.  The renovated stadium will also have twice the number of concession stands as its predecessor and more than twice as many bathrooms.  On this night a crowd of 60,257 watches as the Green Bay Packers, with Brett Favre at quarterback, score 17 unanswered points in the first quarter, ultimately defeating the Bears, 38-23.

September 29, 1915 --The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the Municipal Art Commission has accepted a design for a colonnade or peristyle that will be built on the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street.  In the middle of the colonnade will be a fountain, the entire design provided by architect Edward H. Bennett.  The peristyle, finished in 1917, lasted until August 20, 1953 when the Speedway Wrecking Company quickly razed it with the debris used as fill in a northerly extension of Lake Shore Drive.  For more on the original peristyle and its modern replacement, you can turn to Connecting the Windy City and check this entry out.


September 29, 1906 – On a “rainy, chilly, and generally disagreeable” day [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 30, 1906] the South Shore Country Club opens its doors for the first time with 92 cases of champagne on hand to warm the 600 people in attendance.  Everyone is on edge as there are intimations that Arthur Burrage Farwell and the Hyde Park Protective Association might try to storm the festivities in an effort to stop the serving of alcohol, but at 4:30 p.m. the club’s president, William Thorne, the president of Montgomery Ward and Company, opens the first bottle of champagne on the club’s wind-swept veranda and calls one of the 200 waiters on hand to serve his guests.  “Here’s defiance to Farwell,” is the toast that follows.  Mr. Farwell’s organization is dedicated to removing the perils of alcohol from the area. “Their arguments – the sanctity of the family, the selling of liquor to minors, the perceived threat to land values and suspicions of gambling and prostitution – were used to garner community support for closing of the taverns.”  [Hyde Park Herald, February 20, 2014]  The association didn’t stop the festivities on this evening.  As the Tribune reported, “Outside the angry surf beat against the shore and the wind moaned above the strains of the orchestra, but in the dining room, where 600 were served, in the reception hall, and the spacious parlor, where the dark green furniture appeared in pleasing contrast against the white woodwork, the scene was of good cheer.” 

Monday, September 28, 2020

September 28, 1943 -- Marshall Field III Gets Richer

September 28, 1943 – Marshall Field III grows a tad richer as on this day he comes into an inheritance of between 70 and 75 million dollars (in excess of one billion dollars in today’s dollars).  Almost immediately, Representative John E. Rankin, a Republican from Mississippi, assails him as “the Chicago playboy” who “is using millions of dollars, inherited free of taxes, to smear members of congress and stir up race trouble throughout the country.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 29, 1943]. “I have tried for months,” says Rankin, “to reach that estate through a bill which I have prepared and introduced, but have failed to get results.  It is not only escaping taxation entirely, but just think of the purpose for which it is being used.  It is being used to finance the publication and distribution of PM, that uptown edition of the Communist Daily Worker … This money is being used to finance this publication that is continually attacking and attempting to smear the members of congress of the United States and stirring up race trouble throughout the land, and is today encouraging the Negroes of Washington to storm the house restaurant in this capital.”  PM was a liberal newspaper published in New York City from June 1940 to June 1948.  Theodor Geisel, Dr. Seuss, published more than 400 cartoons on the paper’s editorial page.  At various times, writers included Erskine Caldwell, McGeorge Bundy, Heywood Hale Broun, James Thurber, Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway, Malcolm Cowley, Tip O’Neill and Ben Hecht.  The paper’s run ended when Marshall Field III made the decision to support publication of the Chicago Sun, ending his silent partnership with PM.

September 28, 1924 – In a day that was “replete with fervent pulpit oratory, congratulations, stately music and solemn ritual” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 28, 1924] the Chicago Temple at Clark and Washington Streets is dedicated. Even though there are three services at the new church, throngs outside are still so great that two outdoor services are held in the morning and afternoon.  The president of the Temple’s board of trustees reads a letter from President Calvin Coolidge in which he writes, “I join heartily in the hope which moved its founders, that it may be the means of expanding and increasing the effectiveness of the great spiritual work to which it is devoted.  Unique in many ways as an ecclesiastical type of architecture, it will bring together the spiritual and lay activities of the church, giving from each a helpful inspiration to the other.”  The congregation is one of the oldest in Chicago, beginning in an 1834 building on the north side of the river.  In 1838 that building was floated across the river and rolled on logs to a location on the southeast corner of Washington and Clark, the same plot on which the First United Methodist Church of Chicago stands today.

September 28, 1920 –Here is a sad day in Chicago history … 180 barrels of "High Life" beer are poured into the Chicago River. It is the last part of a cargo from the ship Mineral City which was seized by government officials as it entered the city from Kenosha over a year earlier. The seized ship is shown above.  

September 28, 1911 – After Mayor Carter Harrison ventures forth with his brother, William Preston Harrison, and walks from the north side of the city as far south as Harrison Street “under the cover of darkness … to learn how his people conducted themselves,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 29, 1911] he informs his police chief, James McWeeny, that he has found State Street “rotten … a cheap imitation of a Midway show”.  In the letter to McWeeny he directs the chief to clean up the street, saying, “One of the last acts of my administration before leaving office in 1905 was to give orders looking to the cleaning up of the old time levee.  Today State street, south of Van Buren, while not so vile as it used to be, is a cheap imitation of a Midway show.  At 408 State street they advertise the ‘grizzly bear’ dance.  They have also suggestive pictures of women in costume.  They have a barker in front and regular Midway music.  This character of show has no place in a city.”

Sunday, September 27, 2020

September 27, 1991 -- Fourth United States Army Place On Inactive Status
September 27, 1991 – In a ceremony at Fort Sheridan the Fourth United States Army is placed on inactive status.  Deactivating the Fourth Army is part of a five-year plan, conceived under the direction of U.S. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, that will provide for “a gradual transition to a smaller, more capable military force.” [Chicago Tribune, September 27, 1991]  Only 119 active Army positions and 216 civilian positions are affected by the deactivation, and many of these individuals will be transferred to other positions.  The Fourth Army was responsible for Army Reserve units in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.  That command will now fall to the First U.S. Army, based in Fort Meade, Maryland. This move has no effect on the decision to close Fort Sheridan, scheduled to shut down in 1994; it will ultimately close as a military installation on May 28, 1993.

September 27, 1991 – The largest public works deal in the history of the city is awarded to a team of firms led by real estate developer Richard Stein as a $675 million contract for the design and construction of an exhibition hall and galleria west of the current McCormick Place.  The contract is signed just two days after Illinois Governor Jim Edgar signs into law a $987 million expansion program that the General Assembly had approved in July.  Edgar says, “This expansion will allow shows to stay in Chicago and allow millions of dollars to come into our economy.  This legislation is a plus for all the people of Illinois.” [Chicago Tribune, September 28, 1991] Work on the new complex is expected to begin in February of 1993 with completion by August of 1996. Stein’s group, known as Mc3D, is the only one of the three proposals submitted that puts all the exhibition space in the new building on one floor. The group also will be responsible for constructing an 80-foot galleria that will connect the new south building with the north building and the original east building.  The whole package of nearly a billion dollars of work also includes a modest $60 million-dollar plan that will dramatically enhance the lakefront – the rerouting of the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive to the west of Soldier Field, creating a beautiful swath of green space and a campus for the three great cultural attractions on the lakefront, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Adler Planetarium.

September 27, 1911 –The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that Chicagoan George J. Lawton has bought the Auditorium office building, hotel and theater for $48,680 at a county tax sale. Lawton says, “I am going to make a test case and see if I can get possession of this property.  I can get a deed, and as soon as I get that I’m going to try to get a title. If I can get that, I will begin legal proceedings to oust the present owners.  It will take two years to fight it out, but I think it’s worth trying.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 27, 1911] The owners of the property in question failed to pay taxes on May 1, and six weeks later the County Treasurer advertises the property for sale.  The property is sold at public auction on September 22, and Lawton wrests the valuable property away from a consortium made up of the Studebakers of South Bend, Ind.; Ambrose Cramer of Lake Forest; and the Peck estate of Chicago.  It is estimated that the property and the building together are worth close to $4,000,000.  Seven years earlier the Chicago Symphony Orchestra had left the building for new digs on Michigan Avenue.  The hotel had lost prestige as more modern buildings opened up, and the offices in the structure were left to compete with the new skyscrapers springing up in the Loop, most of them not looking out at the noisy elevated tracks.  It is probable that the building would have been torn down, had it not been for the fact that the razing of the structure would have cost more than the land on which it stood was worth.

September 27, 1910 – As 200,000 people look on, Walter L. Brookins circles his Wright biplane 2,500 feet above the city for a sustained flight of 20 minutes.  Taking off from Grant Park, which was “black with humanity,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 28, 1910] the aviator thrills the crowd as he soars south to Twelfth Street, over the Loop to the Federal Building on Dearborn Street, and back over the lake.  “Chicago looks for all the world like the picture on a postal card when you are 2,000 feet above it,” Brookins says at the end of the flight.  “I could look down between my legs and see everything, but of course could recognize only a few of the buildings.  I knew the federal building as soon as I saw it and I stopped my westward flight as I looked directly beneath me.”  The next day Brookins would attempt a sustained trip from Chicago to Springfield in an attempt to outrun an Illinois Central passenger train.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

September 26, 1979 -- Rock Island Reaches the End of the Line


September 26, 1979 – The Interstate Commerce Commission rules that the bankrupt Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad will be taken over and operated by a management group selected from 14 other railroads.  Following the decision, a federal judge denies a request by the railroad to delay action on the commission’s decision.  Vice-President Walter Mondale announces the ICC decision, saying that restoration of service on the strike-bound Rock Island is critical to Midwest farmers who are in the middle of bringing in the annual soybean and corn crops.  The members of the striking United Transportation Union agree to go back to work after the ICC announces that they will be paid “prevailing industry wage rates”. [Chicago Tribune, September 27, 1979]  The ruling of the ICC marks the first time in U. S. history that the federal government has ordered a major railroad taken over because it is failing.  It is estimated that the federal government will be paying $80 to $90 million to operate the Rock Island for the ensuing eight months.  The railroad traces its history back all the way to 1847 when a charter was granted to its predecessor, the Rock Island and La Salle Railroad Company. At the height of its operation the railroad extended as far west as New Mexico, as far north as Minnesota and as far south as Louisiana and Texas.  Chicago was its eastern point of origin.  The railroad was ultimately liquidated in 1980 although most of The Rock’s principal routes still exist today under the control of other lines.

September 26, 1953 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that work has begun on the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Fountain at Brookfield Zoo.  It will be located at the intersection of the zoo’s east-west and north-south pedestrian malls and is expected to be completed by May of 1954.  The fountain will shoot water over 60 feet into the air, and it will fall into a pool that is 215 feet in diameter.  Mrs. Clay Judson of Highland Park, the wife of the president of the Zoological society which operates the zoo, will sculpt four animals’ heads that will sit atop six-foot columns around the fountain, donating her services free of charge. The sculptures will celebrate Roosevelt’s achievements as a statesman, naturalist, hunter, and soldier.  The architectural firm of Olsen and Urbain and Russell Read design the fountain’s layout and mechanical systems.  The same firm will also design the Seven Seas Panorama at the zoo, which will open seven years later.  The cost of the fountain will come from a memorial fund in the name of the late president that is administered by the Ferguson Fund at the Art Institute of Chicago. The fountain was dedicated on May 14, 1954.

September 26, 1949 – Chicago learns that the architectural firm of Vitzhum and Burns has won a competition for the design of a church and Franciscan friary to be located at 108-116 West Madison Avenue, the site of the La Salle Theater.  The church, St. Peter’s, will replace one that has stood at 816 South Clark Street since just four years after the Great Fire in 1871.  The Franciscan Fathers made some darned good deals in the process of arranging for their new place of worship.  In 1942 the order bought the ten-story Woods Theater building from the Marshall Field estate for $600,000, property that it sold in June of 1949 for $1,200,000.  At the same time the order bought the site for the new church from the Marshall Field estate for $515,000.  The plans for the new building include a 1,600-seat auditorium, a chapel above the main auditorium that will seat 300, with the two upper floors serving as the friary.  Some heavy hitters participated in the competition, including Edo J. Belli, Nairne W. Fischer, Hermann J. Gaul, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, Rapp and Rapp, and Shaw, Metz and Dolio.  Due to the scarcity of building materials in the post-war years it took awhile to finish the new St. Peter’s, but the church finally opened in 1955.

September 26, 1925 – Three construction workers die and two others are seriously injured as a steel concrete scoop breaks away from the fourteenth floor of the Metropolitan Building at Randolph and La Salle Streets.  The three men who die are all working on scaffolds below the scoop.  Two of three workers on the highest of the two scaffolds manage to hang on and survive as the scoop kills the third man on the platform, suspended 25 feet below it.  The crash occurs when hundreds of workers are flooding the Loop on their way to work. The intersections are jammed with people, and police reserves are summoned to clear enough room to permit the dead and the injured to be removed from the area.  The Metropolitan Building as it appears today is shown above.

Friday, September 25, 2020

September 25, 1961 -- Michigan Avenue's Water Tower Inn Opens
September 25, 1961 – Mayor Richard J. Daley receives a symbolic golden key as the $6 million Water Tower Inn is opened at 800 North Michigan Avenue.  Standing next to the historic Water Tower, the 15-story hotel will have 300 rooms and indoor parking for 150 cars.  At a luncheon after the ceremony Hugh Michaels, the president of the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association, says, “The opening of the Water Tower Inn provides north Michigan avenue with a new luxury that is not only exciting in its architectural design, but also is outstanding in its facilities.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 26, 1961]  The hotel brings a greener look to Michigan Avenue with the planting of more than 100 trees, 700 bushes, and 2,000 flowering plants on the Michigan Avenue and Chicago Avenue sides of the building.  The hotel will never make it to middle age.  It is demolished in 1997 to make way for the Park Hyatt.  The Water Tower Inn is shown in the top photo.  Its replacement, the Park Hyatt tower, is shown in the second photo.

September 25, 1930 – An exhibition of the latest works of Frank Lloyd Wright opens at the Art Institute of Chicago, a display to run through October 12, a collection that comes to the Art Institute from the Architectural League in New York City.  Wright, caught while helping to set up the exhibit the day before its opening, says, “I obtained my motif from an intimate study of nature rather than as a product of studies of architectural styles.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 24, 1930]  He explains that there “must be no conflict between architecture and nature,” illustrating that concept with a development he has proposed for Hollywood Hills, California, in which houses of concrete blocks conform with the contours of the hills in which they are built.  The exhibit also includes models of a tall apartment building of glass and steel and a gasoline filling station in which gas and oil tanks are hung from a cantilevered roof so that there are no obstructions in the way of motorists.

September 25, 1927 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that construction will soon begin on “one of the city’s most notable cooperative apartment buildings . .. . thoroughly American in its exterior design and in its interior treatment.”  The Powhatan, to be located at Fiftieth Street and Chicago Beach Drive, a design of Robert S. De Golyer and Charles Morgan, combines the modern qualities of Art Deco’s fascination with historical references.  The building will hold 45 apartments, ranging in size form six to ten rooms, that “will be the last word in luxury, with wood burning fireplaces, galleries with plaster beam ceilings, libraries, enough bathrooms to keep an entire family happy and so on.”  The twentieth floor will hold a ballroom, and owners will enjoy a community swimming pool on the first floor.  Today the Powhatan is an Art Deco jewel that has to be seen to be appreciated fully.  According to Emporis it is the most expensive residential high-rise on Chicago’s south side.  For the full story on this amazing building you can turn to this link. 

September 25, 1907 – The city’s Commissioner of Public Works, John Hanberg, following a conference with officials of Marshall Field and Company, rescinds his decree against public clocks on State Street, issued two days earlier. The commissioner had earlier also notified Spaulding and Co., Lewy Bros., and J. Florsheim to remove clocks from the street even though the city council had passed permits for them, noting that they violated the city’s prohibition against projecting advertising signs.  Marshall Field officials agree to omit any advertising features from the clock, so the timepiece, one of the main features of State Street today, is allowed.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

September 24, 1992 -- Michigan Avenue Bridge Yields Toppled Crane

JBartholomew Photo

September 24, 1992 – Construction crews remove the last section of a 40-ton crane that had wedged itself into the mechanism operating the Michigan Avenue bridge, immobilizing the main north-south route between the Loop and North Michigan Avenue.  The base of the crane had plunged into the trunnion pit five days earlier when the southeast leaf of the bridge unexpectedly acted as a catapult, springing up with such force that the crane's boom was thrown onto Wacker Drive.  Officials still do not know how much damage has been done to the bridge.  On September 23 city officials acknowledge that no city inspector had ever checked whether proper balance was being maintained on the bridge as construction workers overhauled it.  A spokesman for the city’s Transportation Department, Chuck Wolf, says, “This department really doesn’t have the manpower to do that.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1992].  The city has previously said that inspectors made daily inspections at the site.  Because of the compromised bridge Chicago Park District officials have warned that it will not be open for sailboats returning to winter storage from Lake Michigan.  Eight hundred boats usually make their way up the river to storage as the cold weather season approaches.  Coast Guard Captain Larry Balock says, “To have it in the down position for any period of time is going to put a lot of people in a difficult position.”  For more information about the accident itself you can turn to this entry in Connecting the Windy City.
September 24, 1966 – A top city planner, Louis Wetmore, says that the drafting of a master plan for the 16 blocks of air rights over the Illinois Central railroad property between Randolph Street and the Chicago River will be “the first major step before construction can be started.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1986]  Wetmore observes that much of the preliminary planning has been done as the result of the adjudication over the preceding eight years of the legality of the railroad’s claim to air rights ownership.  The legal challenge ended on the preceding day when the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of the railroad.  Wetmore says that a master plan for the I. C. air rights between Randolph and the river would be part of a larger plan that includes 77 acres owned by the Chicago Dock and Canal Company, an area bounded by St. Clair Street, Grand Avenue, and Streeter Drive, just to the east of Lake Shore Drive.  Preliminary plans for the 16 blocks south of the river specify “decking” the area with three levels.  The lower deck, which will rise at least 18 feet above the Illinois Central tracks will be for trucks.  The second deck will be for automobiles and underground pedestrian walkways, and the upper deck will be for plazas and pedestrian use.  The three development companies with options on the property look at a total expenditure of nearly $1 billion before the project is brought to completion in 20 years.  Bernard Weissbourd, the president of Metropolitan Structures, one of the developers, says, “We intend to give the city and the other developers our fullest cooperation, for we believe that this area promises to become one of the most magnificent places in the world.”  The top photo shows the area when planning for development first began before the Second World War.  The second photo shows the area as it appears today.  Times have changed.

September 24, 1966 – Shortly after the Illinois Supreme Court finds that the Illinois Central Railroad holds full rights of ownership to 186 acres east of Michigan Avenue from Randolph Street to the river, the Chicago Tribune runs an editorial, entitled “A Whole New City on Our Doorstep,” proclaiming that the opportunity with which Chicago has been presented, “comes rarely to a big city, and it should not be missed.” [Chicago Tribune, September 24, 1966] The editorial notes that the development “will require major street improvements. Lake Shore drive must be rebuilt to eliminate the two sharp turns. Wacker drive must be extended east from Michigan avenue in two levels.  A new bridge across the Chicago river will be needed. “Wise planning for the area should include connections with the projected downtown subways for rapid transit trains.”  Despite the work needed, the piece is forceful in the warning contained in its conclusion, “City officials should not delay their part of this program until the private developers become discouraged.”  The photo above captures the area of Illinois Center where the Hyatt Hotel stands today.   

September 24, 1954 – With the decision to move to the suburbs, the Butler Brothers Catalog Company announces the appointment of Hogan and Farwell, Inc., a Chicago realty firm, as the leasing agent to develop its headquarters building on the northeast corner of Canal and Randolph Streets.  The building has close to one million square feet of floor space with the Prudential Insurance Company of America leasing the tenth and eleventh floors and the United States government holding short-term leases for the Social Security board and the Air Force.  George and Edward Butler founded their mail-order company in Boston in 1877, opening a Chicago warehouse two years later.  By 1910 over a thousand people worked in its Chicago operation.  The 1922 warehouse, originally designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, is today Randolph Place Condos with 340 loft apartments.  The photo above shows the complex in 1950.
September 24, 1907 – Title is filed for property on Wentworth Avenue between Thirty-Fourth and Thirty-Fifth Street, land that will be used to build an armory for the Seventh Regiment of the Illinois National Guard.  Architect W. Carbys Zimmerman will draw up the plans for the structure. The basement will contain a rifle range, bowling alleys and a swimming pool.  There will be two large areas for assemblages, one that will hold 2,000 people and another on the lower level that will accommodate 1,000. When completed the armory will surpass these projections.  For $500,000 the city got a building capable of holding 15,000 people.  In 1908 it hosted the Republican National Convention and later that year Eugene V. Debs, the socialist candidate for President, also spoke to large crowds there.  You won’t find the armory there today.  The site is the north parking lot complex for Guaranteed Rate Field. The above photo is an interesting one … it shows spectators watching the White Sox play the New York Giants in the 1917 World Series from the rooftop of the armory just to the north.  Note the “7” on the tower from which viewers take in the game.