Saturday, March 28, 2020

March 28, 1990 -- Milwaukee Clipper Sentenced to Auction


March 28, 1990 – U. S. District Court Judge William Hart issues an order to sell the 85-year-old S. S. Clipper, the former Milwaukee Clipper, at auction on May 2 with only minimum bids of $100,000 accepted.  Alan Amos, the custodian for the 361-foot-long former Great Lakes pleasure cruiser, says that he has received about 30 inquiries about the ship.  He says, “As far as I can recall, none of them came from scrap yards.”  Although there are more than $500,000 in claims filed against the owner of the ship, the vessel will be sold free from those claims, according to Judge Hart. The Clipper was built in 1904 as the Juanita by the Anchor Line of the Erie and Western Transportation Company. According to the National Park Service, “For savvy and well-heeled travelers, the steamer Juanita offered the epitome of first-class Great Lakes coastal maritime travel between Buffalo, New York, and Duluth, Minnesota.” [www.nps.gov]  The Juanita was rebuilt in 1940 and renamed the Milwaukee Clipper. The ship had facilities to load and store 120 cars as well as a dance hall, bar, movie theater, casino, soda fountain, children’s nursery, and cafeteria.  She began service between Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Muskegon, Michigan on June 3, 1941, a service that ended in 1970.  The ship was moored in Muskegon from 1970 to 1977 at which point she was renamed the S. S. Clipper and moved to Chicago’s Navy Pier to serve as a restaurant and floating museum.  In 1983 the ship was named to the National Register of Historic Places and in 1989 she was designated a National Historic Landmark.  In 1990 the S. S. Clipper was moved to Hammond, Indiana as the centerpiece for a new marina, and seven years later an organization purchased the boat and moved it once again to Muskegon, where Milwaukee Clipper Preservation, Inc. set about the enormous task of raising funds to restore the vessel.  Today the ship is a floating museum, moored at a pier in Muskegon at the corner of Lakeshore Drive and McCracken Street.


March 28, 1974 – Appearing before a United States Senate sub-committee on water resources, Mayor Richard J. Daley once again talks about swimming with the fishes.  The committee is reviewing plans for the proposed Deep Tunnel project and its 120 miles of waste water tunnels designed to eliminate flooding and clean up the city’s waterways.  Speaking to the committee chairman, Senator Mike Gravel, the mayor says, “Senator Mike, we hope to clean up the Chicago River so you can fish in the river at noontime.  And with the help of the President of the Forest Preserve District, we hope to have a forest preserve, too, and you can barbecue your fish.” [Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1974]  When Gravel asks Daley to place a value on the benefits that would come from a project as expensive as the Deep Tunnel, the mayor responds, “How do you put a value on young people in the inner city being able to fish in the river, which they never had before?  Would you say $500, or $1,000?  It is very difficult to put a value on that.”  The hearing is held at the headquarters of the Metropolitan Sanitary District as a first step in obtaining federal funds to help carry out the huge project.


March 28, 1943 -- Chicago officially becomes a city with a subway when at 3:18 p.m. a three-car train leaves the elevated tracks south of Arrmitage Avenue and enters the Clybourn-Diviision-State Street tube, today's Red Line. The train carries newspaper reporters and about 150 employees of the subway department. Operating the train is Charles Blade of 1127 Newport Avenue, an elevated lines motorman for 29 years. Since Blade has never seen the inside of a subway, an electrical engineer, C. J. Beck, stands at his shoulder. Although Chicago's first subway will not officially open for another six months, this trip and another one on April 2, 1943, shown in the photo above, are made just in time for the re-election campaign of Mayor Ed. Kelly.  According to the Chicago Daily Tribune, "Women standing in their backyards waved as the train dipped into the ground. Kids lined the railings. A passenger shouted for a bottle of champagne to christen the subway but only a cask of drinking water had been brought along."
  

March 28, 1930 – The United States Postmaster General, Walter Brown, refuses to approve plans submitted by Chicago architect Ernest R. Graham for a new $14,000,000 post office, sending the plans back to the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White for revision.  Brown says, “This is the first time I have given the matter my personal attention.  Up until 10 days or two weeks ago the whole proposition was handled by subordinates.  Then the exterior plans arrived.  I took one look at them and decided they were no good.  Mr. Graham has submitted plans for an unsightly … building.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 29, 1930] In Chicago an exasperated Graham says, “I have submitted not one but three different sets of plans.  One of those was for a flat roofed building on which airplanes could land … I do not consider any of the plans are of an unsightly building, but efficient in handling the vast amount of mail in the largest post office in the world was a large consideration.” Representatives of Chicago builders and labor unions meet as soon as the news reaches the city.  As the Depression grinds the workers of the city into poverty, there is desperation in trying to get such a massive project off the ground.  A telegram is sent to Washington, D.C. tersely stating, “Unemployment conditions in Chicago very serious.  Possibly more than 60 per cent of building trades have been out of work prior to Jan. 1.  Urgently request that you make every effort with postoffice department to hasten plans at once in order for construction work on new postoffice building in Chicago to be started as soon as possible.”  The pressure had its intended effect; the above photo shows the completed post office building in 1932.

Friday, March 27, 2020

March 27, 1966 -- Lake and Van Buren Become One-Way Streets


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March 27, 1966 – Lake and Van Buren Streets become one-way streets on this day with Lake Street carrying eastbound traffic between Wacker Drive and State Street and Van Buren carrying westbound traffic between State Street and Wacker Drive.  Additionally, one-way traffic on Madison Street will be extended from its current ending point at Franklin Street to Jefferson Street.  Except for Lake Street east of State Street every east-west street in the Loop is now a one-way street.  



March 27, 1969 – The Port of Chicago Unification Study Committee forwards a study to the Illinois Economic Development Commission that recommends closure of Navy Pier as a Chicago port in favor of new facilities in the Calumet region.  The announcement precedes by one day hearings in the State of Illinois building, 160 North La Salle Street, into widespread dock thefts that “threaten the future of Chicago as an inland seaport.” [Chicago Tribune, March 28, 1969] The committee’s report is unflinching in its appraisal, stating, “We must question the wisdom of assuming a bonded debt of 11.4 million dollars on a facility that currently is operating at a deficit and has such a limited potential for future use. The future of the port lies in the South Chicago area.” The report describes Navy Pier as a “deficit operation” with annual losses between $644,900 and $843,800 with $11.4 million in bonds still outstanding  It recommends state funds be diverted from Navy Pier to develop a lakefront port at the mouth of the Calumet River, property owned by the Youngstown Steel Company. Other urban ports have begun to adapt to the shipping industry’s approach of shipping merchandise in large steel containers to reduce pilferage, and the commission makes clear that the facilities at Navy Pier will never be adequate to support this new method of operation.  The head of the commission, Arthur B. Gottschalk, says, “We don’t believe money should be spent at Navy Pier to build more warehouses, piers, and jetties which would destroy our beaches and valuable lakefront property.  A container port there is simply out of the question.”  The above photo shows the pier in 1961 when it was still struggling valiantly to do the business of handling the city's shipping needs.


March 27, 1939 – William Bryce Mundie dies at the age of 75.  Mundie was born in Hamilton, Ontario and moved to Chicago in 1884 at the age of 21 where he began working as a draftsman for William Le Baron Jenney.  By 1891 he was a full partner in Jenney’s firm and had married Jenney’s niece.  Mundie was therefore in on the development of the earliest metal-framed commercial buildings, and his expertise led to his being named the supervising architect for the Chicago Board of Education from 1898 to 1905.  He designed Wendell Phillips High School, along with Armour, Coonley, Hamilton, Patrick Henry, Plamondon, Darwin, Jungman and Sullivan elementary schools.  Mundie was a charter member of the Cliff Dwellers, a member of the Union League Club, the Chicago Yacht Club, and a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, for which he served as vice-president for many years.  Muncie's Wendell Phillips High School is pictured above.


March 27, 1935 -- Officials of the Electro-Motive Company, a subsidiary of General Motors Corporation, break ground for a new plant in McCook, at which diesel-electric locomotives will be produced. H. L. Hamilton, the president of the company, says, "This new industry created by the railroads' demand for high speeds is as strange to us as it is to Chicago . . . we are planning in such a way that we can add to the plant as we get experience in the new art of building locomotives with diesel-electric power plants." Just west of Chicago, McCook, with a population of under 400, makes a particularly attractive choice for the locomotive manufacturer. First, it is close to the Indiana Harbor Belt line tracks, so getting raw materials in and finished locomotives out will be fairly easy. Secondly, the area has a bed of Niagara limestone just below the surface, an excellent foundation for the heavy fabricating equipment of the new production facility. In 1938 the first road freight is tested on an 83,764 mile, 11-month run. The test shows that the locomotive can do twice the work of a steam engine at half the cost. With Chicago's ever more stringent ordinances against smoke pollution (the first such legislation went back at least to 1909), the new plant in McCook was profitable from the beginning. It stopped producing locomotives in 1991 when operations were transferred to London, Ontario. Pictured above is demonstrator FT103, the innovation that changed an industry.

Angus S. Hibbard
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March 27, 1923 – At a luncheon of the Electric Club of Chicago, held at the Morrison Hotel, Angus S. Hibbard, a consulting engineer and former vice-president of the Chicago Telephone Company, puts forth a plan for placing shops on new fixed bridges as part of his idea to “roof” the Chicago River with a 200-foot boulevard and parking garage.  Hibbard says, “Workers taking their noonday rest, in the parks on top of the garage would have no traffic policeman’s whistle constantly shrieking in their ears ... On either side of the boulevard will be ideal sites for hotels, theaters, or public buildings.  And the bridges, being fixed, will be bridges no longer, but will become integral parts of the cross streets, and might very properly be lined with small shops.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 28, 1923]  The river roof that Hibbard proposes would accommodate autos on its upper deck and four railroad tracks on the lower level.  “The usefulness of the Chicago river is past,” Hibbard says.  The
harbor of the city is on the Calumet, where, I am told, there is more water traffic than there is on the Suez canal.  The type of freight now transported by water is carried in barges too big to make the turns in the Chicago river.”  Mr. Hibbard was no slouch in terms of engineering and management.  At the age of 21 he was made the General Superintendent of the Wisconsin Telephone Company, where he supervised the creation of more than 50 telephone exchanges.  Five years later he went to New York City where in seven years he oversaw extension of telephone lines northward to Boston, Albany and Buffalo; westward to Chicago and Milwaukee; and southward to Washington, D. C.  He was responsible for a number of patents related to the telephone and even designed the "Blue Bell" long distance telephone emblem.  [www.cjow.com]

Thursday, March 26, 2020

March 26, Wells Street Bridge Moved to Dearborn

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March 26, 1888 – A Chicago Daily Tribune article begins with a riddle … “There is no bridge at Wells street, yet there is still a Wells street bridge; there is no Dearborn street bridge, though there is a bridge at Dearborn street.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 27, 1888]  The answer to the puzzle occurred on the preceding day when 3,000 Chicagoans turn out at 5:30 a.m. to watch as the Wells Street bridge is moved off its center pier onto the decks of two pairs of boats  and moved east to Dearborn Street.  Each pair of ships “filled with water till their decks were nearly on a level with the surface of the river" takes a position at opposite ends of the turntable on which the bridge sits.  In order to lift the bridge off the center pier, 16 men man four hand pumps on each boat, working from 10:00 a.m. until noon when it is clear that a portion of the weight of the bridge is resting on the decks of the boats.  At this point steam pumps operating from two tug boats hasten the process until the bridge rests fully on the decks of the boats.  Slowly, the bridge is turned parallel to the banks of the river and slowly floated down to Dearborn Street, squeezing through the draw of the Clark Street bridge where “a half dozen crewmen … threw their shoulders against the pier and prevented a collision, though the end of the scow grated against the heavy timbers with a thrillingly suggestive sound.”  By 6:45 p.m. the bridge is safe at Dearborn Street, where it will wait for mechanical elements left behind at Wells Street to be installed on the pier at Dearborn Street.  The top photo shows the Wells Street bridge that replaced the span floated down to Dearborn Street.  The structure with the clock tower on the other side of the bridge is the terminal for the Chicago and North Western Railroad.  The second photo shows the area as it appears today.



March 26, 1962 – Six police squadrols are called to the Front Page Lounge at 530 Rush Street where 39 men and a woman are arrested after two detectives find two men kissing each other at the bar and several other men dancing.  The two men are charged with public indecency.  The other 36 men and the woman, a server at the bar, are charged with disorderly conduct.  Before the raid at the Rush Street bar, charges are also filed against a dozen men arrested in a raid at the Patio Theater 6008 Irving Park Road.  The men are arrested inside the theater on March 25 after police detectives allegedly witness “lewd acts.” [Chicago Tribune, March 27, 1962]




March 26, 1954 – The Chicago Land Clearance Commission authorizes a special study of the $400 million Fort Dearborn redevelopment project proposed for the Near North Side. The study will determine whether the project can be funded with public money as well as investigating the scope of condemnation allowable under state and federal law.  The project as planned will cover 151 acres along the north bank of the river and will include a new $165 million civic center, a University of Illinois campus, and 5,000 units of middle-income housing in privately-funded apartment buildings.  Developer Arthur Rubloff initiated the project five years earlier as an urban renewal effort to revive the old industrial and railroad property north of the river.  The proposed development was met with controversy as two organizations in the area led a resistance effort, claiming that the very prospect of the project had radically destabilized real estate values by creating uncertainty about the area’s future.  [McGowan, Stephen.  Urban Politics:  A Reader] Opposition also came from key business leaders and merchants in the Loop, primarily because of the civic center proposal.  With the publication in 1958 of the Development Plan for the Central Area of Chicago, the opponents won the battle, and the Fort Dearborn project was dead.  The black and white photo captures the area that would be developed under the Fort Dearborn plan. The second photo shows the area as it looks today.



March 26, 1888 – The formal opening of the North Chicago Street Railroad takes place with “speeches, music, enthusiasm, and a crowd, not to mention bunting, flags, and flowers.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 27, 1888] As early as 10:00 a.m. people begin to gather outside the power house at the corner of North Clark and Elm Streets.  At 11:15 a.m. company president Charles Tyson Yerkes appears with dignitaries that include Mayor John Roche, who makes a few brief remarks. The band plays America and there are other speeches and more music before Yerkes finally rises to say, “I find that there is nothing left for me to talk on.  The previous speakers got hold of my notes and I am practically left out.  I thank the people of the North Side for their patience in waiting for the fulfillment of the promises which are made.  They now see the great work upon which we were so long engaged.  I thank the city officials for the aid they have given us.  I wish to thank the press for their uniform kindness.  They have always been on our side.” After the band plays The Beautiful Blue Danube at 12:05 two thousand people rush the tracks, trying to get on the first car.  At 1:05 p.m. the cars make it through the crowds and reach the entrance to the La Salle Street tunnel.  Teams of horses are used to pull the cars over the crossing of tracks at Clark and Wells, and a horse pulling Car Number 186 is spooked by the crowd and dashes into it, throwing several onlookers into the mud and slush.  The first car to return passes out of the tunnel at 1:22 p.m., having made the tour of La Salle, Monroe and Dearborn streets in 17 minutes.  The first serious problem occurs at 5:30 p.m. when an accident with the grip on one car at Wisconsin Street ties up the cars behind it for 45 minutes.



March 26, 1867 -- Dwight Heald Perkins is born in Memphis, Tennessee. If a Chicago architect -- if an architect anywhere -- has been more forgotten by history, it is this guy. So skilled that he was asked to serve as an instructor at M.I.T. after only two years as a student, he returned to Chicago in 1888 and went to work with Burnham and Root in February of 1889. After the conclusion of the 1893 fair Daniel Burnham was forced to downsize the office and regretfully parted with Perkins. But he gave him the commission to design the Steinway Building, a gesture that says much about both men. It was in Perkins's offices in the Steinway building that Frank Lloyd Wright came to work after parting with Louis Sullivan as did a number of other architects who came to prominence in the following decades. The Chicagoland area would be a far different place today if it were not for Perkins. He co-wrote the 1905 Metropolitan Parks Report, a document that began a campaign for planned open space, set aside from development, a report that preceded the great Chicago Plan of 1909 by four years. It was also in 1905 that he was named Chief Architect for the Chicago Board of Education, a post he occupied for five years. In those five years he designed 40 school buildings. If in an entire career an architect could design one building as beautiful as Carl Schurz High School at Milwaukee and Addison, pictured above, he or she could end that career assured of having made an incalculable contribution.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

March 25, 1922 -- Chicago River Downs 360,000 Gallons of Illegal Alcohol

Chicago Tribune Photo
March 25, 1922 – Federal agents dump 350,000 gallons of booze into sewers leading into the Chicago River as “hundreds of spectators lined the Clark street bridge and the banks of the Chicago river … shouting orders, offering suggestions or with difficulty restraining their tears.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 26, 1922]  It is a confusing day for government agents who prepare to dispose of hooch that has been obtained in “numerous raids” by Prohibition agents, only to be called off the job by Prohibition Commissioner Ray A. Haynes in a telephone call from Washington, D. C.  “The work of the prohibition agents should not be flaunted before the public in such a manner,” he says.  “There are other times than during broad daylight and other places beside the conspicuous Chicago river where the liquor can be destroyed.  It is needless publicity and it might incite the onlookers to both regret and anger.”  A couple of hours later, however, Haynes reneges on his order, and the agents get to work filling the sewers with alcohol.  On the same day another Prohibition commissioner, J. E. Jones, announces that 200 Chicago pharmacists will permanently lose their licenses for the illegal sale of whisky.  Along with the license revocations Jones announces that a new system of dispensing medicinal alcohol will be instituted using government supplied prescription blanks instead of allowing the pharmacists to use their own forms.  It will be more than 11 years before the Prohibition era comes to an end on December 5, 1933.



March 25, 1981 – Bad day on the river, and an even worse day for the Chicago Tribune as the Army Corps of Engineers reports finding PCB contamination along five miles of the Chicago River and its North Branch, the first indication that the chemical, banned in 1979 as a health hazard, exists in the river.  The disclosure means that the Corps will have to give up plans for dredging on the North Branch.  Moreover, it will suspend a permit issued to the Chicago Tribune to dredge a section of the river for a dock at its new printing facility at 735 West Chicago Avenue.  PCB concentration in the North Branch is as high 164 parts per million while the main stem of the river running through downtown has PCB levels in the 10 parts per million range.  State and federal laws dictate that dredgings containing more than 50 parts per million are considered hazardous wastes and must be carefully handled and disposed of at approved hazardous waste disposal sites. The large dark doors on the river side of the building shown in the above photo were designed to accommodate lake freighters carrying newsprint from Canada as they docked at the plant to unload.  Due to the sad news on the doorstep on this day in 1981, they were never used, and newsprint arrives at the plant by railcar.
J. Bartholomew Photo
March 25, 1931 -- Golfers in Chicago get a new course to play as the new Lincoln Park golf course, begun the preceding April, opens. Beginning in 1929 the city trucked in tons of soil, dumping it in the lake to create 71 acres and a new nine-hole golf course. The original intent was to create an 18-hole course, but a lack of funding led to scaling back the project. Two million dollars later, Waveband Golf Course ran from Diversey Boulevard on the south to Montrose Harbor on the north. In 1991 it was renamed for a former commissioner of the Park District Board, Sydney Marovitz. Note: Most sources list the official opening of the course as June 15, 1932. That was the date on which the English Gothic style clubhouse with its clock tower, designed by Edwin H. Clark, pictured above, was dedicated.


March 25, 1910 – The work day has just begun at the L. Fish Furniture store at 1906-08 Wabash Avenue when the company’s auditor asks an assistant to go down to the fourth floor and fill three cigar lighters with benzene.  As he is filling the third lighter, the benzene bursts into flame, and he heads for the alley behind the building, telling no one of the mishap.  The fire makes rapid headway before it is discovered, and the first alarm is turned in at 8:30 a.m.  Seventy-five people are at work in the building, and the employees on the first three floors are able to make it to safety.  Flames, however, cut off all escape on floors four through six.  Three serious impediments dim any hope of rescue.  First, there is a 4-11 fire in progress at Twenty-Fourth Street and Wallace that ties up half of the fire department’s equipment in the area.  Second, the first reports get the location of the fire wrong.  Finally, the raising of ladders is impeded by guy wires that support a large company sign on the front of the building as well as a large awning that covers the front entrance.  The fire is struck out in less than three hours, but during that time twelve people die in the inferno.  The coroner’s jury investigating the fire is blunt, saying, “We find the L. Fish Furniture Company censurable for negligence, carelessness and lack of foresight in not better providing for the safety of employees.”  [Hogan, John F. and Burkholder, Alex A.  Forgotten Fires of Chicago:  The Lake Michigan Inferno and a Century of Flame.]

Chicago Tribune Graphic
March 25, 1893 – The Chicago Daily Tribune carries the news that officers and enlisted men at Fort Sheridan are sure “that a fearful and unknown sea monster is lying in wait for unfortunates off the shore” of the base.  In fact, men are so sure that the creature exists that “Several brave and convinced soldiers have totally reformed and 200 others have signed the pledge to let liquor alone.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 25, 1893]  One day during the previous week Captain H. R. Brinkerhoff, the commander of Company A of the Fifteenth Infantry, was sitting at his second-floor window of his home on one of the officers’ residential loops east of the parade ground “reading and now and then scanning the water.”  He spied a “black speck on the waves directly off his house … it grew rapidly in size.  It disappeared beneath a wave and reappeared again, a huge object that gave signs of life.” He summoned a fellow officer from adjoining quarters, Lieutenant W. F. Blauvelt of Company G of the Fifteenth Infantry, and the two headed to the edge of the bluff above the lake and began a search with their binoculars.  Brinkerhoff tells a Tribune reporter what they saw, “The head was very large, dark above and light colored underneath … The serpent, or whatever it was, I estimated to be thirty feet long.  I could not describe it, except that it looked like a huge alligator deprived of its legs.”  The two officers told a few of their friends about the sighting and the enlisted men learned of the creature fairly soon afterward, for “In a settlement of 1,000 human beings, in a sense cut off from the rest of the world, it doesn’t take long for a story to travel, especially such a startling one.”  The chaplain on the base saw a fine opportunity that didn’t very often come his way and didn’t have “the slightest difficulty in securing the signatures of 200 men to a pledge to abstain from drink.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

March 24, 1968 -- Metropolitan Structures Ups the Ante

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March 24, 1968 – The Chicago Tribune runs a feature on Metropolitan Structures, Inc. as it embarks on creating a $300 million “new town” for 50,000 people on a 1,000-acres island near Montreal.  The firm is a descendant of a development entity that was overseen by Herbert S. Greenwald before he died in a plane crash in 1959.  Greenwald’s company was responsible for such Chicago gems as 860 and 880 Lake Shore Drive, Commonwealth Plaza, and the Promontory apartments, all designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.  Greenwald’s attorney, Bernard Weissbourd, originally a chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project, set up Metropolitan Structures after the developer’s death, and the new firm turned to large-scale developments such as the 2400 Lake View apartments and the Essex Inn in Chicago and the Baltimore Hilton and One Charles Office Center in Baltimore.  The next major project to which the firm has committed is the development of Illinois Central Railroad air rights east of Michigan Avenue and south of the Chicago River.  It has attained the distinction of being the first firm to gain approval for erecting a building in the area, the anticipated 30-story tower that is today 111 East Wacker Drive, the home of the Chicago Architecture Center.  According to the Tribune, “Weissbourd has conceived an exciting city within a city.  His plan is to group office and residential buildings together, and to link all with underground commercial development.  This in turn would flow south to the lower level of the Prudential building at Randolph street, thence to the Illinois Central railroad station, and into the State street subway station.  Access would be provided to State street department stores and further on to the Civic center, Brunswick building, and a developing underground tunnel network on Dearborn street.”  [Chicago Tribune, March 24, 1968]  Here began what would become a large part of Chicago’s extensive and ever expanding pedway system.  The dark tower in the center of the above photo is 111 East Wacker Drive.


March 24, 2014 – A C.T.A. train operator falls asleep at the controls as her train approaches the end of the line at O’Hare International Airport just before 3:00 a.m., and the train crashes through a barrier designed to stop trains at the end of the line and continues to travel up an escalator.  More than 30 people are hurt, and Blue Line service to the airport is halted for over a day as authorities try to determine the cause of the accident.  C.T.A. President Forrest Clayppol says, “We run a half a million train trips a year. So when something like this happens, we want to work closely with our engineers and theirs (the National Transportation and Safety Board) to get to the very bottom of this as fast as we can.”


March 24, 1949 -- Satchel Paige, at the age of 43, starts his first game of the 1949 season as the Cleveland Indians, with Lou Boudreau as a player-manager, meet the Chicago Cubs in a spring training game in Los Angeles. After a 1948 season that saw the oldest man ever to play major league baseball in contention for post-season honors, the 1949 season would be a disappointment as Paige would go 4-7 even though he managed a 3.04 earned run average. Bill Veeck would give Paige an unconditional release at the conclusion of the season, but he would play four more years and be named to the American League All-Star team in 1952 and 1953.



March 24, 1923 – The Vice-President of the Illinois Central Railroad, C. N. Kittle, says that the road is considering improving railroad property between Randolph Street and the Chicago River, east of Michigan Avenue with hotels and skyscrapers.   Kittle says, “… it is our plan to improve it with office buildings, hotels and other structures, similar to the development over the New York Central tracks in New York, where the Biltmore and Ambassador hotels have been built over the tracks.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 25, 1923] Attorney Walter L. Fisher, counsel for the City Railway Terminal Commission, says, “This territory will serve as a commercial outlet to the loop for years to come.  With the transportation which will be afforded by the Illinois Central railroad it should prove amazingly popular following electrification of the road.”  Change takes time.  It would be another half-century or more before this “amazingly popular” area that is today known as Illinois Center would see its first high rise building.  The black and white photo shows the area as it looked in the 1920's.  The photo below that shows Illinois Center (almost impossible to believe it's the same place) today.

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March 24, 1914 --  The organizers of the federal reserve banking system decide that Chicago will be the center of one of the largest of the twelve districts that will be created in the new system.  Minneapolis will share the midwestern territory with Chicago. The Chicago district is tentatively organized to include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska, a territory in which banks have a total capital of more than $300,000,000.  Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act on December 23, 1913 primarily to put an end to the bank runs and panics that had plagued the country as a result of its decentralized banking system.  By the middle of November, 1914 the 12 cities chosen as the sites for regional banks in the system were open and ready for business.  The photo shows the Federal Reserve Bank under construction in Chicago in 1915.

Monday, March 23, 2020

March 23, 1980 -- South Loop Property Sale

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March 23, 1980 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the Illinois Commerce Commission has approved the sale of land near the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Michigan Avenue for $13.1 million to Park Development Associates of Northfield.  Park also has obtained an option to buy an additional 20 acres of railroad land south and east of that area for another $13 million.  Before any development can take place, however, plans must be approved by the Chicago Plan Commission and the Chicago City Council, in accordance with lakefront ordinances that go back to the late nineteenth century.  Not a bad investment.  Under a different developer, the Central Station Development Corporation, what had once been a grimy area of old warehouses is now a mixed-use development of residential high rises and luxury townhomes.  It sits on land which the old Illinois Central’s main passenger terminal once stood, which today is an attractive location across Lake Shore Drive from the city’s museum campus on the southern edge of Grant Park.  The top picture shows the area in the old days … note the Field Museum of Natural History off to the left.  The second photo shows the area today.  The museum, as one can see, still exists in a far more attractive setting.


March 23, 1963 – An estimated half-million people turn out “in sparkling spring weather” [Chicago Tribune, March 24, 1963] to greet President John F. Kennedy, jamming the route of his motorcade “wherever he traveled during his four hour stay.”  Secret Service agents and police officers scramble at one point as the president orders his limousine stopped on the Cumberland Avenue overpass, getting out to shake hands with members of a crowd of several hundred people who had gathered at that location.  Under the Lake Street viaduct on the expressway workers remove the plastic bubble top of the limousine and haul it away in a city truck.  “Then, with the warm spring breezes ruffling his hair, Mr. Kennedy begins his entry into the Loop, an entry made almost triumphant as the nation’s biggest Democratic organization turns all-out to greet the President and their mayoral candidate [Mayor Richard J. Daley] in the April 2 election.”  Another moment that took the motorcade by surprise occurs on Jackson Boulevard, which is “the domain of the various ward organization delegations.”  The bridge tender on Jackson gives the procession a salute by ringing the bridge’s bells and activating its flashing lights.  The bridge remains stationary, though, and where “Jackson boulevard slashes thru the city’s financial district, the air was filled with confetti and ticker tape.”  With temperatures near 60 degrees and bright sunshine throughout his short stay in the city, the president doubly felt the warmth of his Chicago welcome.


March 23, 1946 -- The United States Navy announces that the 265-foot U. S. S. Willmette will be sold, closing a chapter in Chicago history that began in 1903 when the ship was built as a freighter. It was almost immediately converted to a passenger ship that could hold as many as 2,000 people. The name of the ship was the Eastland, the ship that took 812 people to their graves when it capsized in the Chicago River on July 24, 1915. After she was raised, the Navy purchased the hulk and converted it to a training ship with a new name. Captain E. A. Evers, who lived in Willmette, and other interested citizens, were successful in having the ship named after that North Shore community. The Navy found no buyers for the ship, and it was decommissioned and broken up for scrap in that same year of 1946.

March 23, 1921 – Two gifts of $50,000 are unveiled, one from William Wrigley, Jr. and the other from the trustees of the Ferguson Fund, with the money underwriting a plan “to make the new Michigan avenue bridge with its approaches one of the show places of the world and a link between the Chicago of today and the village of the historic past.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 24, 1921] Charles H. Wacker, Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission, says, “Not only for the direct result, but also for its influence toward the finest and better city of the future, do we value these public spirited benefactions.  They cannot fail to point the way to others who will be called upon to aid in embellishing the improved South Water street.  Decorative features and sculpture must be provided to make the Chicago river attractive like European water courses, and an object of beauty instead of ugliness.” The plan is to create bridge houses on each corner of the bridge that will present the history that has taken place in the location where the new bridge crosses the river.  The bridge house at the northeast corner stands approximately at the spot where the first non-native American settler, Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, built his home.  At the southwest corner stood the site of Fort Dearborn.  The sculptures that grace the bridge houses today are a direct result of the gifts of 1921.  Wrigley’s contribution made possible the work on the north side of the bridge. The Discoverers by James Earle Fraser shows four early discoverers who explored the area in the seventeenth century. The Pioneers depicts early settler John Kinzie leading a group through the wilderness.  The sculptures on the southern bridge houses were commissioned by the B. F. Ferguson Monument Fund and are the work of Henry Hering.  Defense depicts Ensign George Ronan in a scene from the 1812 Battle of Fort Dearborn, and Regeneration depicts workers rebuilding Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. As a kick sometime when you are passing by the Regeneration sculpture on the southeast bridge house, check out that funky salamander nipping at that stalwart female’s ankles.  Symbolism a-plenty.


March 23, 1910 – Trouble on Quincy Street as a police officer, one William Rourke, “a County Kerry man,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 24, 1910]  stops outside a saloon as he hears a six-member German band playing inside.  According to the Tribune’s report, "Rourke steps into the saloon and commands, 'In the name av the state av Illinois.  I command yez to stop this.  It’s gone far enough.'”  The band leader puts down his E flat coronet and asks the officer what the problem is. “Can ye play Th’ Wearin’ av th’ Green? No?  Well, then can ye play Th’ Wind that Shakes th’ Barley?  No?  Well, then, d’ ye know Tatter Jack Welch?  No?” With no answer forthcoming to his liking, the officer orders the band members to follow him to the station house, proclaiming, “I’ll not have this kind av a nuisance on my beat.”  At the First District police station Lieutenant Ben Reed asks the band members what they have to say for themselves.  Again, according to the Tribune, the leader answers, “This policeman he sait to me ‘Can you blay The Green Is Wearing Off?’  I sait no, we din’t had the music.  Then he ask me to blay The Vind Dot Shakes the Wheat. Once more alretty I sait to him dot ve didn’t blay dot kind of music.  The he sait 'Come with me to the station.’”  The lieutenant allows the musicians to leave, making them promise “that they would never invade the loop district again [or] he would put the whole bunch downstairs if they didn’t get back to the ‘nord seit.’”