Tuesday, April 7, 2020

April 7, 1933 -- Prohibition Leads to a Chicago Full of Suds

Chicago Tribune Photo
April 7, 1933 – At 12:01 a.m. brewers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers begin distributing 3.2 percent beer to a very thirsty public.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “… the beer flood was carrying on the crest the greatest single day’s outpouring of cash that Chicago business had experienced since the collapse of the stock market at the end of 1929.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 8, 1933]  City breweries have gone to triple shifts, and stores, groceries and restaurants are so busy that bookkeepers do not have time to calculate the day’s sales.  The Dutch Room in the Bismarck Hotel schedules ad extra 40 employees just to handle the noontime lunch crowd.  In Mandel’s department store detectives are called to preserve order.  A and P, National Tea, and Kroger grocery stores are out of suds by noon.  Hillman’s independent grocery goes through 2,300 cases.  The editor of Brewery Age, Joseph Dubin, warns that the brewing industry soon will be threatened with a shortage of barley malt.  He says, “Although brewers are protected to some extent by contracts, it is obvious that if the demand for beer approximates the pre-prohibition use there will not be enough domestic barley available.”  Barley production will need to be tripled to meet demand, Dubin says.  Oak Park and Highland Park are the only two suburbs that remain dry.

April 7, 1955 -- Walsh Brothers, Inc. is the low bidder at $334,995 on a contract to construct an arcade along the south side of the Auditorium building to clear the way for the Congress Street expressway's route to Grant Park. The 1889 building, designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, is the last of six buildings along East Congress Street to be arcaded. A part of the building that will be lost is a bar on the southeast corner believed to have been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright at the beginning of his career. The photo above shows the Auditorium as it existed in 1900. 

historic bridges.org
April 7, 1919 --  The Chicago Daily Tribune details the progress that is being made on the new Michigan Avenue bridge, noting that “The roof is off one-third of the big Kirk soap factory that for thirty years has been one of the premier hideosities and unseemly barriers of this town.  The walls are falling down from the fifth story downward.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 7, 1919]  Within a few days, the paper reports, “… it will be possible to look northward form the south bank of the Chicago river and the site of Fort Dearborn and catch a glimpse of the trees of Lincoln parkway beyond the water tower.”  Each day “hundreds of people” stop to watch the progress of the bridge, the long-awaited connection between the south and north districts of the city, “a colossal work that means the attainment of light, air, space, beauty, and convenience in a district which for a generation has been so squalid, so ugly and so inutile that it would have disgraced an Asiatic capital with 3,000 years of makeshift and short-sightedness and stupidity behind it.”  The article looks breathlessly toward the changes in Michigan Avenue that the new bridge will bring … “Not since the London county council, at a cost of millions of pounds, opened up Kingway, has any capital offered builders of vision such an opportunity to convert visions into superb realities.” Even before the bridge is finished nearly 70 percent of the property owners on Michigan Avenue north of the river have signed an agreement to exclude from the street “all business establishments incompatible with the status of a show street … which – so real estate experts agree – will fix the destiny of the street and save it from the long period of transition from an outworn residence street to a high class business street …”  The article concludes, “If you take that walk amid the derricks and the debris you will realize … how every dollar of the $13,000,000 you voted for North Michigan avenue development is going to come back tenfold to the community in convenience, beauty, and increased values … So take that walk.”  The above photo shows the Michigan Avenue bridge, today's DuSable bridge, nearing completion in 1919. 

April 7, 1910 – Chicago Police Chief LaRoy T. Steward tells managers of the city’s beaches that “Bizarre bathing costumes, whether for women or men, will be censored by the police” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 8, 1910] at the city’s beaches in the coming summer.  Uniformed police officers will be stationed at the doors of every beach dressing room and will inspect the bathing attire of patrons as they come out to the sand.  “If they escape the initial inspection,” the Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “there will be other bluecoats along the shore to correct the oversight.  The chief says that special attention will be given to the men’s costumes, but women will also be closely monitored “lest there be a too marked inclination to follow objectionable styles permitted at some ocean beaches near eastern cities.”  Regarding the fashions of women bathers, the rules place “an official ban on the sheathe and directoire styles in feminine bathing costumes.  Bloomers cut to hang loosely must be worn under the skirt and must reach to the knees.  Sleeveless garments will not be allowed, although quarter length will be considered sufficient covering for the arms.”  Men must follow these directives … “The vanity of men of athletic mold is to be restrained when they display chests or shoulders by a too low cut of their bathing suits.  Also, the back must be well covered.  Trunks alone or the one piece bathing suits for men are not to be considered and the trunks of the two piece suit must not be unduly abbreviated.”  Chief Steward observes that his hope is that the city’s beaches will have the “reputation of being the best conducted in the country.”  The above photo shows the Diversey Parkway beach five years later in 1915 with everyone playing by the rules.

April 7, 1893 – Huge waves crash into the mouth of the river from the lake, tearing ships from their moorings “as if the heavy hawsers with which they were fastened had been merely bits of twine.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 8, 1893] At 2:30 a.m. the first wave sweeps into the harbor, and four vessels are ripped from their moorings, damaged heavily, and swept toward the lake.  A second wave follows the first, and The City of Venice is grounded at the life-saving station while the Mabel Wilson becomes stuck in the mud, broadside to the channel.  The A. P. Wright strikes the pier and then becomes stuck fast in the middle of the channel, stopping just 20 feet from the grounded Mable Wilson.  One lake captain says, “These sudden squalls in the lake cause a great movement of water in one direction.  They soon spend themselves and a reaction takes place.  Then a squall will come from an opposite direction to the first and make the swell larger.   Such a swell striking the shore at the mouth of a river will force the water into a huge wave which will carry everything before it.”  Boat owners from Lincoln Park to Racine, Wisconsin report their boats and boathouses are missing as the waves do damage all along the shore north of Chicago.

Monday, April 6, 2020

April 6, 2009 -- Olympic Evaluation Team Honored at Art Institute Gala

April 6, 2009 – As 40 protestors chant on the east side of Columbus Drive, proclaiming their opposition to Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, Oprah Winfrey enters the Art Institute for a reception, held in honor of the International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission.  The evaluation team will be in the city for one more day before moving on to evaluate Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid, the competitors in the effort to host the 2016 games.  Commission members are greeted by Mayor Richard M. Daley and a West Side dance troupe.  People on the guest list include Valerie Jarrett, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Governor Pat Quinn, former U. S. House of Representatives speaker Dennis Hastert, Nadia Comaneci, Bart Conner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.  A number of diplomats also are among the 120 guests, along with members of some of Chicago’s wealthiest families, including J. B. Pritzker.  It is a rip-roaring evening at the museum as guests were given a tour of the brand-new Modern Wing and entertained by Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor.  Appetites are sated with a menu created by Spiaggia executive Tony Mantuano.   On October 2 the winner of the competition is announced.  It doesn’t go well for the city … you can read about that day in this entry in Connecting the Windy City.  

April 6, 1968 – Four thousand national guard troops are on city streets and three more units are on alert as rioting and looting rage on the city’s south side.  Heavy sniper fire pins policemen and firemen working fires near Sixty-Fifth Street and Ingleside, and crowds continue to grow between Cottage Grove and South Park Avenues on Sixty-First, Sixty-Third, and Sixty-Seventh Streets.  Deaths attributed to the rioting stand at nine, and at least 800 have been arrested as hundreds are left homeless and thousands more have no electric power.  One of the worst areas of destruction is the area of Roosevelt Road between Kedzie and Homan Avenues.  Thirty buildings on the south side of the street are set on fire with 16 more on the north side torched.  The fire alarm that signals the beginning of the riots is turned in at 3:49 p.m. on April 5 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the previous evening. Eventually, 125 arson fires are reported with 210 buildings burned or heavily damaged.

April 6, 1931 – A new regional branch of the Chicago Public Library at 4536 Lincoln Avenue is dedicated at 3:00 p.m. with its opening to the general public anticipated within a week.  It will be the largest regional library branch in the city with more than 60,000 volumes and a capacity of up to 80,000 volumes.  The library will fulfill two functions: (1) to lend books to the area in the surrounding community and (2) to furnish books to other branch libraries in the north and northwest sections of the city.  Ms. Jessie Reed, formerly the librarian at the Sheridan branch, will supervise a staff of 32 assistants.  Books in 20 languages will be on the shelves with a large German collection. The library is named after Frederick Hild, the city’s chief librarian from 1887 to 1909.  Hild was the guy who oversaw the planning and construction of the city’s main library on Michigan Avenue, the city’s cultural center today.  Fifty years later the collection became too large for the original building, and a new library opened just up the street at 4455 North Lincoln Avenue.  The Hild building sat vacant for over ten years before the Old Town School of Folk Music made a deal with the city in the early 1990’s to renovate the structure, turning it into one of the most artistically vibrant spaces in Chicago. The above photos show the original Art Deco Hild Library and today's Old Town School of Folk Music.

April 6, 1889 – The new Germania Club is opened at the northwest corner of Grant and Clark Streets.  The Chicago Daily Tribune describes the building in this way:  “The lower stories are constructed of Bedford sandstone and the upper ones of pressed red brick, with terra cotta decorations.  A balcony 50 x 20 feet projects on the Clark street front, and a small gallery supported by graceful columns surmounts the entrance on Grant street.  At each end of the gallery stands a statue – one of Germania, the other of Columbia.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 7, 1889]  The new clubhouse is designed with a variety of uses in mind.  There are two bowling alleys, a billiard hall, a practice room for the club’s chorus, two “elegantly furnished” dining rooms that can be rented out, a 50 x 30-foot library, and a dining hall and a ballroom, each measuring 110 x 50 feet.  A thousand people attend the dedication with a banquet for 400 following it.  In a toast at the banquet, Germania Club member Harry Rubens says, “… this, the first German club-house in Chicago, would issue a current that would carry the Germans on to the realization of those ideals of citizenship in the United States, combined with a loving remembrance of the old fatherland, which all German societies had so long endeavored to attain.”  Preservation Chicago notes that the “origins of the Germania Club date to 1865, when a group of German Civil War veterans sang at ceremonies held at the Chicago Court House as President Lincoln’s funeral bier passed through Chicago en route to Springfield.  In the same year, this informal chorus of 60 singers performed a second concert to benefit wounded Civil War soldiers, and in 1867 staged a concert to benefit a Jewish orphanage.”  In August of 2018 developer R2 paid $10 million for the 129-year-old building. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, “R2’s purchase is partly designed to take advantage of a fully-leased ground floor retail portion with tenants including Starbucks, CorePower, Yoga and a preschool, among others.  But the potential upside for the three-story, 40,000 square foot building will come from repositioning its upstairs event space.”  [Crain’s Chicago Business, August 23, 2018]

April 6, 1878 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune launches yet another editorial about the conditions found on the South Fork of the South branch of the Chicago River, widely known today as "Bubbly Creek." "Throughout the mile or more of its course there is absolutely nothing to gladden its wretchedness or to hide its beggarly rags of muddy bank and oozing filth," the paper moans. "A dirtier, uglier, more wretched-looking body of water it would be hard to find . . . the Fork is worse than ever before, for the reason that its present state is as bad as could possibly be attained." And it got worse . . .

Sunday, April 5, 2020

April 5, 1969 -- Vietnam War Protest Draws 20,000 Marcher to State Street

April 5, 1969 -- More than 20,000 people march down State Street in opposition to the war in Vietnam. As the march assembles, demonstrators are given printed instructions to cooperate with police and ignore counter-protestors. A select group of 800 Chicago police officers is also instructed to show courtesy to the marchers. The only major disruption comes at Fourteenth and State where a protestor and counter-protestor get into it with each other. National Guard troops, already in the city because of incidents stemming from the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King a year earlier, are not needed.

April 5, 1962 – The maiden flight of a new Alitalia DC-8 from Rome to O’Hare is marred as the jet is forced to circle at 20,000 feet while thunderstorms sweep through the area.  Among the passengers on the jet, which lands nearly two hours after its scheduled touch-down, are 14 former Italian pilots, men who were part of a squadron of 96 flyers who came to Chicago on July 14, 1933 in two dozen sea planes.  The impressive display was a part of the great Century of Progress World’s Fair that took place on the city’s lakefront in the summers of 1933 and 1934.  Marshall Italo Balbo commanded the group, and the citizens of the city were so impressed by the heroic display of the aviators that they named a street for Balbo.  The flight in 1933 took 16 days to complete.  The return flight on this date in 1962, even with the weather delay, took 11 hours and 49 minutes.  You can learn more about the feats of Balbo and his men here and here.  The above photo shows the Balbo column, presented to the city by Marshall Balbo.  It still sits on the lakefront path just north of McCormick Place.
April 5, 1961 – The tallest building on State Street is “topped out” as more than 200 onlookers watch a three-ton steel beam hoisted to the highest point of the new United of America building at State Street and Wacker Drive.  The ceremony takes place just 364 days after ground is broken for the 41-story skyscraper, designed by architect Alfred P. Shaw.   Dignitaries on hand include Mayor Richard J. Daley, O. T. Hogan, chairman of United Insurance Company of America, the building’s developer; Hogan’s son, Jack R. Hogan, the company’s president; and J. Donald Rollins, president of United States Steel Corporation’s American Bridge division, the company that fabricated and erected the 7,800 tons of steel that went into the building.  The elder Hogan founded the company in 1919 with an investment of $500.  At a luncheon following the ceremony the rental agent for the building, Leo J. Sheridan, says, “Chicago is experiencing a vast expansion of commercial facilities, which have far too long lagged behind the city’s amazing industrial growth, a growth that has been greater by a substantial margin than that of any other American city in the last decade.” [Chicago Tribune, April 6, 1961] When completed, today’s Kemper Building at 1 East Wacker Drive, was the tallest marble-clad tower in the world. That record was eclipsed when less than a mile to the northeast Water Tower Place was finished in 1975. The above photo shows the completed tower with the Marina City towers rising to the north.

April 5, 1937 – Mrs. Frieda Spyropoulos, known throughout the world as “Little Egypt,” as a result of the dance that she performed as part of the show at the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893, dies in Cook County Hospital at the age of 65.  Spyrpopoulos’s maiden name was Fahred Mahzar, and there is some debate over the early years of her life, especially as to when she came to the United States. The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that she “came to this country early in 1893 with a troupe of Syrian performers who had been engaged for the World’s Fair.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 4, 1937] Whatever the timing of her arrival was, she made quite a stir once Sol Bloom, the entertainment director for the fair, booked her for “The Algerian Dancers of Monaco” attraction at a Midway attraction called “A Street in Cairo.”  Tame by today’s standards, her “shimmy and shake” packed ‘em in, provoking Anthony Comstock (who bragged that he had destroyed 15 tons of books, 284,000 pounds of plates for producing “objectionable books”, and nearly 4,000,000 pictures while being responsible for 4,000 arrests and the suicides of 15 people) to demand that her show be shut down.  She later said of the fuss, “I did not have any vulgarity like they have today.  No nakedness.”  Although she did make several appearances at the Century of Progress World’s Fair in 1933, Spyropoulos settled down to a quiet life on Fairfield Avenue on the southwest side, marrying Andrew Spyropoulos, the owner of a restaurant at 705 South Halsted Street in the heart of what is today the University of Illinois Chicago Circle campus.  The above photo gives a peek at “A Street in Cairo.”  The caption that accompanied the picture reads in part, “No ordinary Western woman looked on these performances with anything but horror, and at one time it was a matter of serious debate in the councils of the Exposition whether the customs of Cairo should be faithfully reproduced, or the morals of the public faithfully protected.” 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

April 4, 1979 -- Illinois Central Sells Property on Near South Side

April 4, 1979 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad has entered into an agreement to unload a 37.18-acre plot of vacant land on the city’s Near South Side.  Park Development Associates of Northfield, the proposed purchaser, has tentatively agreed to buy the property for $24.2 million.  The sale is contingent upon approval by the Illinois Commerce Commission and the city.  Edward J. Young, a partner in Park Development, says that the plans for the property are “not that far along … An industrial mart is just one of the ideas we are kicking around.  We had to give the railroad some idea of our ideas, but there is nothing in writing, no contracts.” [Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1979] The northern portion of the plot runs between Eleventh and Fourteenth Streets with Indiana Avenue on the west and the I. C. tracks and Lake Shore Drive to the east.  The negotiated price is $18.00 a square foot for a total of $13.2 million.  Park Development also has an option to buy the land between Fourteenth and Sixteenth Streets with the same east and west boundaries as the northern segment.  The purchase price for that section is $12.50 a square foot for a total of $11 million.  Back in the late 1970’s virtually no breathing soul in the city could imagine anyone living in this area.  The map above shows the property highlighted in red and tells the story of an amazing transformation from an industrial no-man’s land to one of the newest and most popular residential areas of the city.

April 4, 1974 – At a meeting of civic and business leaders in the Bismarck Hotel a proposal is made to create a corporation that will make the New Town development project in the South Loop a reality.   The agreement would see Chicago 21 Corporation selling $30 million in stock to fund the initial development of the area bounded by Congress Street on the north, Cermak Road on the south, State Street on the east, and the South Branch of the river on the west.  Some 40,000 families, it is anticipated, will one day settle in this area of unused railroad land.  Negotiations with the 19 railroads involved in the project are seen as comprising the biggest hurdle for the plan. With two principal goals at the heart of the development, backers are optimistic.  Reports the Chicago Tribune, “It is considered by its backers to be the answer to flight to the suburbs by whites, and the prime means of beefing up the simultaneously booming and decaying central area. [Chicago Tribune, April 5, 1974] In reviewing these goals, Philip M. Klutznick, chairman of the executive committee of Urban Investment and Development states, “I firmly believe that the time is long gone when [suburbanites] can leave the Loop at 5 o’clock and simply leave the problems of the city behind them.” [Chicago Tribune, April 5, 1974]  Construction of the first phase of what would come to be known as Dearborn Park began in November of 1977.  Although it was an ambitious project, it was far smaller in scale than the New Town plan announced back in 1974.  The above photo shows what the area south of the old station looks like today as development continues.  Development has increased dramatically with  the continued building along the east side of the river north and south of Roosevelt Road.

April 4, 1969 -- Although National Guard troops are withdrawn from the streets of Chicago, police patrols are increased in an attempt to prevent more violence after two days of fighting, rock throwing, gunfire, and looting that leave 96 injured and 271 under arrest. A 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew is in effect for those under the age of 21 and a ban exists on the sale of gasoline in cans or portable containers, guns, ammunition and liquor in troubled areas throughout the city. The disturbances begin at various schools across the city as ceremonies are held to mark the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King a year after he was felled by an assassin's bullet on April 4, 1968.

April 4, 1895 – Big trouble on the Twenty-Second Street bridge as nearly a thousand men watch one of the cars of the Chicago General Street Railway Company yanked from the tracks and “battered into fragments by the direction of Supt. Rowen of the Chicago City railway company.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 5, 1895]  The violence occurs after an announcement on the previous day that Lawrence E. McGann, the head of the General Street Railway Company, indicates his intention to run cars over tracks of the Chicago City Railway Company and pay whatever rental the courts decide.  McGann’s plan was to take on a number of city officials at the Lexington Hotel at Twenty-Second Street and Wabash Avenue in order to show off “the first train in the world supplied with electric brakes”.  The car never gets across the river to pick up the invited guests, though, as it meets “all the resources of obstruction and destruction the South Side company possessed and it never made the trip, neither will it ever make any trips hereafter.” After the mob smashes the car into pieces, McGann says, “I will keep up this fight until the City of Chicago is declared the owner of every foot of street car track that lays in the streets … They did not wait for our car to get off our own tracks before they destroyed it. When things have come to such a pass there is only one remedy for the people, and that is municipal ownership. We are ready to have our tracks appraised now.”  Bowen responds, “I learned through the newspapers a few days ago that an attempt was to be made to run a car over our tracks.  I made up my mind that it should not be done … I had no opinion from a lawyer.  I simply knew that what I considered an act of trespass was to be committed, and I acted within what I thought and still think were my rights. I ordered the men whom I needed to come along; in number they were 400 or 500.”     The demonstration of the new electric braking device, an invention of Elmer E. Sperry, did not occur as the invited guests were warned “to keep off Twenty-second street if they valued their lives.”

Friday, April 3, 2020

April 3, 1982 -- Chicago Elevated Needs Repair or Condemnation: Tribune Editorial

April 3, 1982 – With the Chicago Transit Authority looking to close the east-west Jackson Park elevated line running along Sixty-Third Street from King Drive to Stony Island Avenue, a Chicago Tribune editorial observes, “Chicago’s entire elevated system is wearing out.  Sooner or later, it will have to be renovated or replaced at enormous cost – or demolished.”  [Chicago Tribune, April 3, 1982]  The Jackson Park line in 1982 is 89 years old, a life that has long outlasted its original purpose, which was to transport passengers to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park.  If the line is abandoned, it will join a host of other elevated lines that have disappeared since the 1940’s, among them the Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Stock Yards and Kenwood elevated lines.  The system that is left dates from before 1920.  The Tribune observes, “The CTA has no master plan for replacing or renovating the entire elevated system.  It has barely enough money to meet operating expenses and maintain reasonably adequate service … City Hall and the CTA had better begin drafting some realistic ways of coping with the inevitable.”  The first elevated line in the city, called the “Alley el” because it operated along alleys and back yards from Congress Parkway and State Street to Thirty-Ninth Street, opened on June 6, 1892.  Today the elevated system is still hauling passengers – over a million a year along the elevated and subway system on 220 miles of track.  The photo above shows the alley el in its early days ... about six years after it began service, the line was converted to electricity.

April 3, 1971 – Roger Henn, the Executive Director of the Union League Club of Chicago, pens a guest editorial for the Chicago Tribune concerning plans for a federal correctional facility at Clark and Van Buren Streets.  He writes, “Chicago has an almost unbelievable opportunity for development of a great tract of land immediately adjacent to the Loop … Here is an opportunity to build a ‘city within a city’ … Housing of all varieties could be built that would retain the white-collar workers who are now fleeing to the suburbs.  Here, also could be more expensive dwellings for Loop businessmen … Not needed is the proposal of the federal government to place a penal institution and gigantic parking facility squarely on the gateway to this promising area … What is needed is overall planning and cooperation, not spot development for the convenience of the federal government with the resulting loss to all of Chicago.”  [Chicago Tribune, April 3,1971]  The above photo of Harry Weese’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, completed in 1975, is proof that the federal government ultimately got its way.

April 3, 1911 – The Engineering Committee of the Sanitary Board passes an injunction against 16 firms in the Union Stockyards, seeking to restrain the companies from dumping refuse into Bubbly Creek, the south fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River running along the edge of the stockyards.  The members of the committee accuse the firms of “damaging the main channel of the Chicago river and endangering the health and lives of the public.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 4, 1911] The firms are ordered to appear before the committee on April 10 and “show cause why proceedings should not be brought against them.”  The packers did show up and “agreed to appoint a committee to investigate the condition and suggest action.”  A week later the two sides come together again with the stockyards representatives reporting they have taken no action.  The chairman of the engineering committee, Wallace G. Clark, reaches the end of his patience, stating, “It is my opinion that your firms can be indicted, and that we can have injunctions issued against you to stop this pollution and unless there is immediate action on your part we intend to act.”  Three months pass before the packers agree to authorize the expenditure of $28,000 to clean up the festering ditch.  The effort is ineffectual at best, and it actually brings about a whole new problem as the dredgings from Bubbly Creek are dumped in the lake.  In fact, part of what we treasure today as the south end of Grant Park rests on landfill partially made up with what came from Bubbly Creek.  The above photo shows Bubbly Creek around 1915.

J Bartholomew Photo
April 3, 1909 -- The University Club at Michigan and Monroe is opened as 500 members and 700 guests participate in the ceremonies. Members wear academic garb representing their colleges and march in a procession from the old club headquarters on Dearborn to the banquet hall on the ninth floor of the new quarters. There a 75-person glee club joins a 30-piece orchestra and a pipe organ, and "the big dining hall reverberated with the songs of colleges east and west. Latin hymns, drinking songs, chants and serenades were punctuated with yells and cheers." [Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1909] A banquet is served on the eighth floor. The Holabird and Roche design still occupies its place on Michigan Avenue where University Club members are still active.

April 3, 1902 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on “a group of business-men who drive to their offices from their North Side residences”.  [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 3, 1902]  In an informal discussion the men generally agree that La Salle Street is the best means of connecting the Loop with the portion of the city north of the river.  One participant says, “The route is the most central.  It will require the least attention, and it passes through one of the best districts between the heart of the city and Lincoln Park.”  To make the connection a reality would require about $200,000, the men estimate, a sum that would pay for “about a mile” of asphalt paving, a bascule bridge over the river and lowering of the cable car tracks at Illinois Street.  An attorney on the Lincoln Park board says of the plan, ‘Legally, there would be little trouble with the plan.  It seems to me to be a good plan, even though it might be merely temporary.  The name sounds well, for Chicago and the Northwest owe much to La Salle.  They have given him far too little credit.”  The opinion of the men is borne out, in part, as in 1927 work begins on widening of La Salle Street north of the river.  Seven years before that, though, the Michigan Avenue bridge is completed, making Michigan Avenue the principle north-south street leading across the river.  The photo shows opening ceremonies for the new La Salle Street bridge in 1929.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

April 2, 1954 -- Michigan Avenue Property Bought by Seagram

April 2, 1954 – Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, Inc. purchases the entire block of frontage on the east side of North Michigan Avenue between Pearson and Chestnut Streets for $1 million.  It is expected that a large office building will be constructed on the site as notices have been sent to tenants in residential units on the block, notifying them to leave by May 1.  The seller is a venture owned by trusts of Henry Crown, the chairman of the board of Material service Corporation, and other members of his family.  A spokesman for Seagram’s says that the new building will be eight to ten stories with an underground parking facility.  Today a low-rise shopping center and the high-rise residential building at 111 East Chestnut occupy the site across Michigan Avenue from Water Tower Place.  111 East Chestnut is shown above, looming northwest of W. W. Boyington's Water Tower.

April 2, 1964 – Apollo Savings and Loan and the William Wrigley Jr. Company sign an agreement to build a $250,000 plaza between the Wrigley Building and 430 North Michigan Avenue, a building Apollo owns.  Construction is scheduled to start by the middle of the month.  The plaza will be called the Plaza of the Americas and will feature a flagpole for each member nation in the Organization of American States as well as Illinois and Chicago flags.  The plaza today features a sculpture of Benita Juarez, Mexico’s first president of indigenous descent, a leader who served five terms beginning in 1862.  The work was executed by sculptor Julian Martinez. 

April 2, 1943 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that a contract has been signed that will lead to the demolition of 14 buildings on the 13-acre site of the Veterans Administration hospital, and the cleared land will become part of the west side medical center.  Plans are to proceed with the construction of a 500-bed facility although an increase in government funding could double the size of the hospital.  The demolition plans include all of the houses on the site that will have been vacated up to May 15.  After that the razing of the more than 200 buildings still remaining will be covered under the contract for the construction of the hospital itself.  In 1941, two years before he was elected as an alderman of the Twenty-Fifth Ward, Illinois State Representative Vito Marzullo of Chicago convinced the governor and the legislature to pass the Medical District Act of 1941.  The first piece of property for the district was purchased that same year.  Today the district consists of 560 acres, supports four world-class medical facilities, and the whole thing is located less than two miles from the center of the city.  The red perimeter marking the boundaries of the district in the above photo gives an idea of what began with the demolition of those first 14 buildings back in 1943.

April 2, 1937 – Shiloh Tabernacle in Zion City is destroyed by fire.  The three-story wooden building which once seated 8,000 and hosted a choir of 500 is destroyed in 40 minutes.  The temple was constructed in 1900 with donations gathered under the direction of John Alexander Dowie, who claimed to be the reincarnation of the Biblical prophet, Elijah, calling himself Elijah the Restorer.  His successor, Wilbur Glenn Voliva, who, among other things preached that the earth was flat, took over the temple after Dowie’s death.  A day after the building is destroyed, 19-year-old Thomas Griffith confesses to the arson, saying that he poured kerosene on lumber stored beneath the floor of the temple and lighted it.  Griffith says that some time earlier his adoptive parents handed over money to Voliva although he could not say whether it was a donation or an investment.  When Griffith’s mother died, he claims, Voliva offered no money to help with her burial, which caused him to leave the church.  “I suppose I’ll get a long jail term,” Griffith says, “but it’s worth it; my conscience is clear.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 4, 1937]

April 2, 1900 -- Mr. L. V. Rice, the receiver in charge of the Ferris wheel that made its debut at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, asks the Circuit Court for permission to begin taking down the wheel so that its 2,200 tons of iron and steel may be sold for scrap. After the fair concluded in October, 1893 the wheel was moved north to Wrightwood and North Clark. Although 1,750,000 people rode the attraction in the six months of the 1893 fair; fewer than 500,000 climbed aboard in the ensuing five years. The Ferris wheel did, however, have one last life. It was moved to St. Louis as part of the World's Fair in that city, but only survived two more years before it was blown up in 1896. The photo above shows the great wheel somewhere close to where Dunlay's on Clark and Floyd's 99 Barbershop stand today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

April 1, Chicago Skyway Gets Approval

April 1, 1954 – Mayor Martin Kennelly approves the plans for the construction of a $50 million extension of the Indiana turnpike into Chicago, a toll road that will require a high bridge over the Calumet River and seven miles of expressway.  The toll may be as high as 25 cents for passenger cars with higher fees for trucks, based on their size.  The construction will begin under a piece of 1953 Illinois legislation that allows cities to build and operate toll bridges.  Chicago officials state that the entire seven miles of the road will be considered as an approach to the bridge, a position that will be tested in the courts.  What came to be known as the Chicago Skyway was finished in 1958 at a cost of $101 million (a little over $900,000,000 in 2020 dollars).  In 2005 the city sold the Skyway for $1.83 billion to a joint venture between an Australian and a Spanish company.  That group, the Skyway Concession Company, then assumed operation and maintenance of the route.  A decade later the Skyway was sold again to three of Canada’s largest investment funds for $2.8 billion.

April 1, 2001 – In the wake of the city council’s approval of the “Spaceship-Landing-in-a-Stadium” plan for Soldier Field the previous week, Chicago Tribune columnist Dennis Byrne lets off some steam.  “Seems that no one is happy with the conversion of Soldier Field,” Byrne writes.  “… the biggest hoo-hah comes from the city’s preservation and lakefront protection forces … but here’s the real irony.  The truth is that the city came up with this spooky design, retaining the historic columns and outer walls, to try to satisfy preservationists and adaptive reuse champions … all that this fiddling with Soldier Field has gotten the city is a lot of headaches, and perhaps one of the silliest looking structures ever to hit town … Better that the city just said, the hell with it, there’s no satisfying these folks.  We’re going to tear the whole thing down and build a stadium from scratch – one that looks, feels and functions like a Twenty-First Century stadium.  Call it Soldier Field, and honor the veterans by making it better than the old, falling down one.  Make it something worthy of a Twenty-First Century city whose glory remains the same can-do, risk-taking spirit that made it such a great Twentieth Century city.  Anyone out there with the guts?”  [Chicago Tribune, April 1, 2001]

April 1, 1969 – The Chicago Urban Renewal Board approves the sale of a six-block site for $21,202,214 in the near west side area, known as “Skid Row.”  Of the four bidders involved, the Madison-Canal Development Company, led by a team from Holiday Inns, is the successful bidder on the 16-acre site, bounded by Washington Boulevard, Clinton and Monroe Streets, and the Kennedy Expressway. If the plan works the way it is hoped, the city will recover all of its costs for acquisition and clearance of the area.  The Madison-Canal company plans to invest more than $350 million in a development scheme that will include buildings of 90 stories, 70 stories, and 24 stories.  The six-block area will be covered by a 24-foot high landscaped plaza, below which will be a shopping area and a two-level garage that will accommodate 3,000 cars.  Like many development plans, the scheme did not exactly develop as it was envisioned.. The fact that it existed in the first place illustrates a couple of points … (1) the deterioration of this section of property only blocks away from the heart of the Loop at the time; and, perhaps more importantly and probably as a result of the first point, (2) how cheaply the city was willing to give up the land just to reclaim the area near two huge train stations. The above aerial view shows what did eventually get built on the site, buildings that include the Presidential Towers complex, completed in 1986, and the 31-story 540 West Madison building.

April 1, 1963 – “Chicago suffers from a proliferation of negativism. Great cities are sparked by visions, and great visions are sparked by optimism.  Without the energy of optimism to unify its citizens, without a collective dream of what the city can become, Chicago’s greatness – its energy – will continue to slowly fade away.”  So begins an editorial that architect Bruce J. Graham writes for the Chicago Tribune on the first day of April in 1963.  It was not always so, Graham points out, using Daniel Burnham as a prime example.  “Burnham’s was an abstract plan that communicated a vision of the Beautiful City,” he writes, “one that would lift hearts and spirits … His vision was inclusive, as broad as all Chicago, and its logic persuasive.”  Graham laments that the city has strayed far from that vision.  “Physical Chicago is receding on all fronts,” Graham writes, “because Chicagoans think only in terms of lots, properties and zoning regulations.  We are focused on segments rather than on systems … Political debates do not address whether additions to our urban environment will benefit the city, but whether they will enhance the search for power.”  In perhaps his most damning statement, the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill partner states, “Our downtown is becoming irrational and thereby uglier, and our neighborhoods are a disaster … Opportunistic and misguided ideas pervade our community and have run amok simply because planning today is a defensive response to external forces.  We are afraid of physical visions.  We are afraid to climb that mountain that might show us what we should be.”  Graham ends with a final plea, “It is time that we searched for a vision, jointly.”

April 1, 1935 -- The cornerstone of the Loop Orthodox Synagogue at 16-18 North Clark Street is laid at noon, the ceremony led by the president of the congregation, Louis A. Wittenberg. The new house of worship will occupy three floors above a restaurant and will hold a two-story auditorium holding 325 worshippers. This will be the second of four homes for the congregation, the first being on the ninth floor of a building at 6 North Clark, the original home of the congregation in 1929.  The 1935 building was gutted on April 10, 1954 when the restaurant on the ground floor went up in flames as 5,000 people watched the 2-11 alarm fire. The congregation purchased that property on Clark Street in July of 1954, and construction began in March, 1955. During the building phase the sacred scrolls were moved up Clark Street in a solemn procession, and worship was held on the 21st floor of the Morrison Hotel, where today the Daley Center stands. The synagogue has undergone a fascinating transformation that mirrors the transformation of Chicago's downtown. Originally a "businessman's synagogue," with 1,000 members, drawing commuters who were already established members of their home synagogues, it today opens its doors to vacationers and out-of-town business people and provides a home congregation for all of the folks who have made downtown Chicago their home.  Its Scholar in Residence program allows Jews of all denominations to join in a weekend of Jewish learning, and there are daily mid-day Bible study classes and Saturday Torah study classes as well.