Archive Page 2

Then and Now, Roosevelt-Wabash

1972–Roosevelt Road @ Wabash Avenue, view west

2017–the same location

In 1972 service had been restored to this section of the South Side ‘L’ after a hiatus of more than twenty years.  The old Roosevelt Road ‘L’ station had been removed in the meantime.  Trolley buses were in their final months on the #12-Roosevelt line.  The neighborhood was run down and lightly-populated.

Today the South Loop has been revived.  The ‘L’ line once again has a Roosevelt Road station, now with a direct link to the subway station a half-block away.  Just to the west, the long Roosevelt viaduct has been truncated, so that it no longer passes over State Street.



Return of That Great Street (11-15-1996)

This was one of those rare days.  Our rulers admitted they’d been wrong.  State Street was re-opened to traffic.

In the 1970s the center of Chicago was dying.  The crowds had gone.  A few more years of this, and it might be too late to turn things around.  Urban experts were called in.  They said that the problem was the automobile.

Look at Europe.  The great cities there had flourished for centuries without cars!  Yes, those places were pedestrian friendly.  We in America could learn something from the greater wisdom of those more civilized cultures.

State Street Mall under construction

It seemed to make sense.  Besides, with OPEC boosting the price of oil every six months, the automobile was on the way out.  Desperate to bring people back downtown, many American cities began converting their main streets into pedestrian malls.

In 1979 Chicago joined the movement.  Mayor Jane Byrne oversaw the closing of State Street between Wacker and Congress.  The Loop’s main thoroughfare became a lovely, linear park.

Well, sort of.

The mall wasn’t continuous—it was broken every block by the east-west cross streets.  CTA busses still rumbled and belched down the middle of everything—plans to return electric streetcars were dropped as too expensive.  To top it all off, the landscaping and street furniture were sterile.

This was the State Street Mall.  It was a hundred-foot-wide hybrid of highway and plaza, which combined the worst features of each.

October 29, 1979–State Street Mall Dedication

When the project was finished, most of the public had doubts about the new State Street.  But the Powerful People backed the project.  Therefore, the mall was going to stay—we’d have to get used to it.  Though Chicago went through some pretty contentious politics in the 1980s, the State Street Mall never became an issue.

During the 1990s, a new demographic emerged.  People were coming back to the center of Chicago.  They were working, shopping, being entertained, and even settling down in apartments and condos.  The streets were coming alive again.

It was clear that making State Street a mall had nothing to do with this trend.  And with auto traffic getting heavy, closing off a major street didn’t make sense.

Early in 1996, Mayor Richard M. Daley announced that State Street would be restored to its original state (pun intended).  The work was completed on November 15, just in time for the Christmas shopping season.  The public applauded.  And the mall was now just a bad memory.


The Great Chicago Statue Quiz #2—Answers

(1) WHO is this?  Richard Oglesby (1824-1899)

(2) WHERE is this?  2630 N. Cannon Dr. (Lincoln Park)

(3) WHY does this person deserve a statue? Governor of Illinois, U.S. Senator

The Great Chicago Statue Quiz #2

(1) WHO is this?

(2) WHERE is this?

(3) WHY does this person deserve a statue?


Then and Now, Halsted-26th

1955--Halsted Street @ 26th Street, view south

1955–Halsted Street @ 26th Street, view south

2015--the same location

2017–the same location

In 1955 the streetcars had been gone from Halsted Street for two years.  Yet the overhead wires remained, for a planned conversion to trolley buses that never took place.  Why the street hadn’t yet been repaved is anybody’s guess.  Perhaps the older photo dates from early in the year, before local resident Richard J. Daley took office as mayor.

Today much of Bridgeport has seen rehabbing and new construction.  A block south and on the right, the old Stearns Quarry has been transformed into lovely Palmisano Park.



Then and Now, Grand-Armitage

1929–Grand Avenue @ Armitage Avenue, view east

2017–the same location

We are at Leclaire Avenue, 5100 west.  Here Grand Avenue swings off to the right to continue its eastward journey.  If you continued traveling straight east through the intersection, you’d now be on Armitage Avenue.  When pioneer George Merrill built a tavern here around 1850, the junction became known as Whiskey Point.

Once again, in our era, the streetcars are gone, the street paving and street lighting have been improved, and trees decorate the parkways.  Make your own call on whether a donut/ice cream shop is an improvement on a bank.



Sic Transit Gloria Hinky Dink

Michael Kenna was known as Hinky Dink because he was a little man. Yet during the first half of the Twentieth Century, he cast a giant shadow in Chicago politics—if not actually in power, then certainly in image.

Kenna was the model of the saloonkeeper politician. His bailiwick was the First Ward, which took in the Loop and stretched down to 22nd Street and the vice district known as the Levee.  Besides serving inexpensive beverage and free lunch, Kenna’s establishments also provide cheap lodging for down-and-outers who could be counted on to vote as he directed.  The most famous of his places was the Workingmen’s Exchange, at 426 South Clark Street.

Aldermen Kenna and Coughlin

In 1897 Kenna joined Bathhouse John Coughlin in the City Council as one of the First Ward’s two aldermen. The two men complemented each other—Coughlin was big and loud, while Kenna preferred to work behind the scenes.  For the next four decades they conducted a virtual master class on Urban Politics for Fun and Profit.

After Coughlin died in 1938, Kenna continued on alone. He ran for his old friend’s vacated council seat and easily won. Past eighty now, he seldom emerged from his hotel suite.  His mind wandered, though some days he was as sharp as ever.

Coughlin blew through cash as fast as he collected it, and often faster. Kenna held onto his money.  He was reckoned to be a millionaire several times over when he died on October 9, 1946.

Kenna had once been married to Catherine Devro, a devout Irish woman who shunned the spotlight. While her husband ran his saloon, she had become a temperance worker.  Mrs. Kenna had died several years earlier.  The marriage had been childless, so now Hinky Dink’s estate became a matter of contention.

“Rush To Claim Hinky Dink’s Millions Is On” read the headline in the Tribune a week after Kenna’s death.  Bank officials had estimated the late alderman’s fortune might run as high as $9 million—over $100 million in today’s money.  Already, dozens of prospective heirs were coming out of the woodwork and lawyering up.

Kenna (white trousers) at his Workingmen’s Exchange

The list was long and confusing. John Kenna, Hinky Dink’s father, had been married twice, producing a total of six children.  This fact was disputed by a man claiming to be the descendant of a third John Kenna marriage.  Thus Hinky Dink had three full siblings, and at least two—or maybe more—half-siblings.  And unlike the alderman, these Kennas had been fruitful and multiplied.  Meanwhile, relatives of Hinky Dink’s late wife were also after a share of the wealth.

When Hinky Dink’s six safe deposit boxes were finally opened, the contents were disappointing, with a mere $872,000 in cash and securities on hand. The size of the estate was revised downward to a paltry $1.3 million.  The alderman’s will, dated 1935, detailed bequests to more than 70 individuals, including relatives, politicians, and friends.  The largest single bequest was $30,000 for the construction of his mausoleum.

Months passed. Now it was 1947.  A woman came forward saying she was Hinky Dink’s love child.  Another woman claimed to be a long-lost half-sister.  An auction of the alderman’s personal effects brought in $5,129.   In August Kenna’s gross estate was officially pegged at $1,014,000.  After deducting $368,000 for taxes and various legal fees, $646,000 remained.  The 72 detailed bequests took $209,000.  That left $437,000 to be split among 17 heirs.

Two more years went by. The final accounting of the Kenna estate took place in July 1949.  An additional $66,000 was distributed to the heirs.  Of that amount, $36,000 came from an unneeded tax reserve.  The remaining $30,000 was the money set aside for the alderman’s mausoleum.

Years before, Hinky Dink’s wife Catherine had been buried in a simple grave at Calvary Cemetery. The alderman had planned to have her rest next to him in his mausoleum.  But Catherine Devro Kenna’s relatives were miffed at being cut out of her husband’s estate.  They refused permission for her to be moved, so the mausoleum was never built.


Still, Hinky Dink’s heirs did not forget him.  After splitting the $30,000 mausoleum fund, they purchased an $85 slab to mark his final resting place.  If you root around in the grass at Calvary, you might be able to find it.