Posts Tagged 'Kenwood'

The Alderman Helps Out (7-26-1914)

“Constituent service” was the name of the game for 3rd Ward alderman Jacob Lindheimer.  The Chicago Beach Hotel was operating a private beach for guests off 50th Street.  Neighborhood residents wanted access, but the alderman was advised that nothing could be done until the courts rendered a decision.

So Lindheimer paid a visit to the hotel’s manager, and presto!—half of the beach was thrown open to the public.  The episode was just another part of a Chicago alderman’s daily routine, one for the voters to remember when the next election rolled around.

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Chicago’s Crime of the Century (5-21-1924)

The Lindbergh Kidnapping . . . The O.J. Simpson Case . . . The Murder of Stanford White. . .

The 20th Century had an abundance of crimes that were labeled The Crime of the Century.  Chicago’s version took place on this date, 94 years ago.

Bobby Franks

Bobby Franks

Shortly after 5 in the afternoon, 13-year-old Bobby Franks left the Harvard School for Boys in the Kenwood neighborhood, and began walking the three blocks to his home.  He never got there.

The next morning Bobby’s wealthy parents received a ransom note.  But before any money could be paid, the boy’s body was discovered near Wolf Lake.

Teachers at the school were considered prime suspects.  Then police found a pair of eyeglasses near the crime scene.  The glasses were traced to 19-year-old neighbor Nathan Leopold.

Leopold said he must have lost the glasses while bird-watching.  On the night of the murder, he had been out with a friend, 18-year-old Richard Loeb.  Loeb was called in.  He supported Leopold’s story.

The police continued to question Leopold and Loeb separately.  Their alibis broke down.  They admitted they’d kidnapped Bobby Franks.  Leopold said that Loeb had done the actual killing.  Loeb claimed that Leopold had done it.

Leopold and Loeb were unlikely criminals.  They were wealthy.  They were intellectually brilliant.  But they also considered themselves superior to the common herd of humanity, above any arbitrary rules of conduct.  They had killed Bobby Franks because they wanted to commit “the perfect crime.”

Leopold and Loeb with Darrow in court

Leopold and Loeb with Darrow in court

The Leopold and Loeb families hired Clarence Darrow for the defense.  To avoid a jury trial, Darrow had his clients plead guilty.  Otherwise, he felt certain they would be hanged.

At the sentencing, Judge John Caverly heard Darrow’s arguments.  Darrow reminded the judge that Leopold and Loeb were legally minors.  They might be intellectuals, but they had diseased minds.  The murder had not been brutal.  And besides, capital punishment itself was brutal and uncivilized.

Judge Caverly

Judge Caverly

Darrow convinced the judge.  Leopold and Loeb were each sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Bobby Franks.  Added to that was a 99-year sentence for kidnapping.

The killers were sent to the state prison at Joliet.  Both of them used their time organizing a school for the other convicts.  In 1936 Richard Loeb was killed in a brawl with another inmate.

Nathan Leopold was paroled in 1958.  He moved to Puerto Rico and worked in a hospital.  He died in 1971.

The best book on the Leopold-Loeb case is For the Thrill of It (2008) by Simon Baatz.  A somewhat fictionalized movie version of the story—using different names—is the 1959 feature Compulsion, starring Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillman, and Orson Welles.

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Then and Now, Lake Park-50th

1950--Lake Park Avenue @ 50th Street, view south

1950–Lake Park Avenue @ 50th Street, view southeast

2015--the same location

2015–the same location

Lake Park Avenue runs parallel to the Illinois Central tracks.  In 1950 the section between 47th and 55th Streets was lined on both sides with commercial structures.  Most of the buildings here dated from the years just after the 1893 Columbian Exposition.  Many locals feared that the neighborhood was in decline.

Urban renewal came to the area in the late 1950s.  The old buildings along Lake Park were demolished, and the street itself was relocated 200 feet to the east, hard by the IC embankment.  Today the site of the earlier photo is the athletic field of Kenwood Academy.

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