Posts Tagged 'Loop'

The Hotel Sherman

The state may soon be putting the Thompson Center up for sale.  It’s an impressive looking building, but it’s supposed to be hell to work in.  The upkeep is expensive, too.  What will happen to this Helmut Jahn masterwork is anyone’s guess.  Maybe someone will repurpose it as a new Hotel Sherman.  That’s what Jahn’s building replaced on the northwest corner of Clark and Randolph Streets.

In 1844 a man named Francis Sherman bought Chicago’s pioneer City Hotel and renamed it the Sherman House.  Over the next decades, the Sherman name was kept alive in a succession of downtown hotels.  The last of them went up in 1911, with 757 rooms.  A 23-story tower was added to this structure in 1925.  Boasting over 1600 rooms, the revamped Hotel Sherman was said to be the largest American hotel outside New York City.

A year after the expansion,  the hotel hosted a peace conference—of Chicago gangsters.  The result was the Hotel Sherman Treaty of October 21, 1926, which established a Madison Street boundary line separating the North Side Moran outfit and the South Side Capone mob, as well as settling other issues of concern.  The peace lasted a little over two months.

Besides catering to gangsters, the Hotel Sherman’s location across from City Hall made it a favorite gathering spot for local politicians.  The College Inn became a well-regarded restaurant.  But eventually, occupancy declined.  The Hotel Sherman closed its doors early in 1973.  The building stood vacant for several years, until it was torn down to make way for that new State of Illinois office center in 1980.

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The Big St. Patrick’s Day Parade (3-17-1956)

Richard J. Daley became Mayor of Chicago in April 1955. The very next year, the city’s newspapers announced he was planning “a parade” for March 17—St. Patrick’s Day.

Other American cities had a history of grand St. Patrick’s Day parades. Chicago’s Irish had staged a few parades on-and-off since the 1840s, and there was a long-running event on 79th Street. But holding a major, city-wide parade for the  feast day was not a Chicago tradition.

South Side Irish Parade, 1953

South Side Irish Parade, 1953

March 17 fell on a Saturday in 1956. Led by the mayor, the City of Chicago’s first official St. Patrick’s Day parade stepped off from State and Kinzie at noon. The route went south on State to Adams, then continued west on Adams to Des Plaines Street and Old St. Patrick Church.

About 10,000 Irish and honorary-Irish marched. “There were Irish pipe-and-drum units, and floats bearing Irish colleens, Irish dancers, and Gaelic football players,” the Tribune reported. “Marchers [were] carrying blackthorn sticks and shillelaghs and wearings hats festooned with shamrocks.” They marched for over an hour.

The weather was cold, with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees and a brisk wind blowing down from the north. Yet over a quarter-million spectators lined the parade route. An untold number more watched the proceedings over WGN-TV.

Richard J. Daley's parade, 1967

Richard J. Daley’s parade, 1967

Many politicians marched down State. Some of them joined Daley on the reviewing stand near Madison Street. The newspapers listed them by name, for a good reason.

During each year’s May Day Parade in Moscow, the Russian public would scan the reviewing stand atop Lenin’s Tomb, and be able to figure out who ranked where in their government. Now Chicago began a similar exercise. On St. Patrick’s Day you’d check out who the mayor had invited to stand with him, and determine who had the most clout.

The day’s festivities concluded with a special Mass at Old St. Pat’s. Cardinal Stritch gave the homily. He predicted that Chicago would become the leading city of the world, with a population of 7 million. He urged his listeners to seek spiritual wealth as well as material wealth.

"How Green Was My River"

“How Green Was My River”

By the way, the city did not dye the river green for this first parade. That custom began in 1961.

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The Chicken Thieves (10-25-1908)

There had been a series of chicken thefts at the South Water Market, so when the night watchman heard the excited clucking coming from a basement, he flashed his light down the steps toward the noise. What he saw was two large brown bears, calmly eating chicken.

The watchman called the fire department. The firemen came, took a look down the stairs, and said they only fought fires.

South Water Market---now Wacker Drive

South Water Market, 1908—now Wacker Drive

Now police were summoned. After surveying the situation, the cops suggested that the owner of the bears should be contacted. The owner arrived, went down into the basement, and kicked the larger bear in the rump. The bear galloped up the stairs and into his cage, followed quickly by his smaller buddy.

Thus the story was reported in the next day’s Tribune, but no mention was made of what two bears were doing in the middle of a large city in the first place. Perhaps they were a common household pet in 1908.

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Then and Now, Wacker-Jackson

1937--Market Street (Wacker Drive) @ Jackson, view north

1937–Market Street (Wacker Drive) @ Jackson Boulevard, view north

2015--the same location

2016–the same location

In 1937 the first downtown street east of the Chicago River was still Market Street, a narrow thoroughfare of no particular interest.  The only tall building along Market was the Civic Opera House, visible in the distance at Madison Street.

Market Street was widened and double-decked in the early 1950s, becoming the north-south portion of Wacker Drive.  The Civic Opera House is now only one of several tall buildings along Wacker, including the onetime tallest-in-the-world, the onetime Sears Tower.

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Accessibility (5-31-1985)

There was a protest in the Loop today.  This time, the issue was how well the CTA was serving disabled riders.

Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transportation (ADAPT) had been staging protests in various cities.  In Illinois, the group had filed complaints against the CTA.  The matter was now before the state Human Rights Commission.

5-31--logo.jpg

ADAPT wanted hydraulic wheelchair lifts put on all new buses.  CTA said the $15,000-per-bus cost would break its budget.  Now ADAPT was planning to take action on the State Street Mall during the noon lunch break.

Ar 11:30 CTA officials and a dozen cops arrived at the scene.  They wanted to avoid a confrontation.  So when ADAPT protesters began arriving, CTA manager Michael Lavelle ordered bus drivers on State to skip the Madison stop.

“We’re trying to stop a disruption of service,” Lavelle told reporters.  But after ten minutes, the police asked that the buses be allowed to stop.  Lavelle agreed.

By now, 14 ADAPT members were on hand.  When the first bus opened its doors, the first disabled person lifted himself out of his wheelchair, and slowly crawled up the steps.  The process was repeated with other buses and other passengers.  For some people, boarding took as long as seven minutes.

The protest ended, and bus traffic along State resumed its normal pace.  Both sides put their own spin on the matter.

CTA’s Lavelle said ADAPT’s demonstration “accomplished nothing other than to prove they know how to disrupt traffic.”  He pointed out that CTA’s dial-a-ride service was providing 200 rides a day, and that number was going to be doubled.

ADAPT was not convinced.  “This just goes to show the extent they will go to stop us from riding,” a spokesman said.  “They’re embarrassed.  They don’t want their riders to know the truth.”

5-31--CTA map.jpg

The accessibility debate continue for the rest of the decade.  There were more protests, investigations, and court injunctions.  In 1990, when the Americans With Disabilities Act became law, many of the problems were addressed.

Three decades after the State Street demonstration, CTA boasts that all its bus routes, and the majority of its rapid transit stations, are handicap accessible.  And ADAPT is still around and active.

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Then and Now, Madison-Clark

1960--Madison Street @ Clark, view east

1960–Madison Street @ Clark Street, view east

2016--the same location

2016–the same location

In the older photo, the Morrison Hotel is visible along the south side of Madison Street.  The original 1925 building was expanded several times, until the facility had a total of 2210 rooms.  The 565-foot tall tower made the Morrison the tallest hotel in the world.

The Morrison was demolished to make way for the First National Bank Building (now the Chase Tower) in 1965.  At that time, the Morrison earned another record—the tallest building ever torn down.

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Then and Now, Congress-Clark

1956--Congress Parkway @ Clark, view east

1958–Congress Parkway @ Clark Street, view east

2015--the same location

2015–the same location

The downtown portion of Congress Street was originally a narrow little lane running the two blocks from Michigan to State.  When the Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway was constructed in the early 1950s, the right-of-way east of the river was opened up by demolishing or truncating existing buildings.  The result was Congress Parkway, a major arterial highway, utilitarian but hardly aesthetic.

Attempts to beautify Congress Parkway have been going on for sixty years.  Though we haven’t yet achieved Daniel Burnham’s vision of the street, we’ve made some progress.

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