Posts Tagged 'Near West Side'

Then and Now. Madison-Ogden

1947–Madison Street @ Ogden Avenue, view west

2017–the same location

Chicago’s first stock yards opened near the triple intersection of Madison, Ogden, and Ashland in 1848.  After the animals moved south a few years later, a commercial district grew up in the area.  The 1947 photo is dominated by the Wendell Bank Building in the triangle between the three streets.  The building was later headquarters of the Turtle Wax Corporation, and sported a giant turtle statue on its roof.

Today the Wendell Bank Building has been replaced by a mini-park, and the other buildings in the older photo are also gone.  However, the Billy Goat Tavern now has an outpost on the southeast corner of Madison and Ogden, a few blocks east of its original site.

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Then and Now, Monroe-Canal

1948--Monroe Street @ Canal, view east

1948–Monroe Street @ Canal Street, view east

2015--the same location

2016–the same location

In 1948 Monroe was still a two-way street, and streetcars still ran on it.  A viaduct carried Monroe over the open-air approach tracks to Union Station.  The neighborhood was dirty and rundown.

Six decades later, nearly everything in the earlier picture looks different—even the bridge house has been painted white.  The buildings of South Riverside Plaza now line the west bank of the river.  But at ground level, trains still run to and from Union Station.

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Then and Now, Madison-Clinton

1946--Madison Street @ Clinton, view east

1946–Madison Street @ Clinton Street, view east

2015--the same location

2015–the same location

The pillared Chicago & North Western Railway terminal dominates the older photo—when it opened in 1911, this was the second-biggest train station in the country.  Beyond it is the high-rise headquarters building of the Chicago Daily News.  Streetcars run on both Madison and Clinton, with a repair crew in the foreground, fixing the overhead wire.

In 2015 the Ogilvie Transportation Center has replaced the C&NW terminal, the Daily News headquarters is an office building, and the streetcars are gone.  But another repair crew is busy at the intersection!

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Then and Now, Fulton-Wood

1950--Fulton Street @ Wood, view east

1950–Fulton Street @ Wood Street, view east

2015--the same location

2015–the same location

Our location is two blocks west of Ashland Avenue.  In 1950 the neighborhood was in transition, with factories replacing many of the old cottages and apartments.  The ‘L’ trains had been running here since 1896 on a circuitous route from downtown to Logan Square.  The tracks from the abandoned Fulton-21st streetcar line had not yet been paved over.

CTA rerouted its trains through the new Milwaukee-Dearborn subway in 1951. Though the ‘L’ structure here was eventually torn down, the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” is still in place just to the north.  Today this stretch of Fulton is all industrial.

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Then and Now, Roosevelt-Western

1904--12th Street (Roosevelt Road) @ Western, view east

1904–12th Street (Roosevelt Road) @ Western Avenue, view east

2014--the same location

2015–the same location

Chicago’s Near West Side experienced explosive growth after the Great Fire of 1871.  By the early 20th Century it was the city’s most densely-populated area.  As the 1904 picture shows, 12th Street had become a major commercial artery.  Electric streetcars had recently replaced horsecars, running all the way out to 40th Avenue (Pulaski Road).

Today 12th Street is Roosevelt Road.  Many of the older buildings along this strip are gone, and to the east, the Illinois Medical District continues to expand.  Gentrification is underway.

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Then and Now, Throop-Congress

 

1928--Throop Street @ Congress, view north

1928–Throop Street @ Congress Parkway, view north

2014--the same location

2014–the same location

We are one block west of Racine Avenue.  In 1928 this was the location of both the power house and repair shops for the Metropolitan ‘L’ and its branches.  The four-track elevated structure—which also carried CA&E interurban trains—split into two sections here to run around those buildings.

The Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway was cut through the area in the 1950s.  Enough space was provided in the expressway median to accommodate four tracks. But by the time CTA trains began operating there in 1958, CA&E was out of business, and only two tracks were needed.  Today, the large warehouse building a block north on Throop Street has been converted to residential use.

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Death and Remembrance (4-18-1924)

The tale begins exactly 90 years ago today. And like 2014, April 18th that year was Good Friday.

At 7:30 in the evening, a passerby noticed smoke coming from Curran Hall, a four-story brick hulk at 1363 South Blue Island Avenue.  The man ran to the corner fire-alarm box and pulled the lever.

Two miles to the west, at Engine Company #107, Fireman Francis Leavy was washing a window.  The call came in and Leavy rushed out with the rest of the company.  He told the captain he’d finish the window when they got back.

Chicago firemen at work, 1924

Chicago firemen at work, 1924

Five squads converged on Curran Hall.  The blaze seemed to be minor.  The firemen were getting it under control when one of the outer walls began buckling.  Then it collapsed, trapping eight men.

The falling wall knocked out electrical power at the site.  Portable lighting was brought in, while firemen combed the wreckage for their comrades.  But all eight men had been killed.  Among the dead was Francis Leavy.

Arson was the suspected cause of the Curran Hall fire.  No one was ever convicted of the crime. Now for the rest of the story . . .

The day after the fire, one of the men at Engine Company #107 noticed the window that Leavy had left half-washed.  In the middle of the window was a handprint.  The man tried scrubbing it out.  The handprint stayed.

From that time forward, so the legend goes, every fireman assigned to Engine Company #107 attempted to remove the handprint.  They used water, soap, ammonia, acid.  They scraped it with razor blades.  Nothing worked.

The "ghostly handprint" in 1939

The “ghostly handprint” in 1939

The Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company was called in. My dad was a glazier at PPG, though years later. The way he heard it told, PPG applied their strongest chemical solvents to the handprint–and still couldn’t remove it.

Was the handprint a ghostly souvenir of the dead fireman?  It’s said that Leavy’s thumbprint was obtained from his personnel records, and compared with the print on the window.  They matched perfectly.

The end of the tale is prosaic.  A newsboy threw a paper through the window and broke it.  Most accounts say this happened some time in 1946.

But one version claims that the window was broken on April 18, 1944–twenty years to the day of Francis Leavy’s death.

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