The Lindbergh Kidnapping . . . The O.J. Simpson Case . . . The Murder of Stanford White. . .
20th Century America had an abundance of crimes that were labeled The Crime of the Century.
I grew up near a landmark intersection, though I didn’t realize it at the time.
The year is 1961. Montrose Avenue, meet Austin Avenue. 4400 north, 6000 west.
Four corners. Four gas stations. What better monument to the American car culture of the mid-20th Century?
The Standard station on the northwest corner came first. Then, going clockwise around the intersection, there was Texaco, Mobil, and Pure. I’m not sure in what order these other stations were built.
(There was actually a fifth gas station a few hundred feet east of the intersection. A tiny Sinclair station stood on the southeast corner of Montrose and Mason. Grandpa Price said it had been there since the 1920s. By 1965 it was gone.)
Next to the Mobil station there was a vacant lot where we played baseball. Like most Chicagoans, we called it "the prairie." Other than that, I had no connection to the four gas stations on the four corners, and no stories to tell about them. They were simply part of the neighborhood.
During the 1970s, with gas prices rising, four stations became redundant. The Texaco was the first to go, converted into an auto clinic. The Standard became a bank branch.
The latest screen version of The Great Gatsby opened this week. That calls to mind the story of Chicago’s own Edith Cummings.
Born in 1899, Cummings grew up in Lake Forest among the social elite. She attended an exclusive boarding school and made her formal debut. Her father and brother were golfers. It seemed natural for Edith to take up the game.
Mayor William Hale Thompson celebrated his 51st birthday on May 14, 1920. He marked the occasion by dedicating the new Michigan Avenue Bridge. Now, that was something worth celebrating–and Chicago did.
Michigan Avenue had always been a South Side street. It ended at the south bank of the Chicago River. If you wanted to cross over to the North Side, you had to go a block west to Rush Street.
North of the river, there was no Magnificent Mile.
Uptown. The name seems more generic than natural. And the district the city calls Community Area #3 did start out as a series of separate communities.
During the 1850s, two rival railroads–the Milwaukee Road and the Chicago & North Western–built parallel lines north from Chicago. Where the railroads opened stations, settlement sprang up. Buena Park was about five miles north of Madison Street. Moving further north, there was Sheridan Park, then Edgewater. All three were annexed by Chicago in 1889.
In 1900 the first North Side ‘L’ line pushed through the area to a terminal at Wilson Avenue.
The City of Chicago is planning to tear down the Western Avenue overpass at Belmont-Clybourn. The junction of the three streets will once again be a normal, at-grade intersection.
Back in 1902 the Riverview amusement park opened at the northwest corner of Western and Belmont. The park drew thousands of patrons each day, most of whom arrived on streetcars—one of the lines was even named Riverview-Larrabee. Private vehicles of any type were rare.
By the 1960s more and more people were driving cars. Traffic around Riverview was congested. The modern solution to the problem was the Western Avenue overpass.
Fifty years ago, the city was in love with fly-over intersections. Similar viaducts were being built at Archer-Ashland and at Ashland-Pershing. Dozens more were in the talking stage. They were mini-expressways, an efficient way to move traffic.
The Western Avenue overpass opened in 1962. It did its job well for five years. Then Riverview closed.