The Congress Parkway bridge over the river finally re-opened a few weeks ago. If you’re like most of the thousands who drive it every day, you probably don’t realize the bridge is officially named for Clarence Wagner.
When the Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway was being built in 1953, Clarence Wagner was one of Chicago’s most powerful politicians—perhaps the most powerful. He was 14th Ward alderman, chairman of the council's Finance Committee and his ward's Democratic committeeman. Mayor Martin Kennelly was well-meaning but weak, so Wagner practically ran the city.
Chicago-born to a German father and an Irish mother in 1904, young Clarence Wagner had caught the eye of his local ward boss and moved up steadily in the organization. He was elected alderman in 1942, and—more importantly—became ward committeeman in 1947. “He was a bright and audacious lawyer with a sardonic sense of humor,” one reporter remembered. Because of his distinctive voice, friends called him “Gravels.”
In July of 1953 Cook County Democratic committeemen held a meeting to choose a new chairman.
Chicago’s first subway opened in 1943. The project was funded by the city, with help from the feds. Chicago Rapid Transit, the private company that operated the trains, was on its last legs.
Government control of mass transit came in 1947, when the new Chicago Transit Authority bought out CRT. The agency then set out to modernize the system.
Dozens of little-used stations were closed. Money-losing branch lines were abandoned. Modern "L" cars were put into service, using components from scrapped surface streetcars.
In 1951 the long-delayed Dearborn-Lake-Milwaukee subway was completed. At the time CTA also had plans for a short downtown subway under Jackson Boulevard, the first step in replacing the Loop "L." This project never got off the drawing board.
CTA did pioneer the use of expressway medians for rapid transit lines.
Chicago’s first "L"—today’s South Side Green Line—began operating between Congress and 39th Street (Pershing Road) on June 6, 1892. By the next May, service had been extended to the Columbian Exposition fairgrounds at 63rd and Stony Island.
This week Chicago celebrates the 120th birthday of our beloved "L." The first trains began running on June 6, 1892.
In 1888 a group of private investors secured a franchise for the Chicago & South Side Rapid Transit. New York was already operating elevated trains over its avenues, but the Chicago group proposed to build their line along the property paralleling alleys. They figured that would be cheaper. The project was soon nicknamed The Alley "L."
Construction began in February 1890. The initial line was to run from Congress Street to 39th Street (Pershing Road), along the alley between State and Wabash. But when Chicago won the right to host the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the franchise was revised to extend the line to the fair site in Jackson Park.
There were a few major differences in how the "L" operated in 1892. For one thing, the trains were pulled by steam locomotives. Patrons bought a ¢5 ticket from an agent in the ground-floor station, then climbed the forty feet to the platform, where the ticket was surrendered to the gatekeeper.
On this June 1st in 1960, the City of Chicago decided that the Garrick Theater Building could be torn down. Another obsolete remnant of the past was being replaced with something more modern and more functional, in this case a parking garage.
Not quite. The Garrick was an official city landmark.
Located at 64 West Randolph Street, the Garrick was a 17-story office tower with a 1,300-seat theater. Built in 1892, it had originally been known as the Schiller Building. Architecture scholars considered the complex one of the finest works of Adler & Sullivan.
By 1960 the Garrick was owned by the Balaban & Katz movie theater chain. That February the city's new commission on architectural landmarks designated the Garrick as one of 38 structures of "architectural importance." To much of the general public, who knew the Garrick as only a run-down Loop movie house, the announcement came as a revelation. So did the events that followed.
Two months after the landmark designation, Balaban & Katz cleared the office tower of tenants. In May came the news that the building would be demolished.
Englewood is a mini-Detroit. Well into the second half of the 20th century, the area centered around 63rd and Halsted was dynamic and prosperous. In more recent times, the community has struggled to overcome a host of urban problems.
The history of Englewood begins in the 1850s, with the coming of the railroads. Two lines crossed near what is now 63rd and Wentworth. A settlement called Junction Grove took root near the railroad junction. Some years later, a local real estate developer popularized the name Englewood–after his home town of Englewood, New Jersey.
Most of the early settlers here were German and Irish.