WBEZ | Curious City http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The Chicago rabbit: The unofficial face of wildlife is right under your nose http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-rabbit-unofficial-face-wildlife-right-under-your-nose-111770 <p><p>Our question about rabbits comes from Curious Citizen Jennifer Gadda, who says when she lived in San Francisco and New York, she hardly ever saw rabbits. Not so with her time in The Second City; the little guys were all over the parks or springing between grass and gravel.</p><p>&ldquo;If I wasn&rsquo;t hearing someone complain about their garden, I was seeing them everywhere,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I wondered if they truly were &lsquo;the other pigeon&rsquo; of the city. It was like <em>The Twilight Zone</em>.&rdquo;</p><p>With this in mind, Jennifer sent us a two-parter about these urban hoppers:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>What&#39;s the deal with all the bunny rabbits that inhabit the urban areas of Chicago? Most importantly, where do they go for the long winter?</em></p><p>Well, Jennifer, looking into this question has made us realize something: There&rsquo;s a case to be made that the lowly rabbit should be considered as iconically &ldquo;Chicagoan&rdquo; as celery salt on hot dogs or pronouncing basketball as &ldquo;b-ea-sketball.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The Eastern Cottontail</span></p><p>According to our sources, it&rsquo;s likely that Jennifer&rsquo;s fine, four-legged friends are members of our region&rsquo;s dominant species, the Eastern Cottontail. It&rsquo;s difficult to estimate how many actually inhabit the city, but the The Urban Wildlife Institute at Lincoln Park Zoo has made a go of it, having set up 118 camera &ldquo;traps&rdquo; across the city to catch rabbits doing their thing. The heat-sensitive cameras take a photo every 30 seconds or whenever they&rsquo;re triggered by motion.</p><p>Mason Fidino, who spearheads the Institute&rsquo;s ongoing<a href="http://www.lpzoo.org/blog/nature-boardwalk-lincoln-park-zoo/what-do-rabbits-do-winter" target="_blank"> research</a> on the species&rsquo; behavior, estimates there are 200 or so wild rabbits on the zoo grounds alone, which translates to a density of about 30 rabbits per hectare.</p><p>&ldquo;This implies that our density of rabbits in this area is far greater than reported estimates of rabbit densities in natural areas of this region (from other people&rsquo;s work),&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Translation: Chicago&rsquo;s likely full of rabbits, or at least more rabbits per hectare (or acre) than nearby suburbs or natural areas.</p><p>One reason they&rsquo;re so common in the city is because the heart of downtown is an &ldquo;urban heat island,&rdquo; meaning the city is warmer than the &lsquo;burbs. (Wouldn&rsquo;t <em>you </em>hang out where it&rsquo;s warmer?)</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DSCF1013.JPG" style="height: 380px; width: 450px;" title="An Eastern Cottontail hides under bushes at the Lincoln Park Zoo entrance. It is uncommon for a rabbit to be out during the day. (WBEZ/Gabrielle Wright)" /></div><p>If the rabbits had to pick a neighborhood, it would definitely be Lincoln Park and the real estate around Museum Campus, where the little fugitives have had quite an effect. They eat shrubs and bark, so it&rsquo;s common to find their bucktooth prints on trees. The Chicago Park District estimates that, in 2002, more than $50,000 worth of Grant Park&rsquo;s plants and trees ended up in rabbit bellies. The Horticulture Department at Lincoln Park Zoo estimates that rabbits chowed $15,000 worth of landscaping during a recent winter season.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/untitled-510-2.jpg" style="height: 338px; width: 450px;" title="The Urban Wildlife Institute uses cameras to spot rabbits, both day and night. (WBEZ/Gabrielle Wright)" /></div><p>If you don&rsquo;t buy Findino&rsquo;s take on the rabbit population, consider another one. In his book <em>Rats</em>, Robert Sullivan equates the long-eared mammal&rsquo;s bold presence across Chicago with the commonality of rats in New York City&rsquo;s subways.</p><p>&quot;I also noticed that in addition to a rat problem, Chicago public parks appear to have a bit of a rabbit problem,&rdquo; writes Sullivan. &ldquo;Rabbits were hopping all over the place, believe it or not. It was a little scary.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">It&rsquo;s a hard life for a Chicago rabbit</span></p><p>Regarding Jennifer&#39;s follow-up question about the fate of the rabbits during winter, Fidino says the answer&rsquo;s straightforward: Most rabbits die over the winter. A Lincoln Park Zoo study estimates a winter mortality rate of about 70 percent.</p><p>The critters compensate for this dismal figure by mating like ... rabbits. One female rabbit may have up to 25 babies each year. In frigid temps, many of those babies don&rsquo;t survive. Those that do? They hide.</p><p>During the winter, many will make homes in warm places right under your nose. How you interact with your environment determines how many you&rsquo;ll see. Fidino says if you have a garden covered by a fresh layer of snow, rabbits are probably there. When asked where <em>he </em>would hide if he were a rabbit, Fidino says he&rsquo;d join the bounty of bunnies storming the Lincoln Park Zoo. He also said he would hide behind a large waste bin.</p><p>&ldquo;Rabbits are pretty creative,&rdquo; Fidino says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s actually quite funny where you might find them. In the city, they might be hiding right under something near your feet and you wouldn&rsquo;t even know it. It&rsquo;s their job to hide.&rdquo;</p><p>The Eastern Cottontail is qualified for the job, as it&rsquo;s a crepuscular species (meaning it comes out of hiding only at dawn and dusk to forage food). Hopping around during the dusty twinge of the violet hours makes it easier to avoid predators.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/untitled-498-3.jpg" style="height: 338px; width: 450px;" title="Camera 'traps' capture night-time images of rabbits in Chicago. (Photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo/Urban Wildlife Institute)" /></div><p>Still, there are more obstacles to staying alive. According to the Illinois Department of Natural History&cedil; there are about 2,000 coyotes hanging out in our<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-part-chicago-has-most-biodiversity-103725" target="_blank"> diverse urban jungle</a>, along with other predators. Cottontails are toward the bottom of the food chain, making the struggle to find food harder. What&rsquo;s more, they are susceptible to Tularemia, or &ldquo;rabbit fever,&rdquo; an infectious disease that spreads quickly, just as bubonic plague can. The disease wiped out between <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-03-20/news/ct-met-kass-0320-20130320_1_rabbit-dark-shadows-coyotes" target="_blank">40 to 60 percent of the city&#39;s rabbit population in 2013</a>. In 1930, plans to relocate rabbits from the city to a local forest preserve were halted due to the disease.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Chicago&rsquo;s <em>other </em>bunnies</span></p><p>If you spot the brown creatures during daylight, there&rsquo;s a chance they could be in in danger. Red Door Shelter, an animal rescue center on the city&rsquo;s North Side, has created an up-and-at-&lsquo;em community that snaps pictures of the furballs as they huddle near car tires or under porches. Members post pics to the shelter&rsquo;s Facebook Page and assign search parties to follow up on &ldquo;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/reddoorshelter/photos/a.180540025330317.50697.180526168665036/888798757837770/?type=1" target="_blank">bunny action alerts</a>&rdquo; when necessary.</p><p>&ldquo;They happen quite often,&rdquo; says Toni Greetis, Vice President of the Red Door Shelter. &ldquo;If a bunny is on the loose we get together and go look for them.&rdquo;</p><p>Search parties determine whether the rabbit in question is wild or a domesticated breed. Greetis says there&rsquo;s a peculiar rise in the amount of rabbits that are let loose in the winter. The group&rsquo;s rescued 54 since Easter of 2014.</p><p>&ldquo;Domestic rabbits often get mistaken for the wild Eastern Cottontails but don&rsquo;t have the genetic makeup to survive the winter,&rdquo; Greetis says. &ldquo;They will die if left out in the cold.&rdquo;</p><p>Following rescue, the shelter will search for the bunny&rsquo;s owners or put it up for adoption.</p><p>If you find some wild rabbits hopping along the side of building or nestled under your deck, they&rsquo;re probably okay. Dawn Keller is the Executive Director and wildlife ecologist at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, the city&rsquo;s only wildlife hospital. She<a href="http://www.flintcreekwildlife.org/found_an_animal/bunnies/" target="_blank"> advises you to leave wild rabbits alone</a> if you find one.</p><p>&ldquo;Believe me, even if you don&rsquo;t see them, they&rsquo;re here&rdquo; Keller says. &ldquo;This is their city too.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Jennifer Gadda, Curious Citizen</span></p><p>Jennifer is no stranger to wildlife, having grown up in a semi-rural section of Boise, Idaho. She&rsquo;s lived in bustling cities across the country, as well Oxford, England. She says she&rsquo;s never seen so many urban rabbits as she has in Chicago&rsquo;s Ravenswood neighborhood.</p><p>In Fall of 2003, the theater professional (she manages production at Court Theater) landed in Chicago. She says she immediately took in two &ldquo;Candy Land-like surprises&rdquo;: a superb chocolatey smell wafting in the air and ... rabbits. Everywhere.</p><p>&ldquo;Isn&#39;t it unusual to have wildlife in the middle of a city?&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;Or are rabbits really just cuter versions of rats and pigeons?&rdquo;</p><p>Jennifer&#39;s lived here for 10 years, long enough to have lived through 2013-2014&rsquo;s &ldquo;Snowmageddon&rdquo; season. Like many Chicagoans, she worried about people who didn&rsquo;t have adequate cold-weather shelter, but the fate of the rabbits sprang to mind, too.</p><p>Knowing most of them actually do die off, she says the rabbits&rsquo; reproductive rate makes perfect sense.</p><p>&ldquo;I guess this is how nature keeps things in balance,&rdquo; Jennifer says.</p><p>But ... she&rsquo;s still curious to know if they are just cuter versions of rats.</p><p><em>Gabrielle Wright is an intern for Curious City. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/@GabiAWright" target="_blank">@GabiAWright</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 19:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-rabbit-unofficial-face-wildlife-right-under-your-nose-111770 Good school, bad school: How should we measure? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/good-school-bad-school-how-should-we-measure-111736 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/good schools thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Recently, a listener submitted a question that WBEZ&rsquo;s education reporters hear pretty often.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s a version that Julie from North Center sent Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>There is reporting about how Chicago Public Schools are slowly getting better. Was there ever a time when they were <strong>good</strong>?</em></p><p>The short answer is: <em>It depends</em>.</p><p>Not only do families have different values and ideas of &ldquo;good&rdquo; or &ldquo;successful,&rdquo; but society as a whole has placed value on different things over time. At one point, vocational education was essential to train the next generation of residents, workers, and citizens. Today, value&rsquo;s placed in college placement and readiness.</p><p>This post is just step one in answering Julie&rsquo;s question. We&rsquo;re going to lay out several ways that &ldquo;good&rdquo; has been defined and ask you to do a little homework. Take a look at what we&rsquo;ve compiled below and let us know on <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezcuriouscity" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/curiouscityproject?ref=hl" target="_blank">Facebook</a>, or in the comment section which of these, if any, we should use to answer Julie&rsquo;s question. What do you think matters the most for determining a school&rsquo;s success?</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Standardized tests scores</span></p><p>The most popular tool for measuring a school is to measure how its students perform academically, specifically how they perform on standardized tests.</p><p>Illinois students <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-ends-standoff-agrees-give-new-state-test-111644" target="_blank">started taking a new test called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness in College and Careers, or PARCC</a>. Some high school students take the PARCC and many also take the <a href="http://www.actstudent.org/" target="_blank">ACT</a>. Up until last year, all juniors in Illinois took the ACT.</p><p>Those tests have changed dramatically over time and the scores needed to be considered good or bad are moving targets. <a href="https://ccsr.uchicago.edu/" target="_blank">The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research</a> analyzed Chicago Public Schools performance from 1988 to 2009, running sophisticated statistical analysis on the standardized tests used throughout that time.</p><p>&ldquo;The publicly reported statistics used to hold schools and districts accountable for making academic progress are not accurate measures of progress,&rdquo; <a href="http://ccsr.uchicago.edu/downloads/3030threeerasfullreportwithsearleacknowledgment.pdf" target="_blank">the report concluded</a>. &ldquo;The indicators have changed frequently &mdash; due to policies at the local, state, and federal levels; changes made by test makers; and changes in the types and numbers of students included in the statistics.&rdquo;</p><p>The report looked at Chicago Public Schools reading and math performance across two separate tests, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, or ITBS, and the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, or ISAT. It found math performance inched up, while reading performance stayed nearly the same for almost two decades.</p><p>The average ACT score of a high school is often used in conjunction with graduation rates to determine if it is a &ldquo;good&rdquo; school or not. The average ACT score in CPS has remained relatively flat over the past decade and a WBEZ analysis showed many of the best high schools in the city are <a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/the-big-sort.html" target="_blank">enrolling freshman who already perform well</a> on standardized tests.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Academics</span></p><p>Standardized test scores can reflect the performance of a school, but academic reputation is usually defined by a combination of things.</p><p>Anne Kremer, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admission at DePaul University, said colleges first look at a student&rsquo;s transcript.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re looking at the rigor of your curriculum, that you are taking not just the bare minimum,&rdquo; Kremer said, though she added that colleges evaluate students based on what&rsquo;s available at their school. For example, if Advance Placement classes aren&rsquo;t offered, that won&rsquo;t be held against an applicant.</p><p>There are a host of schools in Chicago that tout rigorous college prep curriculums, including selective enrollment schools that require test scores for admission. Many charter schools, like those in the <a href="http://noblenetwork.org/" target="_blank">Noble Street Network</a>, offer AP classes and tout a long list of alumni at prestigious public universities, and even some Ivy league schools. Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to expand rigorous <a href="http://www.ibo.org/" target="_blank">International Baccalaureate</a> programs within CPS high schools, as well.</p><p>Beyond what schools advertise about curriculum and notable alumni, there&rsquo;s word of mouth reputation, as well as the following data:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p>Curriculum</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Attendance rates</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Graduation rates</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Academic awards, such as the &ldquo;Blue Ribbon School&rdquo; award, <a href="http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools" target="_blank">U.S. News &amp; World Report </a>rankings, etc.</p></li></ul><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Safety </span></p><p>When Chicago Public Schools decided to shut down 50 schools in 2013, it became clear that some parents don&rsquo;t choose schools based only on academics; they often choose a school based on how safe it is &mdash; or appears to be.</p><p>Illinois and Chicago school officials started collecting data on safety in recent years, in order to identify schools where violence is an issue and figure out how to shield schools from it. There are two ways to talk about the safety: what happens <em>inside</em> the school and what happens <em>outside</em> the school. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Inside, schools can struggle with fighting, poor classroom management, and bad behavior. As an outsider, the best way to figure out how unruly a school might be on the inside would be by looking at the following data points:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p>Total number of infractions</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Level or severity of those infractions</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Suspensions and expulsions</p></li></ul><p>What happens outside a school is another matter. Even the best, most orderly school can struggle to be considered &ldquo;good&rdquo; because of the neighborhood it sits in. Data points we could look at to determine the safety of the school&rsquo;s surroundings:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p>Neighborhood crimes</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Vacant lots and buildings</p></li></ul><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Proximity</span></p><p>In the same way parents don&rsquo;t want to send their children to unsafe schools, many don&rsquo;t want to travel long distances to send their children to school. In Chicago, many do in order to attend magnet schools, charter schools and, frankly, other neighborhood schools that are safer than their own. But many parents say they want a good school within walking distance of their home.</p><p>CPS has a <a href="http://www.cps.edu/Schools/Find_a_school/Pages/findaschool.aspx" target="_blank">school-finder which allows searches by ZIP code or address</a>.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">&lsquo;Soft-skills&rsquo;</span></p><p>Ask anyone what they remember most about high school and they probably won&rsquo;t say the standardized tests or fights in the hall. Most of what people remember about their school-aged years is the overall experience &mdash; playing sports, performing in music and drama clubs, or participating in student government. So one way to define &ldquo;good&rdquo; relates to the reputation the school has in areas unrelated to academics.</p><p>Recent research out of the University of Chicago shows &ldquo;soft skills&rdquo; are the key to long-term success in life. Tim Kautz, a researcher at the Center for the Economics of Human Development, <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/M/bo17116615.html">recently wrote a book about non-cognitive skills </a>in high school graduates.</p><p>&ldquo;Cognitive skills, that is what&rsquo;s measured by test scores, becomes relatively fixed by age 10,&rdquo; Kautz said. &ldquo;So, that sort of completely changes what a good education system should do.&rdquo;</p><p>The state&rsquo;s best schools don&rsquo;t just focus on academics; they also provide robust extracurricular experiences. Whitney Young, while known for its academics, is a basketball powerhouse in Chicago&rsquo;s Public League, and the school&rsquo;s chess team won the state championship. Another school, Simeon High School, also draws students because of its basketball program, despite low scores on standardized tests.</p><p><a href="http://www.chiarts.org/">ChiArts</a>, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAkQuis2STg">modeled after the high school in the musical Fame</a>, attracts students interested in pursuing careers in fine arts such as drama, music, and dance. Comprehensive suburban high schools in Evanston and Oak Park River Forest draw families who want their children in diverse schools.</p><p>Kautz said most of that is not measured by districts and states in part because it&rsquo;s really hard to capture.</p><p>&ldquo;What you learned on the soccer team probably isn&rsquo;t going to help you all that much with your ACT scores, but may actually help you with your job or getting through college,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>It may be hard to gather empirical data to correlate the amount of time spent in soccer with success in careers, but there are ways to gauge whether students have opportunities to develop &ldquo;soft-skills&rdquo;. They are:</p><ul><li><p>Racial and ethnic diversity in enrollment data</p></li><li><p>Non-core classes, sports, and clubs offered</p></li><li><p>Budgets and grants for extra-curricular programs</p></li><li><p>Attendance</p></li><li><p>Class size</p></li></ul><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Beyond School</span></p><p>One common phrase used by everyone from President Obama to your child&rsquo;s teacher in recent years is &ldquo;College and Career Readiness.&rdquo;</p><p>No one argues with it, but hard to nail down exactly what someone means when they use the phrase.</p><p>Our question asker, Julie, touched on this issue when we first asked for her to explain what &ldquo;good&rdquo; meant.</p><p>&ldquo;I know an older gentleman who moved to Chicago as a teenager to escape WWII in the 1940s,&rdquo; she wrote. &ldquo;He arrived here knowing no English. He graduated from a North Side public school, got a job at a department store, and went on to have a successful career as an entrepreneur.&rdquo;</p><p>Julie pointed to Senn High School in Rogers Park as a school that&rsquo;s trying hard to change its reputation.</p><p>&ldquo;Just a few years ago, it was one of those schools that one would say &lsquo;No way is my child going to go there.&rsquo;&rdquo; She went on: &ldquo;Was Senn once a &lsquo;good&rsquo; school decades ago? Did it do its job of helping a mostly immigrant population to learn English and a few vocational skills to assimilate into American culture? Were expectations lower?&rdquo;</p><p>The latest push of education reform, in part, comes because the American economy is dramatically different than it was decades ago: factory jobs are gone; technology and information jobs are abundant; and policymakers worry our school system doesn&rsquo;t align with the skills needed to get a job in today&rsquo;s world.</p><p>There&rsquo;s not as much data to measure success in this and the data one would need would require patience. Tying a student&rsquo;s success in life to a school and the education it offers requires tracking beyond graduation, something some public schools have just started collecting on a systematic basis.</p><p>There are two measurements that Chicago uses to measure success in college. They are:</p><ul><li><p>College enrollment</p></li><li><p>College persistence</p></li></ul><p>There are no official measurements for tracking career success district wide. But many schools with vocational programs can typically say how many students earn a certification in the trades available at their school. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 16:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/good-school-bad-school-how-should-we-measure-111736 What happens to 'Number 2' in the Second City http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-happens-number-2-second-city-111723 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/POOP THUMB.jpg" alt="" /><p></p> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 17:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-happens-number-2-second-city-111723 Chicago's forgotten Civil War prison camp http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-forgotten-civil-war-prison-camp-111688 <p><p>When Chris Rowland&rsquo;s co-worker told him that Chicago was once home to a Civil War prison camp, he almost didn&rsquo;t believe it. But a bit of Googling led Chris to a name, Camp Douglas, and a location, Chicago&rsquo;s Bronzeville neighborhood. It also led him to the camp&rsquo;s gloomy history, one that included dismal living conditions and a death toll that numbered in the thousands. Beyond that, though, Chris, a 36-year-old sales engineer at a South Side manufacturing company, found hardly any information about the camp. So he came to Curious City for help:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why was there a prison camp in Chicago during the Civil War and why did so many people die there? What happened to it?</em></p><p>Camp Douglas was one of the largest POW camps for the Union Army, located in the heart of Bronzeville. More than 40,000 troops passed through the camp during its nearly four years in operation. What&rsquo;s more &mdash; and this is where it gets gloomier &mdash; it&rsquo;s been hyperbolically remembered by some historians as the &ldquo;deadliest prison in American history&rdquo; and &ldquo;eighty acres of hell.&rdquo; So the fact that Chris, despite his earnest attempt, didn&rsquo;t find much on Camp Douglas interested Curious City, too. How could one of the deadliest Civil War prison camps virtually disappear from our collective memory? Answering this part of Chris&rsquo;s question had us consider how a city acknowledges the darker parts of its past and the benefits, if any, of remembering them at all.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Why Chicago? </span></p><p>Located on the South Side of Chicago around 31st Street between Cottage Grove Avenue and present-day Martin Luther King Drive, Camp Douglas occupied roughly four square blocks &mdash; about 80 acres total &mdash; and operated from 1861 to 1865. Back then the area was the country, outside the city limits. Today, it&rsquo;s Bronzeville.</p><p>When it opened in 1861, Camp Douglas was a training and enlistment center for Union soldiers, a pit stop or starting point for soldiers headed to the battlefield. In other words, it had been improvised, and wasn&rsquo;t meant to hold prisoners or last more than a couple years. After all, no one thought the Civil War would go on as long as it did.</p><p>But then, in February 1862, Ulysses S. Grant captured roughly 5,000 Confederate soldiers in a victory at the Battle of Fort Donelson at the Tennessee-Kentucky border. With nowhere else for the captured troops to go, Camp Douglas became a Union Army prisoner-of-war camp, and it stayed one for the duration of the war.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">As it turns out, Chicago&rsquo;s role as a transportation hub made it an ideal location first for a training camp and, later, for a prison. Eight railroads crisscrossed the region in a spaghetti soup of tracks that allowed goods to move to and fro. Young men could travel from various parts of the state to enlist. From there, the Union Army would assemble regiments and brigades and ship soldiers by rail to the front lines.</div><p>What&rsquo;s more, the camp&rsquo;s location was directly off the Illinois Central Railroad. At the time, this was the longest railroad in the world, running from Cairo, Illinois, along the Ohio River, to Chicago. History buffs may recall that at the beginning of the war Cairo was General Grant&rsquo;s staging location for Union attacks on the Confederacy. Once he captured Confederate troops, they were only a steamboat and train ride away from Camp Douglas.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v4/curiouscity.l4pfhnm5/page.html?access_token=pk.eyJ1IjoiY3VyaW91c2NpdHkiLCJhIjoibGM3MUJZdyJ9.8oAw072QHl4POJ3fRQAItQ#13/41.8593/-87.6501" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/camp douglas map still.PNG" style="height: 291px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Camp Douglas sat on about 80 acres of land around what is now 31st Street between Cottage Grove Ave. and Martin Luther King Drive. Click for larger map." /></a>&ldquo;Camp Douglas was Chicago&rsquo;s principal connection to the Civil War,&rdquo; says Theodore Karamanski, a history professor at Loyola University in Chicago and the author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Civil-War-Chicago-Eyewitness-History/dp/0821420844" target="_blank"><em>Civil War Chicago: Eyewitness to History</em></a>.</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size: 24px;">&lsquo;Eighty acres of hell&rsquo;</span></p><p>Camp Douglas&rsquo; makeshift nature showed in its rickety wooden barracks and crude sewer system. Soon, though, the camp was taking on more and more prisoners and keeping them for longer and longer. But because neither side intended on taking large numbers of prisoners for extended periods of time, Camp Douglas &mdash; as well as most other Civil War prison camps &mdash; proved unprepared to handle them.</p><p>&ldquo;That is when all the prison camps got a lot nastier,&rdquo; Karamanski says.</p><p>The camp was meant for no more than 6,000 prisoners, and as its ranks grew to roughly 12,000 at its peak it became more dangerous than any battlefield. Overcrowding and poor sanitation spread diseases such as dysentery, smallpox, typhoid fever and tuberculosis. Illness became the camp&rsquo;s leading cause of death, claiming roughly 4,500 Confederate soldiers, or 17 percent of the total number of men imprisoned at the camp during its nearly four years in operation, according to Karamanski&rsquo;s estimate. In his book, Karamanski cites an 1862 report by the U.S. Sanitary Commission, wherein an agent admonished Camp Douglas for its &ldquo;foul stinks,&rdquo; &ldquo;unventilated and crowded barracks,&rdquo; and &ldquo;soil reeking of with miasmic accretions&rdquo; as &ldquo;enough to drive a sanitarian to despair.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ihNZ1PKt3yGIsJVdIok4GmOU27ZyCU_-xa6bQ5Tgvc4/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=5000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Karamanski estimates that during the Civil War only one in three soldiers died on the battlefield. The rest died in prison camps or camps of their own army.</p><p>&ldquo;Disease was rampant in Camp Douglas and it was rampant in the Civil War. More people in the Civil War died of diseases than from bullets,&rdquo; says David Keller, the managing director of the <a href="http://www.campdouglas.org/" target="_blank">Camp Douglas Restoration Foundation</a> and the author of a forthcoming book about the history of the camp.</p><p>Still, Karamanski is quick to refute the claim that Camp Douglas was &ldquo;the deadliest prison camp in America,&rdquo; as some historians claim. &ldquo;Civil War prison camps were terrible,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;All of them were terrible.&rdquo;</p><p>While Camp Douglas may have claimed more Confederate lives than any other <em>Union</em> prison camp, it pales in comparison to Andersonville, a Confederate prison in Georgia that offered neither barracks nor fresh water to its Union prisoners. In all, 13,000 men, or 28 percent of the total prison population, perished there, Karamanski says.</p><p>Given these details, it&rsquo;s probably no surprise that escapes occurred regularly at the camp. Many escape attempts were made by digging tunnels into the soft, swampy ground, but most came from bribing the guards. It is estimated that roughly 500 prisoners escaped from Camp Douglas one way or another.</p><p>Again, security was lax because the camp had never been intended to hold prisoners. &ldquo;They barely had any kind of wall up,&rdquo; Karamanski says. &ldquo;Some of the prisoners would just wander off and say &lsquo;Hey, let&rsquo;s go get a drink.&rsquo;&rdquo; Drunk and emaciated soldiers (still wearing their Confederate garb), would be picked up by local police and hauled, stumbling, back to the camp. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Camp Douglas as local spectacle</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/women%20visiting.jpg" style="height: 459px; width: 620px;" title="When Camp Douglas was first opened, Chicagoans had free access to the site. Above, visitors with picnic baskets arrive at the camp. (Photo courtesy Chicago History Museum) " /></p><p>Recall that Chris, our question-asker, could find little about the camp &mdash; as though the place had become a secret. Secrecy was certainly not the case during the war, though. In the camp&rsquo;s early days, Chicago residents were allowed free access to the camp. &ldquo;People were excited that here was the enemy, tamed, incarcerated and for your viewing,&rdquo; Karamanski says. Sometimes, though, visitors &mdash; likely Confederate sympathizers &mdash; would end up walking out with a prisoner.</p><p>Soon, though, the camp tightened up security and stopped admitting visitors.</p><p>At that point, a local businessman got an idea. Utilizing a hotel across the street from the camp, he built a viewing platform where he charged customers 10 cents a pop to climb a stairway up to a wooden platform to catch a glimpse of the rebels. &ldquo;It was a real treat for a lot of kids to see those Confederates,&rdquo; Karamanski says.<a name="tower"></a></p><p><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="421" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/cdmap.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em>Above: An 1864 illustration of Camp Douglas as seen from a Union observation tower, contrasted with a Google Earth view of the area today. The center bar can slide left or ride to hide or reveal either side.</em></p><p>When the Civil War concluded in the spring of 1865, Camp Douglas&rsquo; prisoners were given a set of clothes and a one-way train ticket out of the city. The camp itself was razed, rather quickly, by scavengers as well as the government, selling off the equipment as surplus. &nbsp;</p><p>When summer rolled around, though, &nbsp;the camp parade ground gave way to a new sport that returning union soldiers had learned during wartime: baseball. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Soldiers came back from the war and they&rsquo;d lost a lot of their youth,&rdquo; Karamanski says. &ldquo;Some of the first baseball games by Chicago&rsquo;s elite teams were played at Camp Douglas. ... It helped erase some of the memories of the war.&rdquo;</p><p>But Karamanski suspects baseball may have helped erase part of a larger memory, too: public memory, or in this case, the way a city tells the story of itself.</p><p>For the most part, the history of that memory nearly had Camp Douglas written out.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Remembering the forgotten</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/oak%20woods%20plot%20for%20web.jpg" style="height: 409px; width: 620px;" title="A monument in Oak Woods Cemetery at 67th Street and Cottage Grove marks the largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere, or where roughly 4,000 Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Douglas are buried. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></div><p>When we first meet Chris, our Curious Citizen, it&rsquo;s a bitterly cold day in late January and we stand on what Keller and others claim is the largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere:<a href="http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/national_cemeteries/Illinois/Confederate_Mound_Oak_Woods_Cemetery.html" target="_blank"> a mound of roughly 4,000 Confederate soldiers</a> who died at Camp Douglas, now buried at Oak Woods Cemetery at 67th Street and Cottage Grove. (The soldiers had originally been buried in City Cemetery, now Lincoln Park. But soon after the war, the city thought better of placing the dead so close to Lake Michigan &mdash; Chicago&rsquo;s principal source of drinking water. That cemetery was closed and the Confederate soldiers were moved to Oak Woods, the only cemetery that would accept them.)</p><p>Staring up at the forty-foot-tall bronze and granite memorial where a despondent-looking Confederate soldier stands atop a granite column, bowing his head in remembrance, Chris asks: &nbsp;&ldquo;So why do you think it was forgotten about? Why was it swept under the rug?&rdquo;</p><p>First off, <a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/chicagofire/" target="_blank">the Great Chicago Fire </a>came just six years after Camp Douglas closed, sapping resources and shifting the city&rsquo;s priority away from the South Side. Then came the Great Migration, where hundreds of thousands of African Americans migrated North on the same railroad that once transported soldiers from Camp Douglas to the front lines of the Civil War. When they arrived in Chicago, African Americans began settling in Bronzeville. It&rsquo;s safe to say probably the last thing on their mind was exploring their neighborhood&rsquo;s lost history, centering on those who had previously fought to keep them enslaved. Then came the post World War II housing shortage and the urban renewal of the 1960s. &ldquo;There was a lot of reason to forget about it,&rdquo; Keller says of the camp.</p><p>But at the center of this question of why Camp Douglas was forgotten is the obvious tension of an African-American neighborhood and a city rooted in Union ideals taking steps to remember thousands of dead soldiers who fought on the side to uphold slavery.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think you can&rsquo;t ever discount the impact of race on Chicago memory,&rdquo; Karamanski says. &ldquo;So when dealing with the memory of oppression and racism &nbsp;&mdash; &nbsp;which is what the Civil War represents &nbsp;&mdash; &nbsp;it&rsquo;s never going to be something that&rsquo;s broadly consensual because it&rsquo;s a <em>felt </em>history.&rdquo;</p><p>And that strife over how to remember what happened at Camp Douglas didn&rsquo;t come about over time. There was deep-rooted animosity toward the Confederate cause from the moment the war ended.</p><p>In 1895, the night before President Grover Cleveland and his entire cabinet presided over the dedication of the memorial in Oak Woods, the monument was defaced by vandals. Later, a private citizen erected a more permanent protest, which still stands; just yards away from the memorial to the dead rebel soldiers a large granite marker honors those Southerners who resisted secession as &ldquo;martyrs of human freedom.&rdquo;</p><p>The issue reared itself again in 1992, when The Commission on Chicago Landmarks proposed to make the Oak Woods mound a historic landmark, drawing the ire of black alderman. &ldquo;Here is a group of people who looked upon my people as animals, as subhuman,&rdquo; then-Alderman Allen Streeter <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-10-02/news/9203300191_1_landmark-status-civil-war-monument" target="_blank">told the <em>Chicago Tribune</em></a>. &ldquo;I&rsquo;d rather forget about the whole thing,&rdquo; he added.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sign%20and%20funeral%20home.jpg" title="The first official acknowledgment of Camp Douglas was erected in the fall of 2014 outside of Ernie Griffin's former funeral home at 32nd Street and Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></div><p>That&rsquo;s the same year that Ernie Griffin got involved. He ran the Griffin Funeral home at 32nd Street and Martin Luther King Drive &mdash; right smack on the former camp&rsquo;s site. The African-American funeral operator learned his grandfather had enlisted in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry at Camp Douglas. Griffin decided, much to the neighborhood&rsquo;s chagrin, to erect a memorial to honor the dead rebels. It included a Confederate battle flag flown at half-mast. &ldquo;This was like an incitement to many African Americans,&rdquo; Karamanski says. After the flag kept getting torn down, Griffin took out an ad in the <em>Chicago Defender</em>, the city&rsquo;s African-American newspaper. In his book, Karamanski quotes Griffin, saying, &ldquo;The flag is not a symbol of hate. It is a symbol of respect for a dead human being.&rdquo; Griffin has since died, and the memorial was taken down when the funeral home closed in 2007.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Remembering the cost of victory</span></p><p>According to Karamanski, one of the most important things to keep in mind while trying to preserve history is the way we tell stories about the past ... as well as who tells them.</p><p>&ldquo;If we try to memorialize Camp Douglas in such a way that we don&rsquo;t share the story, share the authority in creating the site with the people in the community, then you&rsquo;re asking for trouble,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>It&rsquo;s a lesson being considered by Bernard Turner and David Keller, directors of the <a href="http://www.campdouglas.org/" target="_blank">Camp Douglas Restoration Foundation</a>, which plans to build a museum somewhere on the site of the former camp. Keller says they are &ldquo;very, very close&rdquo; to being able to announce a location.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s important to know what&rsquo;s in your neighborhood,&rdquo; says Turner.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s building community pride,&rdquo; adds Ke<span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">ller.</span></p><p>After the rocky attempts to memorialize Camp Douglas and the soldiers who died there, seeking to remember Camp Douglas has been going more smoothly lately. &nbsp;In 2014 the foundation helped persuade the Illinois Historical Society to erect the first official acknowledgement of the camp: a small plaque at 32nd Street and Martin Luther King Drive informing residents and passersby that they are in fact walking upon significant history. The foundation&rsquo;s also included the local public school, Pershing East, in its various projects, which include two archeological digs of the site. And it has discussed its efforts with the <a href="http://www.dusablemuseum.org/" target="_blank">DuSable Museum of African American History</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SHERRY%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Sherry Williams, president of the Bronzeville Historical Society, says it's important to remember Camp Douglas as not only a prison camp, but also a place where black union soldiers and confederate prisoners intersected. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></div><p>For Sherry Williams, president of the Bronzeville Historical Society, there&rsquo;s potential in telling stories about Camp Douglas that move beyond its brutal legacy.</p><p>&ldquo;We look at the Camp Douglas story as being told just about the miserable conditions that were faced by these prisoners of war, but there are wider stories to need to be expounded on,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not one narrative, it&rsquo;s multiple narratives.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>One such narrative hits close to Williams. After looking into the camp&rsquo;s death records, she discovered that a soldier named S.G. Cooper died at the camp. He was a Southerner whose family owned her direct ancestor, Nero Cooper, a former slave who enlisted in the Union&rsquo;s African-American infantry. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a tie between Confederate soldiers and the Union black soldiers,&rdquo; Williams says. &ldquo;Here&rsquo;s the intersection of the fight for freedom.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, Karamanski says, it&rsquo;s okay if the way we remember Camp Douglas is kind of dark.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s true that Camp Douglas is a dark shadow on Chicago&rsquo;s history. But it also reminds us what the Civil War was about,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You didn&rsquo;t go ahead and end slavery without a fight. But we&rsquo;re honest only if we really understand the cost that victory &nbsp;&mdash; &nbsp;of saving the union and ending slavery.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker_1.jpg" style="height: 213px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="Curious Citizen Chris Rowland, right, at Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Chris Rowland, Curious Citizen</span></p><p>Chris Rowland is a 36-year-old sales engineer at a South Side manufacturing company. He lives in Uptown and was reading <em><a href="http://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/utc/" target="_blank">Uncle Tom&rsquo;s Cabin</a></em> when he got to thinking about the Civil War and what connection Chicago might have to it.</p><p>The topic then presented itself at work. &ldquo;One of the guys mentioned that there was actually a prison camp in the actual city in Chicago,&rdquo; he says. Except, &ldquo;nobody could remember what the actual name of it was.&rdquo;</p><p>He says one of the guys thought the name might have been Camp Burnham. Another guy thought the camp &nbsp;was called the Andersonville Prison, confusing the name of Chicago&rsquo;s North Side neighborhood with the famous civil war prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia.</p><p>But when Rowland searched a bit more on Google, he learned about the camp&rsquo;s real name, but not much else. When he submitted us this question about a year and a half ago, he says he was surprised at how difficult it was to find any information about Camp Douglas.</p><p>And though he&rsquo;s not a Chicago-native &mdash; or a history buff, he says &mdash; learning more about Camp Douglas, Chicago and the Civil War has put a bit of his own life into perspective.</p><p>&ldquo;I grew up in Oklahoma,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We weren&rsquo;t even a state yet.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Meribah Knight is a freelance journalist in Chicago and reports for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow her at <a href="http://www.meribahknight.com/" target="_blank">meribahknight.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/meribah" target="_blank">@meribah</a>.</em></p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the location of where Mr. Nero Cooper had enlisted in the Union Army. According to Sherry Williams, he enlisted in the Union Army in Tennessee.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 11 Mar 2015 17:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-forgotten-civil-war-prison-camp-111688 Building skyscrapers on Chicago's swampy soil http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/building-skyscrapers-chicagos-swampy-soil-111658 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This was piece was produced in collaboration with the <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation,</a> which provided research, expertise and other assistance during its development.</em></p><p>From his office tower in downtown Chicago, Mike Vendel has no reason to doubt the structural stability of the buildings where he and hundreds of thousands of others spend their workdays. Looking back on the Loop from the shores of Lake Michigan, though, it&rsquo;s a different story.</p><p>&ldquo;Outside enjoying the lakefront, beaches, parks,&rdquo; says Vendel, &ldquo;you see the sand and you see these huge skyscrapers in the skyline and you think: How do they stay stable in that structure?&rdquo;</p><p>He asked Curious City how it all came to be:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What special techniques or extra work is required to construct massive buildings on swampland around Chicago?</em></p><p>He&rsquo;s right to wonder. Steadying skyscrapers in Chicago (and, come to think of it, many cities around the world) is still a staggering feat of structural engineering. If architects and engineers don&rsquo;t do it right, the results could be catastrophic: They could end up with a lopsided building or, worse, a fatal collapse.</p><p>As we found out, in the past 150 plus years, architects have struggled to tame Chicago&rsquo;s swampy soil, with varying degrees of success. In fact, the city&#39;s very identity as a hotbed for architecture and geotechnical engineering might be a product of what reporters once deemed &ldquo;the great layer of jelly in Chicago&rsquo;s cake.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">From swamp to city</span></p><p>Offering just a <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/993.html" target="_blank">short portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin</a>, the area that would become downtown Chicago was a natural choice for the city&rsquo;s settlers &mdash; and a naturally swampy setting. Ray Wiggers, a geologist with Oakton Community College, says Chicago&rsquo;s bedrock is buried beneath silt, mud and clay.</p><p>&ldquo;If you had been here, for example, in 1820 when Chicago was still a very small settlement, what you would have found first of all was a soil profile that was mostly wetland soil. It would be <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/267930/Histosol" target="_blank">something we&rsquo;d call a histosol</a> &mdash; it&rsquo;s very peat-rich, very rich in organic matter,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Very swampy, marshy.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_MANUSCRIPTS/illinois/cookIL2012/Cook_IL.pdf" target="_blank"><em>View the USDA&#39;s Soil Survey of Cook County for&nbsp;a detailed look at Chicago-area soil</em></a></p><p>The soil was so slick that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/raising-chicago-105064" target="_blank">in 1856, Chicago lifted itself up to 14 feet off the ground</a> to keep from sinking and sliding around in the mosquito-infested marshland.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s soil started as sediment drifting around in Lake Chicago &mdash; an ice-age precursor to Lake Michigan. That material settled to the bottom, leaving present-day denizens a thick layer of squishy soil.</p><p>&ldquo;If you can imagine your front yard and the little muddy spot you have after it&rsquo;s rained for a while,&rdquo; says Wiggers, &ldquo;that sediment is really, really saturated and it&rsquo;s very oozy. Imagine trying to build a skyscraper in that.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR WEB chicago in 1820.jpg" style="height: 478px; width: 620px;" title="(Image courtesy Library of Congress)" /></div></div><p>By contrast New York City &mdash; whose architects and engineers pioneered the skyscraper along with Chicago&rsquo;s during the late 19th century &mdash; had nearly perfect soil conditions for anchoring tall buildings. Despite being surrounded by water, Manhattan has readily available bedrock.</p><p>The rock outcroppings jutting out of the earth in Central Park are visible proof that New York&rsquo;s bedrock, Manhattan schist, comes all the way up to the surface in some places. Chicago&rsquo;s equivalent, a rock called dolomite, can be as deep as 85 feet underground.</p><p>&ldquo;And yet here in Chicago we persevered through all the muck, literally, and built [skyscrapers] here,&rdquo; Wiggers says.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://digicol.lib.depaul.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/p16106coll1/id/170/rec/25" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20soil%20map%20crop.jpg" style="height: 274px; width: 620px;" title="Generalized soil map of the region of Chicago, 1927. Click to explore a large version of this map. (Image courtesy DePaul University archives)" /></a></div><p>Reporters in the late 19th century described Chicago&rsquo;s soil as &ldquo;a great jelly-cake&rdquo; with a &ldquo;semi-fluid&rdquo; layer like &ldquo;molasses.&rdquo; Here&rsquo;s a bit from an 1891 article in the New York Times &mdash; back when the word skyscraper was so new that reporters had to put it in quotes:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;What shall it profit Chicago to have taken the prairies and the wheat fields and the distant lairs of wolves and bears in its municipal embrace if the proud palaces in the haunts of its Board of Trade must sink in a smother of slimy ooze? Who shall restrain the great layer of jelly in Chicago&rsquo;s cake? Who can say when it will be released, to be mixed with the sluggish sewage of the river, and then to fill the streets and pour in at the windows while the thin upper crust sinks to its ultimate resting place on the lower clay?&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>That clay actually became the key to some early engineering solutions for tall, heavy buildings. Before then, they fine-tuned a method to float their massive buildings on layers of jelly-like clay called the desiccated crust. But as anyone who has stumbled through the lobby of the Auditorium Building has experienced, early engineers didn&rsquo;t always get it exactly right.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">An early experiment</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Library%20of%20Congress%2C%20Prints%20%26%20Photographs%20Division%2C%20HABS%2C%20Reproduction%20number%20HABS%20ILL%2C16-CHIG%2C39--1.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 620px;" title="The Auditorium Building in 1963, which floats in the soil on a layer of clay instead of bedrock.(Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Prints &amp; Photographs Division, HABS, Reproduction number HABS ILL,16-CHIG,39--1)" /></div><p>The 1889 Auditorium Building is well-known for the important role it played in establishing the artistic and cultural identity of a young, booming city. Roosevelt University now owns the building at the corner of East Congress Parkway and North Michigan Avenue.</p><p>The multi-use building, designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, included an exquisite performance space with stunning acoustics and ornamentation. But the building also sheds light on how these late 19th century architects wrestled with designing increasingly taller and heavier buildings on Chicago&rsquo;s waterlogged clay.</p><p>If you&rsquo;ve ever visited the Auditorium Building or Theatre, you may have noticed that the floors are not quite even. And if you&rsquo;ve come in the Auditorium entrance off the Congress Parkway, located under the building&rsquo;s 17-story tower, you may have noticed that you walk <em>down</em> about four steps to buy your ticket and enter the lobby.</p><p>Those four steps were not part of Adler and Sullivan&rsquo;s original plans &mdash; they were added because that&rsquo;s how far the building has sunk into the earth since it was constructed in 1889. The building weighs more than 110,000 tons.</p><p>All new buildings sink a bit at first &mdash; a fact architects and engineers have tried to account for since they began building big enough to notice. But the Auditorium sunk more than 18 inches in the first year after it opened, leaving it with uneven floors that can make visitors feel drunk as they navigate. The technical term for this is &ldquo;differential settlement,&rdquo; which means that the different parts of the building &mdash; depending on how heavy they are and how much the soil can bear &mdash; settle to different depths.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR WEB Auditorium_bldg_(foundations)_HABS.jpg" style="height: 322px; width: 620px;" title="Adler and Sullivan designed a foundation system of isolated piers to distribute the load at several points across the Auditorium Building's base. (Source: Library of Congress, HABS, National Park Service)" /></div></div><p>In the basement of the Auditorium, there&rsquo;s a large crack on the concrete floor that runs parallel to the exterior wall. While the whole building has settled, this is where it&rsquo;s obvious that the heavier exterior stone walls have sunk almost a foot more than the interior structure, which was made from a lighter iron and steel skeleton.</p><p>The 1880s and 1890s saw several Chicago buildings that used a hybrid structural system of stone and brick on the exterior with iron and steel on the interior. But because architects knew that a continuous foundation around the building&rsquo;s perimeter would likely sink at different rates and to different depths, Adler and Sullivan designed a foundation system of isolated piers to distribute the load at several points across the building&rsquo;s base. These piers under the building resemble giant pyramids measuring more than 12 feet tall. They acted like the legs of a chair, redistributing the heaviest parts of the building&rsquo;s uneven footprint over a larger area. But these giant pyramids &mdash; made with layers of wooden timbers, crisscrossing steel embedded in concrete, and blocks of stone &mdash; took up valuable basement space.</p><p>Adler conducted extensive tests of the Auditorium footings, loading them with heavy pig iron to simulate the weight of the building and then measuring how much they sank into the earth. But this is an imperfect science. He based his calculations on exterior walls of brick, not the heavier granite and limestone that would eventually be used. It also became clear that the 17-story tower simply weighed more than the 10-story building surrounding it. And the weight of the exterior stone walls was much greater than the lighter skeleton frame of steel and iron used on the interior.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20monadnock%20present%20Eric%20Allix%20Rogers%20flickr.jpg" style="height: 423px; width: 280px; float: right;" title="The Monadnock Building, built in 1891, is one of the heaviest skyscrapers still standing. (Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">A later experiment: The Monadnock Building</span></p><p>As skyscrapers in the late 19th century grew taller, architects and engineers experimented with ways of preventing buildings from sinking too far into the clay, or settling unevenly.</p><p>Burnham and Root&rsquo;s 1891 Monadnock Building, which sits at the southwest corner of Jackson Boulevard and Dearborn Street, is one of the heaviest skyscrapers still standing. Its dark brown brick walls measure six feet wide at the base.</p><p>The building&rsquo;s basement holds clues to how such a heavy building stands without its feet on solid bedrock. Owner Bill Donnell explains that the Monadnock is distinctive because it&rsquo;s one of the tallest buildings with walls that actually do the work of holding it up. During the 1890s, buildings needed to get taller, so architects started shifting away from load-bearing walls; instead, they opted for a sturdy skeleton of steel.</p><p>Construction crews at the time couldn&rsquo;t dig down 80 feet to find bedrock, so they floated the building on the clay.</p><p>They took steel railroad rails and layered them into pyramid-shaped footings that could distribute the building&rsquo;s weight over a larger area. Picture dozens of columns pressing through the basement floor with pyramid-shaped feet, made from railroad rails caked with concrete.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20grillage%20diagram.jpg" title="A diagram of standard grillage foundation of steel rails and concrete. " /></div><p>These so-called &lsquo;grillage&rsquo; foundations were used in several other Burnham and Root buildings throughout Chicago in the 1880s and 1890s, including the Rookery and the now-demolished Montauk Block and Great Northern Hotel. Burnham credits Peter B. Wight, who came to the city from New York after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, with helping to engineer the first one.</p><p>In fact, if we think back to our question about Chicago&rsquo;s swamp, this type of floating raft foundation actually makes a lot of sense. Imagine a tall tree growing in a water-filled swamp. Just like the Monadnock&rsquo;s foundations, the tree trunk flairs out wide at the base. With only a shallow root system, this is the tree&rsquo;s only way of buttressing itself in the mud.</p><p>The Monadnock is actually a hybrid; its northern and southern halves were completed a few years apart, and feature different structural systems. The north half of the Monadnock was the end of an era in structural design, showing the challenges of this type of floating-raft foundation and thick masonry walls.</p><p>A lot more than swampy soil factored into the desire for new structural systems around this time. As land values climbed, developers and clients required taller buildings to make building profitable. That meant architects and engineers needed to economize while also still strengthening the structure against gravity and wind. And if the walls of the building get thicker, the result is smaller rooms with less rentable space. Thicker walls also meant smaller windows. Long before the widespread use of strong electric lighting, natural daylight was a premium amenity that all tenants wanted.</p><p>Things changed a bit when the owners of the Monadnock Building expanded only a year and a half later. They commissioned architects Holabird &amp; Roche for the southern addition and rather than design another load-bearing brick building, the architects developed a lighter-weight steel skeleton frame building. Although it used a similar foundation, this steel skeleton frame brought benefits beyond simply weighing less; it had thinner walls, used less material and could be constructed faster.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/monadnock grid bentley2.jpg" title="The grillage foundation seen under the basement floor of the Monadnock Building shows how the architects and engineers tried to float the building on clay. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div></div><p>Just one year after the Monadnock&rsquo;s southern addition was built, another dramatically different type of foundation system, called caissons, was attempted for the first time in a Chicago skyscraper. At Adler and Sullivan&rsquo;s Stock Exchange Building construction site, crews were finally able to drill down through all the clay and fill the holes with concrete, which anchored the building to the bedrock.</p><p>Caissons were basically subterranean chambers that could keep construction work dry even deep underground. They diminished the need to float the building on top of the squishy soil, which meant that architects and engineers could experiment with new types of structural systems above ground.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 4.08.43 PM_0.png" style="height: 637px; width: 310px; float: right;" title="Surficial geology map of the Chicago region. Click to enlarge. (Courtesy USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Reaching new heights</span></p><p>Architects in Chicago have dug enough foundations to know their way around the city&rsquo;s famously swampy soil. But in many cities geotechnical engineers are still searching for solid footing.</p><p>&ldquo;For cities that are established, it&#39;s more a question of refinement,&rdquo; says Bill Baker, a structural engineering partner at architecture firm Skidmore Owings &amp; Merrill. &ldquo;There are still cities where you&#39;re trying to figure it out. [In] Las Vegas you can&#39;t find the rock. There have been some buildings with very large settlements, so how do you deal with that? [In] Houston, believe it or not, you can&#39;t find the rock.&rdquo;</p><p>Baker knows this problem well. In 1957 architects Walter Netsch and Bruce Graham used steel pilings to anchor Chicago&rsquo;s Inland Steel Building to dolomite bedrock buried deep beneath the Loop &mdash; the first time after almost seven decades of skyscraper construction that design teams and engineers had accomplished such a feat.</p><p>Though most of the digging and surveying underground is done remotely these days, Baker recalls looking up from 70 feet beneath the AT&amp;T Corporate Center, which opened in 1989.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re looking up at a little patch of light, which is the sky, and it of course has an earthy smell,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Somewhere along the way someone discovered there&rsquo;s a tendency to be methane down there, and so we don&rsquo;t go down them any more. We put cameras down there. But I kind of miss going down &hellip; to the bottom of the world there.&rdquo;</p><p>He says even though new technology makes it easier to find solid bedrock beneath 100 feet of wet clay, it doesn&rsquo;t always make sense to drill that deep. Modern engineers still use the same general principle Burnham &amp; Root employed when they floated the foundations of the Monadnock Building on an even flimsier layer of soil known as desiccated crust: They just spread the load. Only, today, they prefer a compacted layer of clay found deeper than the crust, called hardpan.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://archive.org/stream/historyconstruct00nich#page/n0/mode/thumb" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20hardpan%20and%20other%20soil%20tests%20copy.png" style="height: 466px; width: 620px;" title="Hardpan, a soil layer above bedrock, is commonly used to anchor skyscrapers today. (Source: The history, construction and design of caisson foundations in Chicago, 1913) " /></a></div><p>&ldquo;One of the reasons we don&#39;t always sit on the rock is it&#39;s very expensive. Because once you poke through that hardpan you&#39;re fighting against water that&#39;s under pressure,&rdquo; Baker says. &ldquo;That last few feet is very expensive, which is why if at all possible you sit on the hardpan.&rdquo;</p><p>And Baker says Chicago&rsquo;s legacy as an innovation center for geotechnical engineering is very much alive.</p><p>&ldquo;If you were an architect you had to show that you were not just a ballerina, you had to show you could actually speak to the technology,&rdquo; says Baker. &ldquo;One of the things about Chicago is that it was always an architectural engineering town. &hellip; A lot of the serious architects out there are very, very savvy when it comes to technology.&rdquo;</p><p>While Chicago may have been dealt an unlucky geological hand, 19th century Chicagoans did find something useful to do with all the mucky clay: The city became the center of the nation&rsquo;s terra cotta industry. Architects used terra cotta, which is simply baked clay, to <a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/chicagofire/#buildingmaterials" target="_blank">help fireproof buildings after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871</a>.</p><p>So it might just be that Chicago&rsquo;s sloshy soil helped solidify the foundations of modern tall building design, engineering and construction.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20vendel.jpg" style="height: 232px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="(Photo courtesy Mike Vendel)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Mike Vendel, Curious Citizen</span></p><p>Mike Vendel, a computer programmer for Accenture, grew up in Chicago&rsquo;s West Lawn neighborhood and now lives in Edgewater. He says he first wondered about Chicago&rsquo;s swampy soil when volunteering in parks along the North Side lakefront. Looking south one day from Montrose Beach, Vendel noticed that Chicago&rsquo;s mighty skyscrapers were basically sitting on the same soggy footing he was.</p><p>&ldquo;I see these giant buildings on the horizon. And then I look down at the sandy soil I&#39;m standing on and I think, how do those massive and immense buildings stay stable in a soil like this?&rdquo; he wrote at the start of our reporting.</p><p>He wondered about the geology of our region and how early settlers overcame Chicago&rsquo;s swampy conditions to lay the foundations of a 20th century skyscraper boom.</p><p>&ldquo;Any architect probably knows how massive buildings can remain stable in any type of soil,&rdquo; he wrote. &ldquo;But to me, it&rsquo;s a mystery and fairly amazing.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley reports for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City and is the Midwest Editor of <a href="http://www.archpaper.com/" target="_blank">The Architect&rsquo;s Newspaper</a>. Follow him at <a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">cabentley.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p><p><em>Jen Masengarb is Director of Interpretation and Research at the <a href="http://www.architecture.org" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a>. Follow her on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/jmasengarb" target="_blank">@jmasengarb</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 04 Mar 2015 17:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/building-skyscrapers-chicagos-swampy-soil-111658 The rise of Casimir Pulaski Day http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/rise-casimir-pulaski-day-111624 <p><p>Casimir Pulaski Day. If you grew up in Illinois in the 1980s or 1990s (or, if you raised a kid at the time), you probably remember a school and government holiday &mdash; the first Monday in March &mdash; that most of the rest of the country does not observe.</p><p>Nic Levy, our question asker, remembers coming to Oak Park in fifth grade and being surprised. &ldquo;There was this holiday I saw on the calendar,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I couldn&rsquo;t pronounce it. I asked my parents. They also didn&rsquo;t know because they were from New England.&rdquo;</p><p>Nic remembers that one of his history teachers added a short aside about Pulaski during his class&rsquo;s unit on the Revolutionary War, so he grew up understanding that Pulaski was a hero of that war and that he was from Poland. But all that info was about the hero. For help with the holiday, he sent us this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How did Casimir Pulaski Day become a public holiday in Illinois?</em></p><p>We let Nic, a history buff, take a crack at an answer. He guessed that Casimir Pulaski Day came about as an expression of Polish-American pride, maybe in the 1970s or 1980s.</p><p>&ldquo;After the &lsquo;60s, there was this climate in the U.S., not just of ethnic tolerance, but of celebration of different cultures in cities across America,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I feel like that kind of started in the &lsquo;70s.&rdquo;</p><p>Nic&rsquo;s on the right track, but the details make the story worth telling. Just consider what was working <em>against</em> the state holiday: Casimir died more than two hundred years ago, he never set foot in Illinois, the community that adored him arrived in Chicago nearly a century after he died, and, it turns out, he&rsquo;s not even the most famous Polish-American war hero.</p><p>The story behind this most &ldquo;Illinois&rdquo; of holidays involves Casimir, of course, but it&rsquo;s more of a story about a strong community that was willing to spend political capital to honor him.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Casimir Pulaski: Polish Patriot, American Volunteer</span></p><p>Let&rsquo;s start with Count Casimir Pulaski the man. He grew up in the struggle of Polish patriots against the neighboring powers that sought to annex or assert control over what was at the time the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. By the time he was 22, he was fighting against the new Polish King Stanislaw II, who was seen by many as a puppet of the Russians. Pulaski became an important cavalry officer in a series of wars. But by 1775, the conflict had gone badly for the Polish patriots, and he was exiled to France. There he met the Marquis de Lafayette and Benjamin Franklin, who recruited him to come to America, to fight in the Revolutionary War.</p><p>Columbia College historian Dominic Pacyga says Pulaski considered the American Colonists&#39; fight for independence from Great Britain as similar to Poland&rsquo;s own struggle for independence.</p><p>&ldquo;There was this revolutionary spirit, the Enlightenment was going on, soon there was going to be the French Revolution,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So a lot of people were wrapped up in this revolutionary fervor that was going through the West at this time, and they ended up in the United States.&rdquo;<a name="painting"></a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="363" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="//www.thinglink.com/card/627225578885349377" type="text/html" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><strong>Above: Click on the painting&#39;s hotspots to hear about the artist&#39;s motifs. </strong>Analysis comes from experts at The Polish Museum of America. Painting:&nbsp;<em>Brigadier General Kazimierz Pulaski mortally wounded at the battle of Savannah on the 9th of October 1779</em>&nbsp;by Stanislaw Batowski Kaczor.&nbsp;</span></p><p>George Washington and other Colonial leaders were skeptical of these European idealists because not all of them lived up to their billing as great soldiers. But Ben Franklin helped Pulaski by writing a letter of recommendation to George Washington, describing the Pole as &ldquo;&hellip; an officer famous throughout Europe for his bravery and conduct in defense of the liberties of his country.&rdquo; Although the Continental Congress wouldn&rsquo;t approve a commission, Washington allowed Pulaski to enlist informally. Casimir Pulaski then proved himself at the <a href="http://www.ushistory.org/brandywine/thestory.htm" target="_blank">Battles of Brandywine</a> and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Germantown" target="_blank">Germantown</a>, and George Washington named him a Brigadier General and the first Commander of the American Cavalry.</p><p>At first, American soldiers balked at the idea of fighting under a &ldquo;foreign&rdquo; officer. So, in March of 1778, Congress organized the Pulaski Legion, which was made up of mostly &ldquo;foreign&rdquo; soldiers &mdash; Colonists and volunteers from France, Germany, and Poland. Pulaski&rsquo;s Legion turned the tide at the skirmish at Egg Harbor, New York. In May, they drove the British out of Charleston, South Carolina.</p><p>But just a few months later, Pulaski died from a mortal wound he received in Savannah, Georgia. In the Early Republic, Pulaski was remembered as a Revolutionary hero, alongside his friend, the Marquis de Lafayette. Several new towns and counties were named &ldquo;Pulaski&rdquo; in his memory.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Pulaski&rsquo;s backers in the Polish-American community</span></p><p>Pulaski remained a great hero in his homeland as well, a sentiment that wasn&rsquo;t forgotten when Poles began arriving in the United States. If Pulaski hadn&rsquo;t had a community that respected his achievements, who knows if there would have been Casimir holiday.</p><p>By 1800, the independent Polish state had been divided between Russia, Austria, and Prussia. Poles began immigrating to Chicago in the 1860s as economic refugees from lands where they were ethnic minorities and often disenfranchised.</p><p>White Anglo-Saxon Protestants saw themselves as the &ldquo;real&rdquo; Americans, and they did not always welcome Poles with open arms.</p><p>&ldquo;They are from the other Europe. They have the names nobody can pronounce, they&rsquo;re not Protestants. There&rsquo;s a good deal of anti-Polish prejudice at the time,&rdquo; Pacyga says. Because of this, he says, Polish Americans used Casimir Pulaski &mdash; alongside the other Polish revolutionary hero, Tadeusz Kosciuskzko &mdash; as a symbol that Poles had contributed to the American Republic from the very beginning.</p><p>As early as the 1930s, Polish Americans in Chicago lobbied for public recognition of Casimir Pulaski. Their first major victory was a declaration, in 1933, that the former <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1427.html" target="_blank">&ldquo;Crawford Road&rdquo; in Chicago would now be &ldquo;Pulaski Road.&rdquo;</a> According to Dominic Pacyga, many of the merchants and the shopkeepers in the area were not happy about <a name="wherescasimir"></a>the new name. &ldquo;They have to change letterheads, they have to change addresses, they have to mail out letters saying they&rsquo;re no longer on Crawford Road.&rdquo; For more than a decade, the issue remained contentious.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/where%27s%20casimir%20topper.png" style="height: 143px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="500px" src="https://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v4/curiouscity.l9pnj16d/attribution,zoompan,zoomwheel,geocoder,share.html?access_token=pk.eyJ1IjoiY3VyaW91c2NpdHkiLCJhIjoibGM3MUJZdyJ9.8oAw072QHl4POJ3fRQAItQ" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><strong>Above: Local historian Dan Pogorzelski says there&#39;s no statue of Casimir Pulaski in Chicago</strong>, but there are still places to find the Polish war hero around the city. Here are a few of Pogorzelski&#39;s suggestions. Anything missing? If you&#39;ve spotted Casimir somewhere else, write us at curiouscity@wbez.org and we&rsquo;ll add it to the map.</span></p><p>In 1944 a streetcar conductor got into a fight with a Polish-Chicagoan when he referred to the Pulaski Road stop as &ldquo;Crawford Road.&rdquo; But in the end, Pulaski Road stuck, due to support from the Democratic political machine. Pacyga says: &ldquo;In the Democratic Party, the Poles [were] an important faction, and they were able to pull it off.&rdquo;</p><p>Much of Chicago&rsquo;s Polish-American history, including the importance of Pulaski, is preserved at the Polish Museum of America. The museum, which occupies much of the headquarters of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, sits on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, near the traditional &ldquo;Polish downtown.&rdquo;</p><p>Malgorzata Kot, the museum&rsquo;s managing director, says Polish Americans relate to Pulaski because he was a soldier. He fought for freedom and independence in Poland and America, and he had to fight for acceptance when he came to America. She says Polish Americans relate to those struggles, and see them as at the center of their history. &ldquo;Kazimierz [Casimir] Pulaski is a symbol of a Pole who was important in Poland, who risked it all to come here and fight for your freedom and ours.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Casimir&rsquo;s day arrives </span></p><p>The Polish-American community that remembered Casimir so fondly did everything it could to get the political system to recognize him. The persistance paid off.</p><p>In the 1970s, the Polish American Congress in Chicago took up the cause of a statewide Casimir Pulaski holiday. In 1977, they succeeded in getting a law passed designating the first Monday in March &ldquo;Casimir Pulaski Day.&rdquo; This was only a commemorative day, meaning Illinois schools, public offices and banks stayed open.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/first%20pulaski%20day%20maybe.jpg" title="Former Illinois Gov. Dan Walker signs the Pulaski Day bill September 9, 1973 at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago. First a commemorative holiday, Pulaski Day became an official public holiday in 1985. (Photo courtesy Polish Museum of America)" /></div><p>The lobbying efforts simmered for years, and gathered momentum again in 1985 when State Senator Leroy Lemke <a href="http://www.luminpdf.com/files/14235190/ST052185%20CASIMIR%20PULASKI%20FLOOR%20DEBATE.pdf" target="_blank">introduced a bill in the Illinois Senate</a> to make Casimir Pulaski Day a full public holiday. It would give public schools and some government offices a day off, at the governor&rsquo;s discretion.</p><p>Speaking in support, Senator Thaddeus Lechowicz cast the law as part and parcel of the ethnic pride movements increasingly common in American cities. &ldquo;Every ethnic group, every racial group has a person or persons they that they see have contributed to an extra degree in making this country great. ... Casimir Pulaski fills that need for Polish Americans,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Dominic Pacyga says the timing suggests the bill got traction due to the recent passage, in 1983, of a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., the slain civil rights activist. Lawmakers knew Martin Luther King Day would go into effect the next year, in 1986. Pacyga says the &ldquo;white ethnic&rdquo; community, including Poles, Jews, Italians, Greeks, Irish, wanted something similar. &ldquo;There was a feeling the white ethnic community should also have a day, and in Illinois, it made sense to make it Pulaski Day, because the Polish community is so large in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Retired State Senator Calvin Schuneman still remembers how the debate played in 1985. At the time, <a href="http://www.luminpdf.com/files/14235190/ST052185%20CASIMIR%20PULASKI%20FLOOR%20DEBATE.pdf" target="_blank">he raised concerns about the holiday</a>, and thirty years later, he has the same concerns.</p><p>&ldquo;If it&rsquo;s going to be a state holiday where government offices are going to be closed and schools are going to be dismissed, I think we have enough of those holidays.&rdquo; For Schuneman, who represented portions of western Illinois, this was a matter of Chicago politicians pushing something that didn&rsquo;t make sense for the rest of the state.</p><p>&ldquo;It was good politics for them,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;but there certainly was no demand for recognizing Casimir Pulaski in my district.&rdquo;</p><p>The law did pass, though, and Governor Jim Thompson fulfilled the terms of the bill and declared a public school holiday across the state. Some municipal offices chose to close in honor of Casimir Pulaski, as did some banks. That freed many people up to visit the Polish Museum of America on Pulaski Day.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rahm%20pulaski%20day.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at the Polish Museum of America on Casimir Pulaski Day in 2014. In 2012, negotiations between Emanuel and the Chicago Teacher’s Union resulted in Chicago Public Schools dropping Pulaski Day as a day off from school. (Photo courtesy Polish Museum of America)" /></div><p>Every year on Pulaski Day, the president of the Polish Roman Catholic Union, currently Joseph Drobot Jr., presides over a formal ceremony honoring Casimir Pulaski. The Great Hall at the museum can hold up to 500 people, and he says it&rsquo;s usually full during the ceremony. There&rsquo;s an honor guard in bright red and blue eighteenth century cavalry uniforms. The event is open to the public and there&rsquo;s free Polish food. According to Drobot, &ldquo;This being an election year, there will be many politicians. It&rsquo;s an opportunity to be seen.&rdquo;</p><p>The ceremony is always held in front of the centerpiece of the Museum&rsquo;s Great Hall: a fifteen- foot-wide painting of Casimir Pulaski, painted by Stanislaw Batowski. It depicts Pulaski&rsquo;s mortal wounding at Savannah.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Whittling away Casimir Pulaski Day</span></p><p>While memory of Casimir Pulaski is alive and well at the Polish Museum of America, his holiday has been chipped away in the state&rsquo;s public schools.</p><p>In 1995 the legislature made Casimir Pulaski Day optional. Individual school districts in Illinois could apply for a waiver to opt out. Downstate districts were the first to seek waivers.</p><p>By 2009, 74 percent of the districts chose to keep school open on Pulaski Day. And in 2012, Chicago Public Schools dropped Pulaski Day during negotiations between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teacher&rsquo;s Union.</p><p>When this happened, many Polish Americans felt disrespected, and even hurt. One <a href="http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2012/03/columbus.html" target="_blank">commenter on a blog post wrote</a>: &ldquo;So to sum it up, it took over 200 years for America to acknowledge the man and only in Illinois because of Chicago&#39;s large Polish population and a few decades later we are getting rid of the holiday.&rdquo;</p><p>But historian Dominic Pacyga says, while it might be a shame to lose the holiday, it&rsquo;s also part of what always happens with ethnic immigrant culture in America.</p><p>&ldquo;Many Polish Americans have assimilated. Seventy-five to 80 percent live in suburbs instead of Chicago,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;When you all live in Chicago, you had a lot of clout, when you live in 100 to 200 municipalities, your clout is fragmented. So the lesson is: Stay in Chicago. Come on back home, and we&rsquo;ll get Pulaski Day back.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker_0.jpg" style="height: 267px; width: 200px; float: left;" title="(Photo courtesy Nic Levy)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Nic Levy, Curious Citizen</span></p><p>Nic Levy, who asked Curious City to investigate Casimir Pulaski Day, agrees with Pacyga&rsquo;s take that the loss of the holiday is just part of how history works. Nic does feel that having memories of Pulaski Day is something that will define his generation in the decades to come. He enjoys thinking about how history affects geography, as in how the contributions of a Polish nobleman in the 18th century, could change the name of a Chicago road in the twentieth.</p><p>He&rsquo;s studying geography now, at McGill University in Montreal. He says his interest in geography and history began as a teenager in Chicago, right when he started driving. He used maps to plan routes, and was fascinated by the names of the streets, Chicago&rsquo;s orderly grid plan, and the way the grid intersected with the geography of the river, canals, and the lake.</p><p><em>Jesse Dukes is Curious City&rsquo;s audio producer.</em></p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the managing director of the Polish Museum of America. The correct spelling is&nbsp;Malgorzata Kot.</em></p></p> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/rise-casimir-pulaski-day-111624 No conspiracy required: The true origins of Chicago's February elections http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/no-conspiracy-required-true-origins-chicagos-february-elections-111585 <p><p>With Chicago&rsquo;s municipal election less than a week away, we couldn&rsquo;t help but notice a bevy of questions related to the fact that the races for mayor and city aldermen are settled in late February. In short, a lot of folks suspect that the timing, with the chance of sub-zero temps and snow, amounts to a conspiracy &mdash; one that undercuts the whole democratic thrust of the election itself.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean, nasty cold weather would seem to suppress voter turnout,&rdquo; says Curious Citizen Dave Seglin.</p><p>Another question-asker, Jesse Ackles, adds: &ldquo;My cynical take on it is that it really seems to favor incumbents.&rdquo;</p><p>The most concise formulation of the question comes from Eric Sherman, a local campaign worker who&rsquo;s been canvassing for votes in this nasty cold weather. Here it is:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why are the Chicago Municipal Elections held in February? What&rsquo;s the REAL reason?</em></p><p>For the record, Eric&rsquo;s not entirely sure the timing is a ploy meant to mess with the administration of democracy, but his formulation (&ldquo;the REAL reason&rdquo;) resonated with a lot of commenters on Twitter and Facebook.</p><p>Regardless, we&rsquo;re going to clear things up, for sure. But a warning to conspiracy theorists: You&rsquo;re not gonna like this. It turns out, there&rsquo;s good evidence that the timing of the February elections was intended to broaden voter participation, not narrow it. Don&rsquo;t blame us. Just read ahead and then blame the historical record.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">On the paper trail</span></p><p>Let&rsquo;s clarify what we&rsquo;re talking about when we say &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s February elections.&rdquo; Most towns in Illinois hold party primaries on the last Tuesday of February, while the municipal or so-called &ldquo;consolidated elections&rdquo; happen on the first Tuesday in April.</p><p>Chicago, though, is different. The city holds no primaries for alderman or mayor. Since 199, mayoral candidates have been elected on a nonpartisan basis. Run-offs are held between the top two vote getters if there is no clear majority. Those occur in April.</p><p>Ok, on to the origin story.</p><p>The obvious call to make first is to the Chicago Board of Elections. Jim Allen, a spokesman, says Chicago has held its election around this time of year as long ago as 1837.</p><p>&ldquo;The first mayoral election where Ogden beat Kenzie was in May, and ever since then as far as I can tell we&rsquo;ve been swearing in our mayors in May.&rdquo;</p><p>Of course, this was back when mayors only served one-year terms and City Hall was a saloon. But even Allen, who&rsquo;s been doing this for awhile, is a little stumped about the origins of the current date.</p><p>&ldquo;The part that&rsquo;s going to be hard is finding this bridge between May and when it got pushed back to February,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Is it a political reason that it&rsquo;s incumbent protection, by keeping the voters at home and turnout low? Who knows. That&rsquo;s for a political scientist to noodle over.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Primary election reform </span></p><p>Our next stop: Chicago&rsquo;s Municipal Reference Collection, which resides on the 5th floor of the Harold Washington Library. There, librarian Lyle Benedict begins with relevant passages in the<a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=001000050K2A-1.1" target="_blank"> Illinois compiled statutes</a>.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s elections, like every Illinois municipality, are set by state law. Except for a few years after the Civil War, these elections were held in April, as set forth in the Cities and Villages Act of 1872.</p><p>For most of the 19th century these were elections in name only; candidates that appeared on the ballot were chosen ahead of time by party bosses at state conventions.</p><p>All of this changed during the Progressive Era, when reformers pushed to institute open primaries, which would let average party members participate.</p><p>The change was hailed as a huge step forward.</p><p>On March 7, 1898, the<em> Chicago Tribune</em> wrote about a gathering of 800 young African-Americans at Bethel Church. The esteemed lawyer Edward E. Wilson was quoted addressing the crowd:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;The days of corrupt politics in Chicago are numbered. A few more wise laws such as the new primary law will sound the death knell of the corrupt politician, the ballot-box stuffer, and ward heeler, and honest men will control the elections, and when that time comes honest men will cease to be ashamed to play their part in politics.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1898/03/07/page/7/article/honest-primaries-discussed" width="300"></iframe></p><p>According to Benedict and legislative records, there was another change in the works: These primaries were set for February &mdash; more than a month before the April elections. In 1905, Benedict says, Chicago held its first February primary elections.</p><p>&ldquo;Looks like the Republicans were February 14, the Democrats were February 24 and the Socialists were March 4,&rdquo; Benedict notes, pointing to old election rolls.</p><p>These open primaries empowered average voters (at least eligible<em> male</em> voters), but reformers felt it didn&rsquo;t go far enough. Over the next decade they advocated for direct primaries, which would consolidate all of the state&rsquo;s primaries &mdash; regardless of party &mdash; on a single day.</p><p>This was a contentious issue, as entrenched party interests sought to preserve the status quo. A <em>Chicago Tribune</em> article from Oct 15, 1907, was headlined: &ldquo;New Primary Act May Cause Spasm: Measure to be Introduced Today at Springfield Is So Direct That It Staggers Politicians.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1907/10/15/page/1/article/new-primary-act-may-cause-spasm" width="300"></iframe></p><p>Reformers eventually won out, however, and the day lawmakers selected was the last Tuesday in February. That date has stuck ever since.</p><p>At the time this was a radical change, according to Maureen Flanagan, a historian at the Illinois Institute of Technology.</p><p>&ldquo;The parties can&rsquo;t just hunker down and control everything,&rdquo; she says, adding that since the general elections were in April, moving the consolidated primaries back to February gave voters a lot more say.</p><p>&ldquo;So if you&rsquo;ve got, say, 6 weeks, [candidates] have a chance to get out and give speeches, do interviews, and it does in fact make it possible for people to know who the candidates are,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>And, Flanagan says, people felt they now had a voice in deciding who would run the city, which led to an increase in voter turnout.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Timing is everything</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/snow%20gearing%20up.jpg" style="float: right; height: 467px; width: 350px;" title="A trio of campaign volunteers for Alderman Proco Joe Moreno bundle up against the cold as they prepare to hit ward precincts with flyers and door-hangers. (WBEZ/Derek John)" />Okay, at this point, we can just say it: The conspiracy theories are dead wrong about why Chicago elections are in February. The timing wasn&rsquo;t originally created to suppress voter turnout &mdash; quite the opposite.</p><p>The next question is: Why do so few people remember it that way?</p><p>Well, one reason is that &mdash; starting in the 1930s &mdash; the Democrats have dominated municipal elections. Then, there&rsquo;s the Democratic Machine, which has been implicated in notorious election shenanigans: Sitting politicians doled out jobs for votes, ballots sometimes were &ldquo;lost&rdquo; during key contests, and nepotism often prevailed in the selection of candidates. Little wonder that citizens find the very timing of elections suspect.</p><p>Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at UIC, was one of the few independents who was elected to the City Council back in 1971. He says for local ward races, especially, the Machine was hard to beat.</p><p>&ldquo;Aldermanic elections are frequently thrown to the Machine for many reasons: patronage, jobs, favors, corrupt contracts. But the winter weather does not help,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>And yet Simpson provides at least one example of when February&rsquo;s blustery weather worked against the Democratic Machine.</p><p>This was during the 1979 Democratic mayoral primary. The incumbent, Michael Bilandic, faced Jane Byrne. As the two went head to head in January, blizzard after blizzard deposited enough snow to practically shut down the city. By the end of one gigantic snowstorm, Simpson says, Chicagoans could look out their windows and see 5 or 6 feet of snow staring back at them.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;d be skiing to the grocery store because you couldn&rsquo;t get there any other way,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The &lsquo;L&rsquo;s weren&rsquo;t running, so they cut the &lsquo;L&rsquo; stops in the black community, which enraged the black community.&rdquo;</p><p>These political problems piled up &mdash; nearly as high as the snow &mdash; until just a few weeks later, when Bilandic went down to a shocking defeat.</p><p>While Simpson acknowledges other factors, he says the timing of the election was huge.</p><p>&ldquo;If it had been held in April, Jane Byrne probably wouldn&rsquo;t have been elected.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Today&rsquo;s election reforms</span></p><p>While it&rsquo;s still hard to campaign during the winter, in some ways it&rsquo;s never been easier to vote in Chicago.</p><p>Echoing the Progressive reforms from a century ago, new rules have extended the early voting period and allowed more people to use mail-in ballots. Starting in 2016, every polling station in the city will have same-day registration.</p><p>One last thing to note. Chicago&rsquo;s average voter turnout for municipal elections hovers around 40 percent. Compare that to turnout in San Antonio, Texas. According to <a href="http://www.fairvote.org/research-and-analysis/blog/fairvote-report-low-turnout-plagues-u-s-mayoral-elections-but-san-francisco-is-highest/#.UqoBkvRDtrE" target="_blank">figures collected by the voter advocacy group Fair Vote </a>, turnout in that city&rsquo;s last few mayoral elections averaged below 10 percent.</p><p>Translation? Chicago&rsquo;s turnout is higher than nearly every other big city &mdash; even those in warmer climates, where braving the outdoors in February isn&rsquo;t so intimidating.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker2.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Question-asker Eric Sherman standing in front of a map of Chicago’s 1st ward. (Derek John/WBEZ)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Who asked our question?</span></p><p>We received several versions of this question about the timing of Chicago elections, but the one we got from Eric Sherman accompanied a great backstory. He&rsquo;s a local political activist and self-proclaimed political science nerd. He&rsquo;s currently working on Alderman (1st) Proco Joe Moreno&rsquo;s reelection campaign, which means he&rsquo;s often going door-to-door in this brutal weather.</p><p>&ldquo;People are nice about it and sometimes they&rsquo;ll let you in,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;If you can get into an apartment complex, that&rsquo;s great. That&rsquo;s a good 15 to 20 minutes where you&rsquo;re inside a building.&rdquo;</p><p>When we tell Eric how the February election date was originally a reform that encouraged greater voter participation, he gets ecstatic.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s another example of the contradictory nature of Chicago politics,&quot; he says. &quot;People get really negative and really pessimistic, and they assume the whole system is rigged. As someone who&rsquo;s involved in local &nbsp;politics, it&rsquo;s not rigged. If it was, we wouldn&rsquo;t be out there knocking on doors and getting supporters.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Derek L. John is WBEZ&#39;s Community Bureaus Editor. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/derekljohn" target="_blank">@derekljohn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 18:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/no-conspiracy-required-true-origins-chicagos-february-elections-111585 When will Chicago get its next supertall skyscraper? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-will-chicago-get-its-next-supertall-skyscraper-108531 <p><div><p>In 2013 Curious City took on a high-minded question from Minneapolis resident Andrew Wambach.</p><p>Wambach, now 30, had just moved to Minnesota and already missed the Chicago skyline. He wanted to know:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>When will Chicago get its next supertall skyscraper?</em></p><p>The last supertall skyscraper in Chicago was the Trump Tower, built in 2009. Before that the city hadn&rsquo;t reached such heights since 1990&rsquo;s Two Prudential Plaza, 16 years after the Willis (Sears) Tower became the world&rsquo;s tallest building. While the U.S. may be the birthplace of the form, for a while skyscraper construction had slowed at home &mdash; and soared abroad.</p><p>But that may be changing. In December 2014 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted plans for a new tower in the Lakeshore East neighborhood that &mdash; if all goes according to plan &mdash; could reach 1,150 feet into the air by 2018. In 2013, New York City&rsquo;s One World Trade Center became the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, at 1,776 feet. Even Wambach&rsquo;s Minneapolis had been considering a proposal to construct an 80-story skyscraper. That project, <a href="http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/289597641.html#" target="_blank">rejected by the city</a>, would have been the state&#39;s tallest building, but would have been just shy of meeting supertall status.</p><p>Wherever they are, massive developments are difficult to design and build. But when they do happen, it&rsquo;s generally because two important factors came together to make building up pay off: egos and economics.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">But first, just how tall is that?</span></p><p>Andrew didn&rsquo;t know this when he asked the question, but &ldquo;supertall&rdquo; is an objective term. Chicago&rsquo;s own Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is the authority on such matters. They deem any building over 300 meters, or 984 feet, &ldquo;supertall.&rdquo; (<a href="http://www.ctbuh.org/HighRiseInfo/TallestDatabase/Criteria/HeightCalculator/tabid/1007/language/en-GB/Default.aspx" target="_blank">For a rough measurement</a>, that&rsquo;s about 75 stories.) Six buildings in Chicago qualify: The Trump Tower, Willis Tower, Aon Center, John Hancock Center, AT&amp;T Corporate Center, and Two Prudential Plaza.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/CTBUH_Tallest20in2020_Poster.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FutureTallest20-2.jpg" style="height: 417px; width: 620px;" title="For context, here's a diagram of the predicted world's 20 tallest buildings in the year 2014. Click to enlarge. (Courtesy of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat)" /></a></div><p>Walk into any major architectural office and you&rsquo;ll see plenty of renderings pinned to the wall, showing buildings reaching great heights. It&rsquo;s just that they&rsquo;re in Jeddah, Seoul, Abu Dhabi, Beijing &mdash; not Chicago.</p><p>In 2011 CTBUH even had to add a new category of tall building to reflect the explosive growth of tall buildings in recent years; so-called &ldquo;megatall&rdquo; buildings stand at least 600 meters (1,968 feet) tall. There are only two complete megatall buildings: the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Royal Hotel Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. When the Shanghai Tower opens in April of 2015, it will be the third, at 632 meters (2,074 feet) tall.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Chicago&rsquo;s latest contender</span></p><p>&ldquo;If there was a great location, a great site, a developer that really had the willpower to pull something off, it certainly could happen,&rdquo; said Rafael Carreira, a principal with <a href="http://tjbc.com/" target="_blank">The John Buck Company</a>. &ldquo;But the larger a project gets, the harder it is to finance, the harder it is to pre-sell or premarket ... and those are factors that make these supertalls hard to do.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/wanda%20courtesy%20city%20of%20chicago.jpg" style="float: right;" title="A rendering of the proposed Wanda Vista development. (Courtesy City of Chicago)" />Supertalls can be risky investments. (<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/skyscrapers-that-predicted-financial-crises-2014-4#!GoEAm" target="_blank">Some economists even think bombastic skyscraper booms are an omen of economic collapse</a>.) But as one developer put it, the profession attracts risk-takers.</p><p>&ldquo;Where a normal person might be apprehensive,&rdquo; said Sean Linnane, &nbsp;a senior vice president for Magellan Development Group, &ldquo;developers are excited.&rdquo;</p><p>At the moment the most likely candidate for Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall is an 88-story, $900 million development proposed for<a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/375+E+Upper+Wacker+Dr,+Chicago,+IL+60601/@41.8878616,-87.6209235,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e2ca900a2e77d:0x32e4f52fba2475d3" target="_blank"> 375 E. Wacker Dr., in the city&rsquo;s Lakeshore East neighborhood</a>. It would be 1,150 feet (350 meters) tall, and its developers &mdash; Beijing-based Dalian Wanda Group and local firm Magellan &mdash; hope to have it open in 2018. They&rsquo;ve hired two local design firms to sculpt the structure, which would become the city&rsquo;s third tallest building: Studio Gang Architects and bKL Architecture.</p><p>Lead designer Jeanne Gang&rsquo;s other <a href="http://www.studiogang.net/work/2004/aqua-tower" target="_blank">notable projects include the Aqua Tower</a> &mdash; a high-rise with undulating balconies that mimic wave patterns when viewed from an angle &mdash; and the lyrical WMS Boathouses at Clark Park. bKL designed the first tower in the Wolf Point development and a 45-story tower at 200 N. Michigan Ave., both of which are currently under construction.</p><p>Their preliminary designs for what&rsquo;s being called Wanda Vista show a cluster of three towers stepping down in height as they go east, each terminating in a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/green-roofs-check-101677">green roof</a>. The glassy high-rises, which are expected to house a five-star hotel, for-sale residential units and retail space, look like stacks of frustums, or cut-off pyramid shapes. The middle tower would meet the ground with a soaring glass atrium looking north over the Chicago River, while the structure itself would straddle North Field Boulevard running to the south.</p><p>So what are its prospect? Although Mayor Rahm Emanuel says there won&rsquo;t be any public funding involved, the project still needs city approval because its proposed height would exceed the maximum allowed in in the area&rsquo;s master plan.</p><p>Arguably more important is the economic challenge. Downtown Chicago is in the middle of a residential and hotel boom that signals high demand, but could mean the market is nearing saturation. Still, Sean Linnane of Magellan Development Group is confident they&rsquo;ll deliver on this supertall order.</p><p>&ldquo;The timing is right for this project. We&rsquo;re coming out of the doldrums we&#39;ve been in since arguably 2007,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&#39;s not like our Chinese partners said, &lsquo;Let&#39;s come to the U.S. and do a supertall.&rsquo; They were just trying to find a great investment opportunity to make their splash in the United States. And it&#39;s a credit to Chicago that they chose our development.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s market is warming up, but China&rsquo;s is burning across its borders. Wanda is owned by Wang Jianlin, the richest man in mainland China. Like many Chinese developers, he&rsquo;s looking for new markets overseas.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s crazy what&#39;s going on in China right now. There&#39;s just been explosive growth,&rdquo; Linnane says. &ldquo;They&#39;re looking all over the place, not just the U.S. It&#39;s a way to sustain their growth. They look at the U.S. as a very mature market.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1zOBXrWDC28PlZhqn_-F8bid5QLCQrKVDN2cKc47P9lw/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em><span style="font-size:10px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Above: Renderings of the proposed Wanda Vista development. (Courtesy City of Chicago)</span></span></em></p><p>That explosive growth has gone on for a long time, but lately <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/24/china-property-prices-idUSL3N0SJ1DE20141024" target="_blank">Chinese home prices have slipped</a>. Tom Kerwin, principal of bKL Architecture, says the U.S. real estate market is a relatively stable place for global developers to invest.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there&#39;s a shift because, for one, the Chinese property market is down significantly. So these companies that develop as their core business are looking for other places to export their expertise in addition to their capital. You&#39;re seeing many Chinese developers coming to the U.S., and the biggest of the biggest are coming,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Not just Wanda.&rdquo;</p><p>Other major Chinese developers such as Greenland Group and ECADI have made their first U.S. moves in New York City and Los Angeles, but Wanda&rsquo;s debut is in Chicago. That&rsquo;s a vote of confidence in the city&rsquo;s real estate market, and it mirrors a larger trend: <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/January-2015/The-New-China-Pipeline/" target="_blank">Between March 2013 and March 2014, the Chinese purchased $22 billion of U.S. residential property &mdash; the highest volume for any non-domestic group</a>.</p><p>Wanda&rsquo;s not the only Chinese developer interested in Chicago. In 2014 Beijing&rsquo;s Cinda International Holdings Limited <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelcole/2014/03/16/chinese-investors-discover-chicago-real-estate/" target="_blank">teamed up with Chicago-based Zeller Realty Group to buy the 65-story tower at 311 S. Wacker Dr. for $304 million</a>. That&rsquo;s the seventh tallest building in Chicago to date, a mere seven meters (23 feet) short of supertall status.</p><p>If it comes to fruition, the Wanda project could signal a new era of tall building investment in Chicago, says CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood.</p><p>&ldquo;Whilst New York is awash with foreign investment, especially from China, this is one of the first major skyscraper investments from overseas we have seen in Chicago during the current wave, which is sweeping the world,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;Chicago will likely never accommodate the World&rsquo;s tallest building again, but it is a proud skyscraper city, as well as a major economic hub, and it is likely that we will see other supertall buildings proposed and built in the coming years &ndash; especially residential supertalls.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What about other recent contenders to be Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/old%20post%20office%20wikimedia%20commons%20brianbobcat.jpg" title="The Old Main Post Office in downtown Chicago has been in redevelopment limbo since it closed in 1996. Previous plans included the construction of a 120-story building in its place. (Wikimedia Commons/Brianbobcat)" /></p><p>In 2013 Chicago City Council approved the first part of an audacious redevelopment plan for the massive Old Main Post Office downtown, which has loomed vacant over the Eisenhower Expressway since 1996. The plans came from British developer Bill Davies&rsquo; International Property Developers and local architects Antunovich Associates. They called first for a rehab of the existing 2.7 million square foot post office and the construction of a 1,000-foot tower, to be followed in a later phase by a 2,000-foot tower that would be the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.</p><p>The first phase would take eight to 10 years, Joe Antunovich said, while the rest might take 20 years. But first they need to secure financing. The entire project could cost $3.5 billion. It would be an impressive feat, to be sure. But in that amount of time, Shanghai&rsquo;s Pudong district<a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6600367" target="_blank"> went from mainly farmland to a part of a metropolis with more skyscrapers than New York City</a>.</p><p>In 2014, however, the project&rsquo;s developers <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/realestate/20141008/CRED03/141009835/old-post-office-owner-plots-next-move-after-breakup-with-sterling-bay" target="_blank">announced they were exploring alternative plans for the property</a>, possibly nixing the 120-story tower.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/spire%20hole%20flickr%20Marcin%20Wichary.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="The ill-fated Chicago Spire was supposed to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. (Flickr/Marcin Wichary)" /></div><p>If you want to see evidence of the recession&rsquo;s impact on skyscraper construction, you don&rsquo;t need to pore over spreadsheets or the architectural billings index: You just need to go to 400 N. Lake Shore Dr., where you&rsquo;ll find a pit about 100 ft. wide and 80 ft. deep. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-08/what-might-have-been-ill-fated-chicago-spire-101922" target="_blank">The ill-fated Chicago Spire</a> was supposed to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. But the twisting 2,000-foot tower failed to attract enough financing and was hit with foreclosure lawsuits. Now it&rsquo;s the most-watched hole in the ground in Chicago real estate.</p><p>In 2013 real estate developer<a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2013/06/24/related-in-deal-to-buy-distressed-debt-on-stalled-chicago-spire-project/" target="_blank"> Related Cos. of New York reportedly entered talks to buy the Spire&#39;s discounted debt</a>, but in November 2014 a U.S. Bankruptcy Court forced the project&rsquo;s original developer, Garrett Kelleher, to hand the 2.2-acre site over. Related <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-spire-1105-biz-20141104-story.html">now controls the real estate</a> and has not yet announced plans for development.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Why the action has been outside Chicago</span></p><p>There are a few factors behind Asia&rsquo;s building boom that don&rsquo;t quite apply to Chicago. For one thing, said Wood, Chicago just doesn&rsquo;t need to make a statement with its skyline like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia did when its Petronas Towers unseated Willis Tower as the world&rsquo;s tallest in 1998.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s driving these tall buildings around the world is attention in a global market and population growth,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;And, on the face of it, we&rsquo;re not seeing any of that in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTABOUTUS/0,,contentMDK:23272497~pagePK:51123644~piPK:329829~theSitePK:29708,00.html?argument=value" target="_blank">The world gains more than 5 million city dwellers every month</a>, and the U.S. accounts for very little of that urbanization. It&rsquo;s happening in places like China, where<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/world/asia/chinas-great-uprooting-moving-250-million-into-cities.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank"> a government plan to move 250 million people into cities by 2025</a> helps generate huge demand for high-density, supertall buildings.</p><p>But even if Chicago isn&rsquo;t home to many new supertalls, it&rsquo;s still a nerve center of sorts for tall building architecture and engineering.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s not many really significant tall buildings that are not happening with some Chicago expertise anywhere in the world &mdash; architectural, engineering, geotechnical, façade &mdash; but some Chicago input,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;However it is fair to say that there has been a major shift in almost all aspects of tall buildings.&rdquo;</p><p>If they pull it off, the Wanda Tower will change the Chicago skyline. But in China huge developments happen all the time. One of the tower&rsquo;s architects, bKL Principal Tom Kerwin, says China&rsquo;s economic and demographic booms have made massive projects part of the new urban culture.</p><p>&ldquo;Supertall buildings or large mixed-use complexes are kind of the norm in China,&rdquo; said Kerwin, who has worked on dozens of projects in the U.S. and Asia. &ldquo;The Chinese are very accustomed to these large-scale, multi-use buildings. So for them, it sounds kind of silly to say, but it&#39;s almost commonplace.&rdquo;</p><p>In addition to moving to Asia, supertall towers have changed since Chicago&rsquo;s skyline rose decades ago. Tall towers today tend to have more retail and residential space than their counterparts from previous generations. They are often mixed-use &mdash; combining hotel, retail, office and/or residential space in one building &mdash; and use different structural systems, like concrete-steel composites as opposed to just steel. And rather than bearing corporate names such as Chrysler, Sears and Petronas, they&rsquo;re increasingly named to inspire civic pride: say, the Russia Tower or Chicago Spire. Burj Khalifa was originally called Burj Dubai.</p><p>Brian Lee, a design partner at Skidmore, Owings &amp; Merrill &mdash; the architectural offices behind thousands of skyscrapers around the world, including four of Chicago&rsquo;s six supertalls &mdash; has seen the effect of these projects first-hand.</p><p>&ldquo;We think that the tall building is not the only kind of building type that should be built, obviously. It has limitations,&rdquo; Lee said, &ldquo;but there&rsquo;s something exhilarating about a tall structure that makes a mark for a city and a region.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A supertall with a Chicago character?</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/riverpoint-courtesy-hines-and-pickard-chilton.jpg" style="height: 470px; width: 620px;" title="A park plan for the base of the River Point building, connects the property to the Chicago Riverwalk. (Courtesy of Hines and Pickard Chilton)" /></div><p>Our Curious Citizen, Andrew Wambach, raised another interesting question: If skyscrapers are a statement of their city&rsquo;s character, what should influence the design of Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall if it actually comes to be?</p><p>New skyscrapers at Wolf Point, River Point and 150 N. Riverside &mdash; three sites abutting the Chicago River at its confluence downtown &mdash; feature riverwalk connections and landscaped parks at their bases. Two of them actually have broader shoulders, as it were, than footprints. Landscape architect Ted Wolff said the Wolf Point project was the first where he&rsquo;d actually heard an architect tell him to expand his landscaping so far it would hem in the lobby.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/andrew wambach photo.jpeg" style="float: right; height: 303px; width: 200px;" title="Our question-asker, Andrew Wambach, is from Minneapolis but moved to Chicago for work between 2011-2013." />They may not be supertalls by the Council on Tall Buildings&rsquo; definition, but projects like these suggest Chicago&rsquo;s architectural legacy may be as much about Millennium Park as it is about Willis Tower.</p><p>Wanda&rsquo;s plans for a new supertall in Chicago are still preliminary, but its designers and developers have hinted at connections to neighborhood parks and the Chicago Riverwalk.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s no secret that the project site is on an important axis for connectivity to the river, the lake, the Lakeshore East park and other internal features of our development,&rdquo; said Magellan&rsquo;s Sean Linnane. &ldquo;Because of its location, by its nature it will have to address those.&rdquo;</p><p>After all, says architect Tom Kerwin, that&rsquo;s the critical challenge a design team faces with any new project &mdash; no matter its size or location.</p><p>&ldquo;In cities around the world, how do you create a prototype where something&#39;s so technically driven and make it of its place, make it part of the city where you&#39;re building it?&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It definitely is a challenge. You want buildings to respond to their context, not just in a functional way but in an inspirational or an aesthetic way.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, to bring the skyscraper down to earth.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley is a writer with WBEZ and Midwest Editor for <a href="http://archpaper.com/" target="_blank">The Architect&rsquo;s Newspaper</a>. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@cementley</a>.</em></p></div><p><em>Correction: This story misstated the reporting year used for the&nbsp;CTBUH graphic that compares supertalls. The graphic represents data gathered up to November 2014.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 18:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-will-chicago-get-its-next-supertall-skyscraper-108531 When is Chicago-area traffic the worst? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-chicago-area-traffic-worst-111374 <p><p>Traffic. It&rsquo;s something utterly mundane and expected, but when you&rsquo;re inching through a major city on a car or bus, road congestion can be a kind of personal hell.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel like a terrible commute is only terrible to the person who&rsquo;s living it,&rdquo; observes our question-asker, Esther Bowen. She&rsquo;s a resident of Chicago&rsquo;s Bucktown neighborhood who commutes about 45 minutes each way to her job in suburban Lemont. That&rsquo;s provided plenty of time for her to formulate this question for Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What factors influence daily, weekly, and seasonal traffic patterns in the Chicagoland region?</em></p><p>If you can&rsquo;t sympathize with Esther, you should know that traffic affects you, even if you don&rsquo;t drive or ride the bus. All the congestion on Chicago-area roads sucked up more than $6 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2011, according to the Texas A&amp;M Transportation Institute. That&rsquo;s third among the 101 metro areas they assessed.</p><p>Of course, a lot of that wasted time is in what commuters like Esther might consider &ldquo;typical&rdquo; traffic jams. And that&rsquo;s how we&rsquo;re going to help her: by laying out what the &ldquo;expected&rdquo; traffic patterns actually are. We&rsquo;ll then have officials and researchers account for these variations, as well as what contributes to road congestion in the first place.</p><p>We can&rsquo;t guarantee that this information will necessarily make Esther or any other commuter happy to be on the road, but maybe it can steer folks clear of any traffic-induced personal hell.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Traffic pattern: A typical day, measured hour by hour </span></p><div class="image-insert-image ">It&rsquo;s no secret that the length of your commute can depend on what time you start it. Citing <a href="http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/congsymp/sld004.htm" target="_blank">data from the Federal Highway Administration and elsewhere</a>, the Texas Transportation Institute&rsquo;s Bill Eisele says bottlenecks &mdash; simply more drivers on the roads than the roads can accommodate &mdash; are responsible for about 40 percent of all traffic congestion nationwide.</div><p>But when it comes to a typical day in the Chicago area, when do drivers hit the heaviest traffic?</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.dot.state.il.us/transportation-system/Network-Overview/highway-system/illinois-travel-statistics" target="_blank">Figures from the Illinois Department of Transportation</a> show that on average, the hours ending at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m have the highest share of the day&rsquo;s traffic on Northeastern Illinois&rsquo; interstate highways. The worst morning hour, which is not as heavy as the afternoon peak, is from 7 to 8 a.m.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/traffic by hour2.png" title="This chart depicts the most congested travel times in Northeastern Illinois. Peak hours are between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., and between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., with afternoon rush hour being generally more congested than morning rush hour. AADT means annual average daily traffic, collected from 18 sites throughout the region between 2010 and 2013 by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Click to learn more about the data." /></div></div></div><p>Why is the morning rush hour generally lighter than the afternoon-evening rush hours? <a href="http://nhts.ornl.gov/2009/pub/stt.pdf" target="_blank">Citing data from the Federal Highway Administration</a>, Nebiyou Tilahun, an assistant professor of urban planning at the University of Illinois Chicago, says it&rsquo;s because people are doing more than just commuting in the afternoon.</p><p>&ldquo;In percentage terms, commuting dominates over other types of trips in the morning. In the afternoon, it is one of several trip types that congest the roadway. Family and personal trips as well as social/recreation trips are made with more or almost equal frequency,&rdquo; he says.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Traffic pattern: A typical week, measured day by day</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/traffic by day3.png" title="This chart depicts traffic trends by day in Northeastern Illinois. The red line indicates the annual average daily traffic, so any value higher than the bar represents higher than average travel times and vice versa. Click to learn more about the data." /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><p>The discrepancy between morning and evening rush hours is even most pronounced on Friday, which IDOT says is generally the heaviest traffic day of the week in the Chicago area.</p><p>&ldquo;Thursday and Friday tend to be our worst p.m. rush hours,&rdquo; says IDOT&rsquo;s Matt Daeda. &ldquo;Oddly enough, we&rsquo;ve noticed in the past few years during the summer months our a.m. [Friday] rush hour tends to be a lot lighter than the other days of the week.&rdquo;</p><p>They think that&rsquo;s due to people taking long weekends, working from home, or otherwise shifting toward a four-day work week in the summer months. IDOT Spokeswoman Carson Quinn says they&rsquo;re seeing this pattern start to emerge on summer Thursdays, too.</p><p>Seattle-based traffic data firm INRIX agrees that Friday evening&rsquo;s commute is the single worst of Chicago&rsquo;s week. But the Chicago area&rsquo;s worst commute day overall &ldquo;is a toss-up between Wednesday and Thursday,&rdquo; according to spokesman Jim Bak.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Traffic pattern: A typical year, measured month by month</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/traffic by month3.png" title="This chart depicts traffic trends by day in Northeastern Illinois based on data collected between 2010 and 2013 by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Click to learn more about the data. " /></div><p>Summer is the worst season for Chicago-area traffic, in part because of the increase in construction work. According to Bill Eisele of the Texas Transportation Institute, construction is the fourth-leading cause of road congestion and is responsible for 10 percent of traffic jams nationwide.</p><p>IDOT says average weekday traffic increases on all of the Chicago area&rsquo;s major highways during the summer, but by different amounts. The Stevenson (I-55) sees the biggest jump, with as much as 12 percent more traffic, while traffic on the Eisenhower (I-290) only increases by 3 percent. The Kennedy and Edens (I-90 and I-94) get 8 and 11 percent more clogged, respectively.</p><p>But fall also sees a significant uptick in travel times. Jim Bak, a spokesman for INRIX, relays this office adage about seasonal traffic patterns: &ldquo;Back to school, back to work, back to traffic.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;On a seasonal basis, the biggest impact is school schedules,&rdquo; says Bak. &ldquo;Nationally, it can increase traffic congestion levels by up to 15 percent. In Chicago we see an annual lift of up to 10 percent.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">What about reverse commutes?</span></p><p>As a city dweller who treks out to the suburbs during business hours, our question-asker, Esther, is a so-called reverse commuter. Suburban development and job growth has taken off in recent decades. <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/10/29/241350699/reverse-commutes-now-often-a-daily-slog-too" target="_blank">That has created a surge in urbanites with suburban occupations</a>, like Esther. So, naturally, she wants to know if her increasingly common arrangement results in less traffic compared to the traditional commute from the suburbs to the city.</p><p>&ldquo;In general the traditional commute still is heaviest, more often than not,&rdquo; says IDOT&rsquo;s Carson Quinn. But that&rsquo;s not the case for all local expressways. On the Edens Expressway (I-94), for example, northbound traffic is heaviest in the morning while southbound is worst in the evening, suggesting a flow of traffic away from downtown for the workday. The Kennedy (I-90) is the same.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">What contributes to traffic?</span></p><p>So that&rsquo;s the basic answer to Esther Bowen&rsquo;s questions about Chicago&rsquo;s worst hours, days and seasons for traffic. But what are the general factors that influence traffic patterns?</p><p>According to the Federal Highway Administration, the major contributors are what you might expect: Bottlenecks, or just the sheer number of cars on the road, make up 40 percent of congestion nationwide. Traffic accidents and related slow-downs cause about 25 percent, while bad weather is responsible for 15 percent of lurching road travel. Construction is the last major cause, at 10 percent. The remaining 10 percent is due to things like poor signal timing, special events (like sports games and festivals) and other lesser factors.</p><p>Chicago doesn&rsquo;t deviate much from that national average, according to Steve Travia &mdash; he&rsquo;s IDOT&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.dot.state.il.us/about-idot/idot-regions/idot-region-1/index" target="_blank">District 1</a> bureau chief for traffic, responsible for overseeing traffic management and reporting in the six-county greater Chicago area. Traffic engineers at IDOT&rsquo;s District 1 headquarters monitor regional traffic on a bevy of video and computer monitors, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-do-reversible-lanes-kennedy-expressway-work-101384" target="_blank">switching the direction of express lanes</a> and dispatching crews to clear accidents.</p><p>Bottlenecks and the like are perennial leaders in causing congestion, a fact he says is due to some basic physics.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a break point. There&rsquo;s a capacity limit of how many cars will truly fit on a lane of pavement,&rdquo; says Travia. Depending on the types of vehicles, traffic signals, topography and other factors (beyond just the size of the road), that capacity can vary. But as you approach what IDOT calls &ldquo;saturation,&rdquo; traffic will begin to slow down. People can change their driving habits to a certain point but, Travia says, &ldquo;then you hit that magic number. ... And that&rsquo;s when it breaks down. That&rsquo;s when you start to get that accordion effect.&rdquo;</p><p>Traffic engineers call that &ldquo;disrupted flow&rdquo;, and it ripples out quickly. In fact, Travia says, every minute an accident blocks a lane of traffic adds roughly three minutes of congestion on that highway.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-chicago-area-traffic-worst-111374#jindra"><strong>Related: Guide to decoding traffic reports</strong></a></p><p>What about weather? It seems, given our polar vortices and generally volatile weather, Chicagoans would see weather higher up in the relative breakdown of Chicago&rsquo;s traffic factors. But Kermit Wies, deputy executive director for research and analysis at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, says it appears only about 13 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s traffic congestion occurs when the weather is wet, snowy or icy. So while <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-how-bad-chicago-winter-109637">those long winters can be brutal</a>, and they do help to clog the roadways, they&rsquo;re not game-changers when it comes to the broadest traffic patterns.</p><p>There are also surprising forces behind traffic patterns.</p><p>&ldquo;If people have jobs, they have money to spend, resulting in not only more commuter traffic but also more traffic in general as people go out to have dinner, to shop, go to a movie or cultural event, etc.,&rdquo; says INRIX&rsquo;s Jim Bak. &ldquo;Even now when more people tend to shop online, the product eventually has to get to your house from a distribution center &mdash; that happens on a truck.&rdquo; &nbsp;That means more raw materials are being delivered to manufacturing plants, and more freight to stores as they replenish inventory to keep up with increased consumer demand.</p><p>Freight traffic also impacts Chicago&rsquo;s commuters directly. The Texas Transportation Institute&rsquo;s Bill Eisele put it optimistically: &ldquo;Chicago is an exciting, dynamic, multi-modal town.&rdquo; But that also means motorists in the Chicago area, which sees up to a quarter of the entire nation&rsquo;s freight traffic, have to deal with the added congestion of trucks and train crossings. TTI&rsquo;s Urban Mobility Report estimates truck congestion alone cost Chicago more than $1.7 billion in lost time and fuel in 2011, the most recent year for which they&rsquo;ve crunched the numbers.</p><p>Infrastructure improvements could help ease that pain, Eisele says, as could an increase in public transit ridership.</p><p>&ldquo;For critical high-volume routes (like expressways),&rdquo; says Kermit Wies, of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, &ldquo;traffic managers will use <a href="http://www.travelmidwest.com/lmiga/home.jsp" target="_blank">Intelligent Transportation Systems</a> (ITS) such as in-road sensors and cameras to make real-time decisions to close ramps and upstream lanes, issue signboard messages or media blasts in an effort to keep delays to a minimum.&rdquo;</p><p>That response is improving constantly, building on a general slump in miles driven per capita.</p><p>In Cook County,<a href="http://www.dot.state.il.us/Assets/uploads/files/Transportation-System/Reports/OP&amp;P/Travel-Stats/Illinois%20Travel%20Statistics%202013.pdf#page=7" target="_blank"> annual vehicle miles traveled have declined</a> since 2009 (across the state, that figure peaked in 2004 at 108,910,000,000 miles.)</p><p>Probably better to focus on that than the time and money you&rsquo;re wasting the next time you&rsquo;re caught in a bad bout of congestion on Chicago-area highways.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/esther%20bowen.jpg" style="float: left; height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="Photo courtesy Esther Bowen" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Who asked our question?</span></p><p>Esther Bowen&rsquo;s curiosity is both personal and occupational. She commutes from Chicago&rsquo;s Bucktown neighborhood to Argonne National Laboratory, where she has worked as a scientist in the soil and groundwater sampling division for nearly three years. The trip usually takes about 45 minutes in the morning and an hour on the way back after work. That&rsquo;s plenty of time for her scientific mind to wade through the reasons that I-55 might flow freely one day and clog up the next.</p><p><a name="data"></a>&ldquo;I do kind of hate that I waste that much time in traffic,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I feel like &mdash; psychologically &mdash; if I can understand why it is, it would help to deal with it.&rdquo;</p><p>Esther and her husband, Aaron, moved to Bucktown from Chicago&rsquo;s Lakeview neighborhood in part to shave time off her commute. She remembers one trip back from work when they lived in Lakeview took two hours, thanks to rain showers and a Cubs game.</p><p>Esther&rsquo;s parents still live in her hometown of Crystal Lake, Illinois &mdash; about 45 miles northwest of downtown Chicago &mdash; so substantial commutes factor into her personal life as well as her career.</p><p>Most of her friends live and work in the city, and she&rsquo;s not expecting sympathy from them. Instead, she says she just hopes to satisfy a personal curiosity.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel like a terrible commute is only terrible to the person who&rsquo;s living it,&rdquo; she says.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The data driving our presentation</span></p><p>Charts in our presentation use the term Annual Average Daily Traffic, or AADT, which means traffic engineers measured the total number of cars in a year on a given road and divided by 365 days. We followed the Illinois Department of Transportation&rsquo;s format, so when AADT is above 100 percent, it means that time period experiences greater than average traffic.</p><p>Now, a few words on how traffic is measured, generally speaking. Even if you&rsquo;ve never nerded out over traffic engineering, this will be relevant if you&rsquo;ve ever used your phone to navigate on the road.</p><p>A lot of the information gathered by the federal and local transportation agencies comes from inductive-loop traffic detectors &mdash; magnetic loops embedded in the pavement of highways and some smaller streets. The devices measure the number and size of vehicles passing over them. From this information, traffic engineers glean travel times using mathematical formulas.</p><p><a name="jindra"></a>Luckily for traffic geeks, there is a lot more data out there these days. Many of us travel with mobile devices and, while we do, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS components log data about our location at any given time. Google and other companies use that information to estimate the flow of traffic, and then deliver that data back through map programs and services.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley is a freelance writer and reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow him at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank"> @cementley</a> and at <a href="http://cabentley.com" target="_blank">cabentley.com</a>.</em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_75518" scrolling="no" src="https://www.scribd.com/embeds/181823840/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em style="font-size: 10px;">The above guide was compiled by previous WBEZ traffic reporter Sarah Jindra. It details major highway routes around the city and could also help make sense of the traffic reports you hear on the radio.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 11:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-chicago-area-traffic-worst-111374 Wherefore art thou Romeoville? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/wherefore-art-thou-romeoville-111302 <p><p>It&rsquo;s a feat of imagination to look beyond modern developments in your town, suburb or neighborhood and picture how the place looked as it was getting its start. Even if your neck of the woods has no historic district or a single century-old home, it&rsquo;s still got a history. And, often, its starting point is somehow tied up with its name.</p><p>Paul Kaiser is particularly interested in the starting point of his adopted home of Joliet, the largest city in Will County. His question for Curious City goes back decades, when he first encountered an odd, name-related fact about Joliet and its apparent relationship to a village just north, Romeoville:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>I believe that Joliet was once named Juliet, while nearby Romeoville was once named Romeo. What&#39;s the story?</em></p><p>To find an answer for Paul, we found historians (both past and present), a linguistics professor and a Shakespeare expert to consider the relationship between the original town names. As we looked at the towns&rsquo; broader history, we found we were able to fill in at least some blanks left by a lack of documents. But more importantly, we learned why origin stories can still be useful to our own identity, even if you can&rsquo;t nail these stories down so tightly.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What we know</span></p><p>Paul&rsquo;s onto something, at least when it comes to the two core details. Back in the 1830s, Joliet was founded as Juliet, and Romeoville was founded as Romeo. (Some sources also call the town Romeo Depot.) You can even see the names on old maps of the area &hellip; which is cute and all, considering they bear an obvious resemblance to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romeo_and_Juliet" target="_blank">William Shakespeare&rsquo;s star-crossed lovebirds, Romeo and Juliet</a>. There is, however, no solid documentation &mdash; no municipal meeting minutes nor history accounted for by town founders &mdash; that unequivocally lays out why these towns were named as they were.</p><p>But there are some worthy speculations. Your best bet is to head back 150 years or so before the towns were named by white settlers. In the 1670s, French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet were traversing parts of the Great Lakes region, in part to find out if the Mississippi River flowed to the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean.</p><p>In May of 1673, just southwest of present-day Chicago, they stumbled upon a huge mound near the Des Plaines River. On their maps, Marquette and Jolliet christened the landmark Mont Jolliet, and the name stuck. The name later morphed to Mound Joliet.</p><p>About 150 years later, the area was drawn into an ambitious plan by the U.S. government, the newly-formed state of Illinois, and investors to build the Illinois and Michigan Canal, a waterway that would connect the Great Lakes to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. When completed, materials could be transported quickly, compared to the era&rsquo;s cumbersome overland routes. The federal government ceded land surrounding proposed routes, and lots were sold to fund canal construction.</p><p>James Campbell, treasurer of canal commissioners, bought a bunch of land in the Mound Joliet area. Except, for one reason or another, the area at this time became known as Juliet &mdash; with a U. This is where history gets wonky.</p><p>Even historians from the late 1800s (including those writing just a generation or so after Campbell) can&rsquo;t offer much insight into Juliet&rsquo;s origins. In his 1878 book <em>History of Will County, Illinois</em>, George Woodruff throws his hands in the air:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/various%20theories%20take%20your%20choice.png" title="An excerpt from the book History of Will County, Illinois, published in 1878, lays out our three theories. " /></div><blockquote><p><em>Campbell&rsquo;s town was recorded as &lsquo;Juliet,&rsquo; whether after Shakespeare&rsquo;s heroine, or his own daughter, or by mistake for Joliet, the writer cannot determine. There are various theories; take your choice.</em></p></blockquote><p>We encountered three theories that account for the original name of Juliet, as well as some kind of relationship with Romeo.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The typo theory</span></p><p>Our question-asker, Paul, is familiar with the explorers Marquette and Jolliet, and he speculates that the town was named Juliet on maps, due to &ldquo;possibly human error on some of the map making. Where things just morphed to what somebody wanted it to be.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/juliet%20joliet%20timeline.png" title="Historical maps of the Will County area show the changing name of modern-day Joliet over time. (Source: Chicago History Museum)" /></div><p>We can find no record of cartographers of yore owning up to such a careless error. But Edward Callary, a linguistics professor at Northern Illinois University who wrote a <a href="http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/33nxw6km9780252033568.html" target="_blank">book on Illinois place names</a>, entertains the idea from an oratory standpoint. He says it&rsquo;s possible that 19th-century map makers may have simply not known how to translate the French-sounding name Jolliet into English. So, when marking the spot of Mound Jolliet, it&rsquo;s possible they made spelling errors. And if that&rsquo;s the case, Callary says, it&rsquo;s also possible those spelling &ldquo;errors&rdquo; were more like willful oversights.</p><p>&ldquo;We sometimes make up things that are a little bit closer to words that we already know rather than ones we don&rsquo;t know,&rdquo; Callary says.</p><p>For example, ever hear of Illinois&rsquo; Embarrass River? Callary points out the name comes from Americans reappropriating the river&rsquo;s French-given name, Embarrasser, which meant &ldquo;obstruction&rdquo; at the time.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The daughter theory</span></p><p>However, Sandy Vasko, the Executive President of the Will County Historical Society, is a proponent of what we call the daughter theory.</p><p>Remember land-buyer and canal treasurer James Campbell? Several sources suggest that he may have had a daughter named Juliet, and that when forming a town, he named it after her.</p><p>Ironically, the earliest suggestion of this comes from the same 1878 Will County history book we got our three theories from. In any case, the author writes:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/daughter%20theory%202.png" title="" /></div><blockquote><p><em>On the 13th day of May, the Surveyor&rsquo;s certificate was filed, and on the 10th of June, 1834, the plat was recorded and the town christened to &ldquo;Juliet,&rdquo; for Campbell&rsquo;s daughter, it is said &hellip;</em></p></blockquote><p>All of this is debatable, though, since we&rsquo;ve also encountered history books that claim Campbell had a <em>wife</em> named Juliet, not a daughter. But Callary says that&rsquo;s not possible.</p><p>&ldquo;Campbell&rsquo;s wife&rsquo;s name was Sarah Anne,&rdquo; Callary says. &ldquo;He had no females in the family that were named Juliet that I can find. Maybe he named it for a friend&rsquo;s wife or daughter, but he didn&rsquo;t name it for his wife.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The Shakespeare theory</span></p><p>At face value, the Shakespeare theory is simple: The towns Romeo and Juliet were platted around the same time and named, perhaps puckishly (<a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/861" target="_blank">as suggested by one our most prolific web commenters</a>), as a pair in honor of Shakespeare&rsquo;s star-crossed lovebirds. Some sources mention that either Romeo or Juliet were platted as a healthy competitor to the other.</p><p>There&rsquo;s a complex side to the Shakespeare theory, though. To understand why Shakespeare characters would even be appealing names for new towns, it&rsquo;s important to know that &mdash; at times &mdash; there&rsquo;s a lot at stake in a name.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shakespeare marlboro.jpg" style="height: 386px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="A 1928 ad for Marlboro cigarettes. (Photo courtesy canadianshakespeares.ca)" />Recall that the I&amp;M Canal was meant to make Midwestern transportation cheap, but it was an expensive capital project. Vasko reminds us that &ldquo;people didn&rsquo;t want to buy land until there was a canal. And they couldn&rsquo;t build a canal until they sold the land. And so it was a vicious circle.&rdquo;</p><p>So any boost in land sales was forward momentum as far as the canal commission was concerned. This is where our recognizable Shakespeare characters, the towns named Romeo and Juliet, come in.</p><p>&ldquo;I truly believe that it was almost an advertising gimmick,&rdquo; Sandy Vasko says. She suspects &ldquo;somebody who was big into advertising said: &lsquo;Ya know, let&rsquo;s do this. Let&rsquo;s call this new land Romeo, it&rsquo;ll be a catch thing and maybe we can sell a few extra lots because of the Romeo and Juliet connection.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Sound like a far-fetched connection? Well, consider that, when we kicked the British out of the colonies, we let Shakespeare stay. And in 1800s America, the works of Shakespeare reached a new form of American kingdom.</p><p>&ldquo;Shakespeare is in the theaters, it&rsquo;s in peoples rhetoric books. They&rsquo;re being taught passages of Shakespeare and how to speak it in order to be eloquent,&rdquo; says Heather Nathans, chair of the Department of Drama and Dance at Tufts University. &ldquo;It had a kind of familiarity that I think maybe we don&rsquo;t have now.&rdquo;</p><p>With that level of popularity, it&rsquo;s hardly a surprise that Shakespeare was deployed, like today&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.target.com/bp/cake+boss" target="_blank">Cake Boss</a>, to entice people to buy stuff. Shakespeare became the Shakespeare brand.</p><p>&ldquo;Slap Shakespeare on [a product] and it instantly seems more elegant or elevated, or it&rsquo;s some clever tie-in that draws your attention to whatever it might be: little mints or cigarettes or playing cards.&rdquo; Nathans says.</p><p>If Shakespeare had become an important branding technique in 1800s America, was it used by I&amp;M Canal commissioners? Again, there are no surviving documents that lay this out, but the Bard as &ldquo;brand&rdquo; would have solved a problem the canal faced: Illinois sometimes seemed an uninviting place to prospective landbuyers.</p><p>&ldquo;People really didn&rsquo;t want to move here because they were worried: Are these Indians going to kill us?&rdquo; Vasko says. &ldquo;One of the things [the commissioners] had to do was be sure that people wanted to come here, and that the Indians were gone.&rdquo;</p><p>Mainly, the commissioners encouraged Illinois to act on the federal Indian Removal Act signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shakespeare coca cola.jpg" style="float: right; height: 393px; width: 280px;" title="A 1928 Coca-Cola advertisement featuring William Shakespeare, published in Life Magazine. (Photo courtesy Coca-Cola) " />Tensions between Native Americans and white settlers came to a head during the timeframe of when Juliet and Romeo were founded. In the spring of 1832, <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/141.html" target="_blank">the Black Hawk War</a> broke out. Afterword, Native Americans, mostly Potawatomi in that area, were forced to leave Illinois for good. They gathered in Kankakee, then walked to reservations in Kansas and Nebraska, according to Vasko. &ldquo;A lot of old people died on the way, of course. A lot of young people were never born, died stillbirth, things like that,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It was a very sad, sad time for Illinois, and it&rsquo;s why we have no Native American reservations at all here in Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>After the exodus, land sales to white settlers increased. &ldquo;Now they felt safe,&rdquo; Vasko says.</p><p>Heather Nathans adds: &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t think of a better way to declare that that is the past and this is the future, by putting on some nice, recognizable Shakespeare names.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s hard to prove, but perhaps the new Shakespearean town names signalled safety to prospective settlers and investors back East. Regardless, the town names of Romeo and Juliet only stuck around for about 15 years, until 1845.</p><p>The change came about after former President Martin Van Buren passed through Juliet while touring western states. Van Buren noticed the town name of Juliet was similar to the name of Mound Joliet. He encouraged the citizens to reconsider having a town named Juliet after a<em> girl</em>, (again, supposedly Campbell&rsquo;s daughter) and instead call it Joliet, in honor of the renowned explorer.</p><p>&ldquo;And they took [that] under consideration,&rdquo; Vasko says. &ldquo;In 1845 they indeed changed the name from Juliet to Joliet. But, they did refuse to add any extra t&rsquo;s or e&rsquo;s. So the word was Joliet, very plain and simple J-o-l-i-e-t.&rdquo;</p><p>We don&rsquo;t know whether they gave Romeo a heads up, or even if they bothered to send a postcard. And we don&rsquo;t know how Romeo felt about it. But we know what they did: That same year, Romeo added -ville to its name, becoming Romeoville.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The myth lives on</span></p><p>Even without official records or documentation that answers why each place was originally named as it was, hints of Romeo and Juliet persist within their modern incarnations.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/romeo%20cafe%20juliet%20tavern.png" title="Romeo Cafe in Romeoville and Juliet's Tavern in Joliet are hints into the area's past lives. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe and Katie Klocksin)" /></div><p>As you drive through Romeoville you&rsquo;ll pass Juliet Ave. and Romeo Road, Romeo Cafe and Romeo Plaza. In Joliet, you&rsquo;ll find Juliet&rsquo;s Tavern &mdash; a nod to the city&rsquo;s former name.</p><p>But where the Shakespeare theory resonates most is perhaps at the Romeoville Area Historical Society. We take Paul, our question-asker, and his wife, Kathy there to meet Nancy Hackett, president of the society and a Romeoville resident.</p><p>Hackett shows us around the place, and we eyeball some items that hint at the area&rsquo;s slight hangup on its past self.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="416" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1PjwID6dIP5O75xdRfnY6TmoCR5BnjaugI4LIscbUvck/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Hackett says, even outside of the historical society, she lets the Shakespeare connection play out in her everyday life. Among other demonstrations, she shows off a bumper sticker that reads &ldquo;Wherefore art thou, Romeoville?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;For so long Romeoville was that tiny little place,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;When people ask me where it is I say &lsquo;It&rsquo;s north of Juliet&rsquo; &hellip; and then I correct it.&rdquo;</p><p>Hackett may correct herself on the town names, but there&rsquo;s one thing she won&rsquo;t budge on: Shakespeare is the reason for them. She says she knows this because it&rsquo;s in a book written by a woman named Mabel Hrpsha in 1967. Hrpsha was a member of the historical society and part of a long line of Romeoville residents who lived in the unincorporated part of town.</p><p>Hackett finds the specific page of Hrpsha&rsquo;s book, and reads:</p><blockquote><p><em>Romeo was one town proposed by the canal commissioners along the proposed canal. It was named after the Shakespearean hero and planned as a romantic twin sister and rival for Juliet, later Joliet.</em></p></blockquote><p>And even when she learns about the other two theories laid out in history books that predate Hrpsha&rsquo;s, Hackett says: &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll stick with Romeo and Juliet.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What&rsquo;s in a name?</span></p><p>Without the evidence to confirm any single theory, it&rsquo;s hard to disabuse people like Hackett who have chosen to take one theory or another as gospel. But maybe the tendency to perpetuate origin stories &mdash; and the many ways they manifest &mdash; can sometimes be more interesting than a verifiably true story.</p><p>At least that&rsquo;s Callary&rsquo;s take on our answer to Paul Kaiser&rsquo;s question.</p><p>We learn that, through names, people make statements about their heritage. And if a tiny, tiny town like Romeo &mdash; almost written out of history books &mdash; has anything at stake, it is identity.</p><p>&ldquo;Very few [people] have heard of Romeoville&rdquo; Callary says. &ldquo;Joliet is large enough to have an identity on its own but Romeo &mdash; or, Romeoville &mdash; might need a little bit of help.&rdquo;</p><p>So people fill in the gaps because, well, that&rsquo;s just what people do.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s satisfying to have an answer,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And when we don&rsquo;t &hellip; by golly, we make one up.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/paul%20and%20kathy.jpg" style="height: 420px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="Paul Kaiser and his wife, Kathy, after visiting the Romeoville Area Historical Society. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Who asked the question?</span></p><p>Paul Kaiser, a retired math and computer science professor, moved to Joliet from Cleveland, Ohio, in 1973. As a curious new resident to the area, Paul got interested in the history of the I&amp;M Canal. It was while he was learning about the canal that he first came across old maps bearing the town names Romeo and Juliet.</p><p>&ldquo;For me this has been a trip around in a big, long historical circle,&rdquo; Paul says. &ldquo;It seems like we&rsquo;re always coming back to the canal, its importance back in the 1800s for opening up commerce and developing communities.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Luckily, Paul is comfortable with a bit of ambiguity in this Curious City investigation.</p><p>&ldquo;I do like the theory of Juliet being the original name because of Campbell&rsquo;s daughter,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But as the author says, we don&rsquo;t have any records to really say with 100 percent accuracy. So it&rsquo;s a good guess. I like the story. I&rsquo;m comfortable with the story. But it still leaves some freedom to play with it if you want. I mean, it leaves mystery in your life.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is an independent radio producer. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@katieklocksin</a>. Logan Jaffe is Curious City&#39;s multimedia producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 15:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/wherefore-art-thou-romeoville-111302