WBEZ | History http://www.wbez.org/tags/history Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Three decades as a Chicago policewoman http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/three-decades-chicago-policewoman-111781 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/StoryCorps 150327 PatHayes bh.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>When <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2001-02-16/news/0102160213_1_policewoman-policewomen-chicago-police-force">Pat Hays started with the Chicago Police in the 1960s</a>, her uniform was a skirt with a box jacket and &ldquo;a ridiculous hat shaped like a sugar scoop. And it didn&rsquo;t matter how many bobby pins you used, that damned hat would lift up in the wind and go trailing down the street. So if you got a choice of losing your hat or losing your prisoner, the hats were $40 apiece and there weren&rsquo;t that many available. It was a one-of-a-kind deal. You couldn&rsquo;t even find a hat to replace the hat that belonged to you. So of course we held on to the hat. You could always get the prisoner later.&rdquo;</p><p>StoryCorps producer Maya Millett interviewed Hays at home and they talked about Hays&rsquo; three decades on the force. When she started, the belief that you were a policewoman because you serviced all of the bosses was common, Hays said.</p><p>Once, Hays was part of a new unit, and the man she was working with asked how she got the job. She didn&rsquo;t say anything and after about ten minutes he kept at it. He accused her of sleeping with one of the bosses. She kept quiet.</p><p>He kept pestering her and finally asked, &ldquo;Which one are you sleeping with?&rdquo;</p><p>Hays says he looked him right in the eye and said, &ldquo;<em>All</em> of them.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;And I won the pissing contest,&rdquo; Hays said. &ldquo;A lot of times it was just brains over brawn.&rdquo;</p><p>The job took a toll on Hays&rsquo; marriage. She says she wouldn&rsquo;t want her daughters to follow in her footsteps. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t want them to put up with the things I did,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t want them to see the things that I saw.&rdquo;</p><p>In spite of the negatives, Hays said, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s kind of a calling. Nobody&rsquo;s gonna tell you you did a good job. Your sergeant&rsquo;s not going to tell you how great you are&hellip;but you have to be able to go home knowing that you did some good, you helped somebody along the way, or the person that you talked to today is in a better situation than when you dealt with her.&rdquo;</p><p>Hays says when she finally retired, it wasn&rsquo;t because she was tired of the job or that she was tired of talking to people.</p><p>&ldquo;It was because I couldn&rsquo;t stand all of the nonsense that the bosses were going through,&ldquo; she said, &ldquo;I still like solving people&rsquo;s problems. I would have done it forever. It was the paramilitary mindset that I had the most trouble with.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 11:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/three-decades-chicago-policewoman-111781 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 Worldview: Ebola's impact on education in Liberia http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-02-02/worldview-ebolas-impact-education-liberia-111487 <p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-b4a77d44-4c02-3a1b-ba21-1f0dbb18cba4"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10410307_10152511491572489_3404610266722506052_n.jpg" style="height: 484px; width: 620px;" title="K2 graduation in St. Anthony of Padua school in Liberia. (Courtesy of Liberia Mission)" /></span></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/189163868&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false;&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 23.9999980926514px; line-height: 22px;">Ebola stalls first day of school in Liberia</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-b4a77d44-4c1a-1521-939f-a94c6eaf44e9">Schools in Liberia, which have been shut since August because of the Ebola epidemic, were supposed to reopen on February 2. But they got notice late on Friday that the government had decided to delay the re-opening of schools. </span>Some members of parliament have called for the reopening date to be moved to March 2nd, saying they are concerned that the Ebola epidemic is not yet fully under control and children are still at risk.</p><p dir="ltr">One of the schools that will not open Monday is St. Anthony of Padua School. It&rsquo;s run by the Skokie-based group Franciscan Works. Franciscan works is a not-for-profit organization that works in cooperation with the Catholic Church and runs the Liberia Mission, which includes homes for boys and girls, St. Anthony of Padua school and St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church.It serves about 340 children. Merrill Kenna, executive director of Franciscan Works, joins us to discuss the impact of the Ebola epidemic on children in Liberia.</p><div><strong>Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><span style="font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap;">Merrill Kenna is executive director of <a href="https://www.franciscanworks.org/">Franciscan Works</a></span></em>.</div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/189164736&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false;&amp;&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 23.9999980926514px; line-height: 22px;">World History Minute: the real Robinson Crusoe</span></p><p>Historian and author John Schmidt takes us back to a fictional day in world history: February 2, 1709, the day Robinson Crusoe was rescued. John explains the story of Alexander Selkirk, the man that&nbsp;most scholars believe the story of Robinson Crusoe is based upon.</p><p><strong>Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="https://twitter.com/JRSchmidtPhD">John Schmidt</a> is a historian.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Mon, 02 Feb 2015 14:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-02-02/worldview-ebolas-impact-education-liberia-111487 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 Chicago museum lifts lid on Egyptian mummy coffin http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-museum-lifts-lid-egyptian-mummy-coffin-111204 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP479914621551.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Not until the lid was off the wood coffin &mdash; exposing the 2,500-year-old mummified remains of a 14-year-old Egyptian boy &mdash; could J.P. Brown relax.</p><p>The conservator at Chicago&#39;s Field Museum and three other scientists had just employed specially created clamps as a cradle to raise the fragile coffin lid. Wearing blue surgical gloves, they lifted the contraption and delicately walked it to safe spot on a table in a humidity-controlled lab.</p><p>&quot;Sweet!&quot; Brown said after helping set the lid down, before later acknowledging the stress. &quot;Oh yeah, god, I was nervous.&quot;</p><p>The much-planned procedure Friday at the museum, revealing the burial mask and blackened toes of Minirdis, the son of a priest, will allow museum conservators to stabilize the mummy so it can travel in an upcoming exhibit.</p><p>&quot;Mummies: Images of the Afterlife&quot; is expected to premier in September at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, then travel to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in fall 2016.</p><p>The Field Museum has had the mummy since the 1920s, when the institution received it from the Chicago Historical Society. It&#39;s part of the museum&#39;s collection of 30 complete human mummies from Egypt.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s always a risk of damage,&quot; said Brown, who works in a lab filled with plastic-covered examination tables behind a large window that allows schoolchildren to watch him work. &quot;So we like to handle these things as little as possible.&quot;</p><p>Even before opening the coffin, the conservators knew some of what to expect. CT scans, which make X-ray images allowing scientists to see inside, showed the boy&#39;s feet were detached and partially unwrapped with his toes sticking out. His shroud and mask were torn and twisted sideways. Those also will be repaired.</p><p>Pieces of the coffin had previously gone missing, so the mummy had been exposed to the elements before. For that reason, Brown wasn&#39;t worried about the mummy scattering to dust when the lid came off &mdash; a notion familiar to moviegoers.</p><p>&quot;The last bit of &#39;Indiana Jones&#39; and all that &mdash; that&#39;s not going to happen,&quot; he reassured before the lid-raising began.</p><p>Walking around the opened coffin, Brown pointed and explained the significance of a particular marking, the colored resin on linen wrappings and the gilded gold on the mask. If Minirdis had lived, he would have been a priest like his father, Brown said.</p><p>Scientists don&#39;t know why he died so young.</p><p>&quot;The fascinating thing about any mummy is that it&#39;s survived as long as it has,&quot; Brown said. &quot;They&#39;re actually amazingly fragile.&quot;</p><p>This kind of work is always painstaking, with lots of pre-planning and tests to prevent the unexpected, said Molly Gleeson, who works with mummies as project conservator at Penn Museum&#39;s &quot;In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies&quot; exhibition in Philadelphia.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s nothing else like them,&quot; she said, noting that if something goes wrong, &quot;We can&#39;t put things back together exactly the way they were before.&quot;</p></p> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 16:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-museum-lifts-lid-egyptian-mummy-coffin-111204 We ain't afraid of no (Chicago) ghosts! http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/we-aint-afraid-no-chicago-ghosts-111017 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/174477845&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><a href="https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&amp;ion=1&amp;espv=2&amp;ie=UTF-8#q=haunted%20chicago" target="_blank">Search &ldquo;haunted Chicago&rdquo; online</a> and you&rsquo;ll get a list of websites and articles, each clamoring to be your number one source for all things ghost related. The lists are long enough to occupy you for an eternity.</p><p>Which makes sense, given that Chicago <a href="http://chicago.curbed.com/archives/2012/10/29/map-haunted-places.php" target="_blank">has a reputation for being terribly haunted</a>. The city is the home of America&rsquo;s <a href="http://harpers.org/archive/1943/12/the-master-of-the-murder-castle/">first serial killer</a> (reference to &ldquo;murder castle&rdquo; included), as well as <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1916/10/the-devil-baby-at-hull-house/305428/" target="_blank">the cloven-hooved &ldquo;devil baby</a>.&rdquo; And, don&rsquo;t forget the swanky, downtown nightclub that once served as the morgue for victims of the <a href="http://www.eastlanddisaster.org/history/what-happened" target="_blank">Eastland disaster</a>.</p><p>Fibbed or fact-checked, these stories and dozens of others have been told and retold, spun into ghost-tour monologues and stamped into scary story books.</p><p>Well, we&rsquo;re taking our turn in re-spinning two of Chicago&rsquo;s spookiest stories, but this time in service to two <a href="https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.614491515325495.1073741829.207340619373922&amp;type=3" target="_blank">Curious Citizens</a>. The first wanted to meet the local specter who has (allegedly) been seen the most often. The second asked to find the location that ghost census-takers say is crawling with spirits.</p><p>To ease into this, let&rsquo;s consider what good can come out of a ghost story, especially if you&rsquo;re on the skeptical side. For this, we turn to folklorist Sue Eleuterio, who says these stories fulfill a number of psychological needs. Among them: Supernatural stories transform real-life dangers into ghoulish monsters. In theory these tales spook kids away from sneaking out after dark.</p><p>&ldquo;We know there are risks associated with certain behavior, so being out alone when it&rsquo;s dark, or you know, after a certain time, is dangerous, or can be dangerous,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Ghost stories can also make it safe for young people to experience uncomfortable emotions. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s something thrilling about being afraid, especially if it feels controlled,&rdquo; Eleuterio says. &ldquo;One of the things I love about folk culture is we still have that need. We have all those needs to be afraid, we have those needs to be reassured, we have those needs to be warned and protected.&rdquo;</p><p>With this in mind &mdash; and with help from an antique dealer and a couple of ghost experts &mdash; we pursue two ghost stories that answer our Curious Citizens&rsquo; questions. Along the way we learn how ghost tales can not just haunt us, they can help us, too.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Legitimate ghost?</span></p><p>For both questions we enlist the help of <a href="http://www.adamselzer.com" target="_blank">Adam Selzer</a>, the author of <em>The Ghosts of Chicago</em> and a local ghost tour guide. Selzer traces his interest in the supernatural back to his childhood, which was spent watching <em>Scooby Doo</em>. That detail, though, doesn&rsquo;t mean he&rsquo;s light when it comes to comparing legends to facts.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re interested in ghosts you deserve better,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You deserve proper backstories.&rdquo; For him, that translates into &ldquo;digging through old newspaper archives, old 19th century books, stuff from the property records, the legal archives occasionally, contacting relatives when possible.&rdquo;</p><p>Alright ... but for the record: Does our ghost expert believe in ghosts?</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve seen some strange stuff,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;but not necessarily anything that I would swear in front of a panel of scientists was really a dead person. But certainly some things that I can&rsquo;t explain.&rdquo;</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/part 1 topper.jpg" title="Anna “Mary” Norkus, above, died on the night of her 13th birthday in 1927. Ursula Bielski holds that Norkus is the inspiration behind Resurrection Mary ghost story. (Image courtesy Ursula Bielski)" /></div><p><span style="text-align: center;">Ok. Onto our first question, which comes from Chicagoan Ben Albers, a self-described history buff and ghost enthusiast:</span></p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Which is the most legitimate ghost story in Chicago?</em></p><p>And ... here&rsquo;s his caveat: He&rsquo;s looking for evidence. &ldquo;Anyone can make up a ghost story,&rdquo; Ben says. &ldquo;A new bar owner, in order to get publicity, they could say that Al Capone used to sit in that booth and eat his lasagna. It&rsquo;s just [that] you need the evidence to back it up in order for it to be legitimate.&rdquo;</p><p>Whew. Well, Ben meets Adam Selzer and producer Katie Klocksin at Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, Illinois, a southwest suburb. Selzer explains that, for him, evidence &ldquo;is primarily first-hand accounts, actual stories of somebody seeing the ghost.&rdquo;</p><p>By this metric, the winner for most legitimate ghost story is that of Resurrection Mary, sightings of which began in the early 1930s. Selzer has encountered a few dozen first-hand accounts. &ldquo;So a few dozen is a lot more than we&rsquo;ve got of everything else, really,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>According to Selzer, Resurrection Mary sightings usually go like this. First, someone will be driving near Resurrection Cemetery &mdash; our ghost&rsquo;s namesake. Then, they&rsquo;ll see a girl. &ldquo;Now and then you&rsquo;ll hear a story of somebody dancing with her, but mostly it&rsquo;s just they see her by the side of the road crying,&rdquo; Selzer says. &ldquo;They offer her a ride home, and then she disappears outside of Resurrection Cemetery.&rdquo; Sometimes she&rsquo;ll jump out of the car near the cemetery, but &ldquo;usually they just look over at the passenger seat and find that she&rsquo;s gone.&rdquo;</p><p>The disappearing act happens one of two ways: Mary either gets out of the car the old fashioned way or ... she just vanishes. Selzer recalls a story from a man who believes he encountered Resurrection Mary when he was a high school student in the &lsquo;60s. The man thought he recognized a girl sitting by the side of the road crying, so he pulled over and offered her a ride. &ldquo;And when she looked up he saw that it wasn&rsquo;t the girl that he thought it was,&rdquo; Selzer says. Still, the driver still felt like he had to make good on his offer of a ride.</p><p>&ldquo;So she got into the car and just kind of pointed him down road. They were only about a block away from Resurrection Cemetery. Then, when he looked into passenger seat she was just gone,&rdquo; Selzer says.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Was there really a Mary?</span></p><p>Ghost experts have tried to link the Resurrection Mary legend with actual people who died around the time the sightings began. One theory involves Mary Bregovy, a girl who died in a car accident in 1934, according to Adam Selzer. &ldquo;And we like to talk about her as a possible candidate,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;mainly because she fits the template so well: died on coming home from a dance.&rdquo;</p><p>But Selzer notes that the Resurrection Mary sightings had already begun by the time Mary Bregovy died. Also, Resurrection Mary is usually described as a blonde, which Mary Bregovy was not. According to Selzer&rsquo;s research, there are 60 to 70 young Marys buried at Resurrection Cemetery, all having died during roughly the right time period to be candidates. &ldquo;And even then, we&rsquo;re really just making the broad assumption that it&rsquo;s actually a girl named Mary at all,&rdquo; Selzer says.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ressurection%20cemetery%20flickr%20pklza.jpg" style="float: right; height: 422px; width: 280px;" title="Resurrection Cemetery is the resting place of Resurrection Mary, Chicago's most legitimate ghost story. (Flickr/pkize)" />Another candidate for the Mary ghost is a girl named Anna Norkus. The case for this &ldquo;Mary&rdquo; is described by historian and author <a href="http://chicagohauntings.com/bio.html">Ursula Bielski</a> in her book <em>Chicago Haunts</em>. Bielski writes that Norkus began using Mary as her middle name because of her &ldquo;devotion to the Blessed Mother.&rdquo; Norkus did have blonde hair. Also, Norkus died in a car accident after going out dancing on the night of her 13th birthday on July 20, 1927.</p><p>In Bielski&rsquo;s account, Norkus was scheduled to be buried at St. Casimir Cemetery, near Resurrection. But there may have been a problem. Bielski cites fellow ghost lore researcher Frank Andrejasich, who noted that grave-digging in the 1920s was difficult manual labor and strikes were common. Andrejasich discovered a man named Mr. Churas, who was in charge of the gravediggers at the time Anna Norkus died. During strikes, Bielski writes, Churas would retrieve unburied bodies in wooden boxes and temporarily bury them at Resurrection until the strike ended. This practice was necessary, &ldquo;because of poor coffin construction and the lack of refrigeration,&rdquo; Bielski writes.</p><p>If grave diggers at St. Casimir were striking when Norkus was scheduled to be buried, her body may have been temporarily buried at Resurrection. &ldquo;If the strike dragged on, identification at the time of relocation could be gruesomely difficult,&rdquo; Bielski writes. She concludes: &ldquo;The result? A mislaid corpse and a most restless eternity, if only one is willing to believe.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Vanishing hitchhikers: a broader trend</span></p><p>Sue Eleuterio says folklorists consider Resurrection Mary a vanishing hitchhiker story, variants of which appear all around the world. &ldquo;There are legends in China, there are legends in Korea,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;As immigrants have come to the United States they&rsquo;ve often brought these legends with them.&rdquo;</p><p>For example, a vanishing hitchhiker story told in Northwest Indiana has elements of the traditional Mexican story of &ldquo;La Llorona,&rdquo; the weeping woman, she says.</p><p>While there&rsquo;s often discussion about whether or not urban legend style ghost stories are true, Eleuterio says &ldquo;what&rsquo;s more interesting to me is that it always has a pattern, and then there are variations in the pattern. ... A vanishing hitchhiker story is always going to have some aspects of a ghostly figure that appears, and then disappears,&rdquo; and the stories are always connected to a specific place.</p><p>Ursula Bielski suggests a psychological cause for some vanishing hitchhiker sightings, rather than restless ghosts. &ldquo;Night travel along cemeteries may encourage the unwitting creation of phantoms to inhabit these curiously and suddenly empty lengths of highway,&rdquo; she writes. &ldquo;The dreamlike state imposed by lonely late-night driving could be the culprit in so many of these cases.&rdquo;</p><p>Our questioner, Ben Albers, got this investigation started with his question about a legitimate ghost story. Adam Selzer&rsquo;s strongest evidence for Resurrection Mary is several dozen first-hand accounts.</p><p>How does this sound to Ben?</p><p>&ldquo;I think this is the most convincing case, just because there&rsquo;s been so many sightings of her and first-hand accounts,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;This is definitely the most convincing and legitimate ghost story I&rsquo;ve heard in Chicago, and I think your evidence backs it up.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a name="iroquoistheaterfire"></a><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/part%202%20topper.png" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: left;">Our next Curious Citizen with a penchant for the supernatural is Paul Vaccarello, who says he loves two things: being afraid, and being afraid during Halloween.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: left;">Little wonder, then, that he submitted this question to Curious City:</p><p><em>What&rsquo;s the most haunted place in Chicago?</em></p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: left;">But how the heck should you quantify &ldquo;most haunted&rdquo; in this case? Expert ghost guide Adam Selzer had offered up these options:</p><blockquote><p style="text-align: left;">A. The place with the most number of ghosts.</p><p style="text-align: left;">B. The place with the most frequently seen ghosts.</p><p style="text-align: left;">C. The place with the best quality of ghosts.</p><p style="text-align: left;">D. The place you&rsquo;re most likely to get sucked into the netherworld.</p><p style="text-align: left;">E. The place you&rsquo;re most likely to get possessed.</p></blockquote><p style="text-align: left;">With help from Paul, we settle with: &ldquo;<strong>A. the place with the most number of ghosts.</strong>&rdquo; That is, we settle for <em>quantity</em> over quality.</p><p style="text-align: left;">&ldquo;My goal is to see a ghost,&rdquo; Paul says. &ldquo;To experience something supernatural, you know? See something that I can&rsquo;t explain.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:24px;">&lsquo;The alley of death and mutilation&rsquo;</span></p><p style="text-align: left;">Luckily, Selzer knows just the spot for Paul to maximize his chances for otherworldly experiences &mdash; or at least hear accounts about them.</p><p style="text-align: left;">On the night of October&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.space.com/27358-total-lunar-eclipse-blood-moon-complete-coverage.html" target="_blank">blood moon</a>, we meet in front of the Oriental Theater on Chicago&rsquo;s Randolph Street. We then curve around the corner into an alley. There, we see a ghost segway tour. (That&rsquo;s right. Selzer says he&rsquo;s seen them before.) A guy takes out the trash. It kind of smells like pee. (Something Selzer says he&rsquo;s noticed many times.)</p><p style="text-align: left;">&ldquo;Right now we are in an alley that the <em>Chicago Tribune</em> once called the alley of death and mutilation,&rdquo; Selzer says, as he pulls out a news clipping to prove it. He scrolls through his iPad to show this:</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/alley%20of%20death%20and%20mutilation%20chicago%20tribun.jpg" title="A Chicago Tribune illustration published December 31, 1903, the day after the Iroquois Theater fire, depicts the alley before the flames were extinguished. " /></div><p style="text-align: left;">Selzer tells us we are standing right in the spot this illustration depicts &mdash; just about where that lady on the bottom left is falling to her death.</p><p style="text-align: left;">The image depicts a tragedy that happened in this alley on December 30, 1903. The building, then known as the Iroquois Theater, had caught fire and 600 people perished inside the building and in this alley. (It&rsquo;s safest to say &ldquo;about 600 people&rdquo; died, as figures run between the high 590s and a tad over 600). The blaze was the deadliest single-building fire in United States history until the World Trade Center towers were destroyed in 2001. While the Iroquois Theater fire eventually led to monumental leaps in nation-wide fire code improvements, it also led to the reason why Adam Selzer says the alley behind the Oriental Theater is the most haunted spot in Chicago.</p><p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-size:24px;">The Iroquois Theater: &lsquo;Absolutely fireproof!&rsquo;</span></p><p style="text-align: left;">The Iroquois Theater was built in the summer of 1903 and opened around Thanksgiving that same year. It had 1,600 seats, three main thoroughfares, and enough French-Renaissance architecture to rival the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuileries" target="_blank">Tuileries</a>. A program distributed on the day of the theater&rsquo;s opening boasted its &ldquo;many avenues for exit&rdquo; and called its interior the &ldquo;most majestic in this city or in this country.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: left;">On the day of the fire, the theater was packed beyond capacity. The crowd, mostly women and their children, had arrived to watch a matinee of a show named Mr. Bluebeard (If you&rsquo;re not familiar, this is a French folktale about a wealthy guy with a blue beard who murders his seven wives, and nearly kills his eighth. It was considered a children&rsquo;s Christmas show. This song,&nbsp;<em>Let Us Swear It By The Pale Moonlight, </em>was&nbsp;playing as the theater fire began to spread. <a name="song"></a>(Special thanks to <a href="http://bluepolicebox.com/">Andrew Edwards</a> for his performance of <a href="http://digital.library.ucla.edu/apam/librarian?VIEWPDF=NSO012003PDF">the sheet music</a>).&nbsp;<iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/174565688&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: left;"><a href="http://chicagology.com/PDF/IroquoisProgram.pdf" target="_blank">The show&rsquo;s playbills</a> advertised the theater as &ldquo;absolutely fireproof.&rdquo; At the time, this was an admirable (and profitable) attribute, considering the Great Chicago Fire just 32 years before.</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/iroquis%20playbill%20screenshot.PNG" title="The playbills at the Iroquois Theater had advertised building as fireproof, even on the day a massive fire killed 600 people. (Image courtesy of chicagoalogy.com)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left;"><p>And, as Selzer likes to say, most of the theater <em>was</em> fireproof. It&rsquo;s just the things inside it that were not.</p><p>He cites the theater&rsquo;s ornate wood trimming and hemp-stuffed seats as obvious examples of the theater&rsquo;s flammability. Selzer also points out that the asbestos fire curtain required of all theaters had, in this case, been blended with cotton and wood pulp.</p><p>The Iroquois Theater wasn&rsquo;t an anomaly in this. A lot of theaters at the time were just as flammable, says Judy Cooke, an antique dealer in Elkhart, Indiana. Years ago, while liquidating the estate of a descendant of William J. Davis, the Iroquois&rsquo; owner, she found a trunk full of documents that sparked her interest in learning more about the Iroquois tragedy.</p><p>One popular narrative, she says, is that Davis cut corners trying to open the Iroquois before the busy holiday season. She says there&rsquo;s truth in this, but there&rsquo;s more to the story, too.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t make any excuses for the man because he simply wasn&rsquo;t paying attention to details,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;But what is sad, and not ever communicated in books and newspapers is that that theater was his crowning achievement. He&rsquo;s a bit of a Horatio Algers story.&rdquo;</p><p>Davis came from modest means, Cooke says, and the Iroquois Theater was his chance to prove to the world what he could do. While she says Davis ultimately bears responsibility for that day&rsquo;s deaths, she adds that it&rsquo;s not enough to say the Iroquois was a death trap; instead, she prefers to say the theater experienced &ldquo;a perfect storm&rdquo; on the day of the fire. The circumstances included a flammable &ldquo;fire curtain,&rdquo; bad ventilation, as well as locked or unmarked fire exits. Cooke says the large presence of women and children in the crowd didn&rsquo;t help, either, because women wore floor-length skirts that prevented them from running or climbing over seats.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><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/theater panorama.png" title="The Iroquois Theater after the fire. (Photo courtesy Library of Congress)" /></div></div></div><p>In the alley behind the former Iroquois, Selzer can point to another detail, one just a few dozen yards above our heads. That&rsquo;s where the Iroquois&rsquo; single accessible fire escape used to be. Selzer says the fire escape couldn&rsquo;t hold all the people fleeing the theater that afternoon, so many, many people simply fell over the rails. Or ... they were shoved over them. In one account, the pile of bodies rose six feet high.</p><p>Like it or not, Selzer says the grim details pertain to Paul&rsquo;s question. Death by sudden and traumatic head or spine injury, he says, cause the dead to enter a spiritual no-man&rsquo;s-land.</p><p>&ldquo;Imagine you&rsquo;re getting shoved off a fire escape and what&rsquo;s going through your head the last split seconds before you hit the pavement,&rdquo; Selzer says. &ldquo;That kind of heightened state of emotion, some people say, is where ghosts come from &hellip;. the reeks and fumes of your puddled brain.&rdquo;</p><p>If you subscribe to this theory, it wouldn&rsquo;t surprise you to learn that several hundred ghosts roam the former Iroquois Theater and the &quot;alley of death and mutilation&quot; behind it.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Wouldn&rsquo;t <em>you</em> want to haunt them, too?</span></p><p>But there&rsquo;s another reason that makes this alley a candidate for the most haunted place in Chicago: Nobody was ever punished for cutting the corners that made the fire so deadly.</p><p>In the trials after the disaster, the jury recommended Davis&rsquo; arrest and the arrest of seven others &mdash; including the arc light operator, William McMullen (the fire was caused by this light shorting out, and the sparks igniting the closest curtain). Five of those men were charged with manslaughter for negligence, but none was convicted.</p><p>The only person to serve any jail time, Selzer says, was a man who stole a wristwatch off a corpse in the alley. And even by graverobbing standards, that&rsquo;s pretty basic.</p><p>&ldquo;Some of the first people inside of the building were not rescue workers or firefighters,&rdquo; Selzer says. &ldquo;They were people yanking necklaces off dead bodies&rsquo; necks, cutting off women&rsquo;s fingers because it was faster than shimmying the rings off.&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/ghouls.jpg" title="A newspaper clipping describes one event involving grave robbers after the fire. The newspaper refers to them as ghouls. (Image courtesy Judy Cooke)" /></div><p>The combination of traumatic death and lack of political accountability &mdash; especially on such an enormous scale &mdash; Selzer says, makes the alley a breeding ground for ghost stories. And there&rsquo;s one more factor to consider, too: lack of commemoration.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, ghost hunters don&rsquo;t agree on much,&rdquo; Selzer says. &ldquo;We all have our own theories about everything and think everybody else is a quack. ... But one thing that everyone seems to agree about is when there&rsquo;s some kind of lack of commemoration there do tend to be more ghost sighting there.&rdquo;</p><p>At least on the numbers of dead, he&rsquo;s got a point. Roughly twice as many people known to have died in the Great Chicago Fire died within 15 minutes during the fire at the Iroquois. Yet, there are only a handful of easy-to-miss monuments to the event.</p><p>Shortly after the fire, a memorial sculpture was dedicated to the victims and placed inside the Iroquois Hospital, which was demolished in 1951. The memorial then spent nine years in City Hall storage until it was moved to <a href="http://chicago-architecture-jyoti.blogspot.com/2011/09/city-hall-county-bldg-iroquois-memorial.html" target="_blank">its current location near the building&rsquo;s LaSalle Street entrance</a>.</p><p><a href="http://graveyards.com/IL/Cook/montrose/iroquois.html" target="_blank">A couple of cemeteries also have plaques or small monuments dedicated to the victims</a>. But you won&rsquo;t find anything about the fire in the spot where it occurred. Not even the Oriental Theater, built over the Iroquois&rsquo; grounds, bears any visible reminder of the tragedy.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Ghost story as &lsquo;a people&rsquo;s history&rsquo;</span></p><p>Simply put, the story of the Iroquois fire barely permeates the city&rsquo;s public memory unless, of course, you count the people showing up for ghost tours.</p><p>On that count, Selzer says <a href="http://www.mysteriouschicagoblog.com/2014/02/ghost-pic-in-alley.html" target="_blank">he&rsquo;s got some pretty weird photographs</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/alley%20ghost%20courtesy%20adam%20selzer.jpg" style="height: 372px; width: 620px;" title="(Photo courtesy Adam Selzer)" /></div><p>Above, the ghost of what Selzer says may be Nellie Reed, a trapeze artist who died in the fire, appears on the top right of the image &hellip; or it could always be a trick of the light.</p><p>&ldquo;I have occasionally been pretty freaked out here,&rdquo; Selzer says. Occasionally, he&rsquo;ll see a silhouette of a woman in a tutu that he can&rsquo;t explain, or strange, human-like shadows zipping across the walls.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/nellie%20reed%20funeral2.png" style="float: left; height: 401px; width: 300px;" title="Nellie Reed, a trapeze artist in a show at the Iroquois Theater, was the only cast member killed as a result of the fire. Figures similar to the one above sometimes appear in photos people take in the alley. (Image courtesy Judy Cooke)" />Paul, though, sees no ghosts during our visit evening to the alley. But, he says, that&rsquo;s okay.</p><p>&ldquo;When you think of a ghost story you don&rsquo;t really think of the actual events that occurred to cause this ghost story to happen,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You normally just think: &lsquo;Oh, ghost! Cool!&rsquo; ... But hearing all these facts makes it a lot more real.&rdquo;</p><p>We turn to Selzer, to see whether the Iroquois fire is even really a ghost story at all.</p><p>&ldquo;You don&rsquo;t have to exaggerate it too much,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Sometimes, it&rsquo;s the ghost stories that&rsquo;s all that&rsquo;s really keeping these stories alive.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">A postscript</span></p><p dir="ltr">After leaving the &lsquo;alley of death and mutilation,&rsquo; we thought we&rsquo;d see how Adam Selzer&rsquo;s insight into ghost storytelling and history sits with Judy Cooke, who, again, has researched the Iroquois fire. She feels ghost stories aren&rsquo;t enough to satisfy true historical curiosity, and she prefers a vertical route &mdash; diving deep into individual stories. So far, <a href="http://www.iroquoistheater.com/" target="_blank">she&rsquo;s researched and written nearly 300 accounts of people affected by the fire on her website</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I want every single person that was at that fire to have something said about them,&rdquo; Cooke says, referring to herself as a genealogical completist. &ldquo;If you start going into a deeper exploration per person, you turn up more information. You turn up family histories in the geneology.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">And many of the family histories she&rsquo;s excavated often don&rsquo;t align with newspaper stories or even coroners&rsquo; documents at the time of the fire. Many immigrants&rsquo; last names were misspelled, for example. She also found accounts in which people were documented as dead, but were very much alive. Conversely, she says some of the dead were left off the list of victims.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fbook%20page%20screenshot.PNG" title="A screenshot from Judy Cooke's facebook page, where she documents the stories of people affected by the Iroquois fire." /></p><p dir="ltr">And consider the perspective that ghost tours might leave out. Cooke mentions a particular detail that sticks in her mind. The son of Iroquois owner Will Davis wrote the following in his father&rsquo;s obituary: &ldquo;He never recovered after the fire.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The bottom line: Cooke finds it hard to believe any story she&rsquo;s read about people who died at the Iroquois &hellip; much less their ghost stories.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Before I was going to start believing in the spook, I&rsquo;d want to make sure that spook was even at the fire, you know?&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;That person might not have even died.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But she doesn&rsquo;t fault people like Selzer for keeping stories about the Iroquois Theater alive. She says she&rsquo;d just rather ask the ghosts herself.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">We&rsquo;ve got our answers. Who asked the questions?</span></p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/asker-%20Ben%20Albers%201.jpg" title="Question-asker Ben Albers at Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, Illinois. (Photo courtesy Katie Klocksin)" /></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Ben Albers</strong></span></p><p dir="ltr">For Ben Albers of Chicago&rsquo;s Buena Park neighborhood, history and ghosts are inextricably linked. He&rsquo;s not only interested in the spooky elements of ghost stories, but also &ldquo;the rich history behind&rdquo; these tales. After going on a ghost tour, Ben even did some of his own research into the intersection of local history and ghost legends. Which is not to say Ben doesn&rsquo;t want to see a ghost. He does.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I really want to experience one,&rdquo; he said &ldquo;but I never had the opportunity to go into the field and do it.&rdquo; He&rsquo;s heard creepy sounds, &ldquo;but I never really think that&rsquo;s a ghost. I never get real excited like: &lsquo;Oh, there&rsquo;s a ghost in my house, I need to investigate more.&rsquo;&rdquo; Before Ben, Adam Selzer and producer Katie Klocksin left Resurrection Cemetery, Klocksin asked what should be done if they would come across a hitchhiker. Should they give her a ride? Selzer replied, &ldquo;Absolutely,&rdquo; and Ben seconded</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Yeah. I agree one hundred percent,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;When you have your chance you&rsquo;ve got to take it.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Paul%20Vaccarello%20-%20courtesy%20of%20Paul%20FOR%20WEB_0.jpg" style="float: left; height: 334px; width: 250px;" title="(Photo courtesy Paul Vaccarello) " /><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Paul Vaccarello</strong></span></p><p dir="ltr">You might remember Paul Vaccarello from<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/passing-through-chicagos-union-station-amish-transit-hub-110453"> another question he submitted to Curious City, the one about the Amish at Union Station</a>. We like to think Paul&rsquo;s satisfaction with our answer led him to a heightened state of curiosity when he asked us about Chicago&rsquo;s ghosts.</p><p dir="ltr">But, instead, Paul said asked about ghosts because ... he just happens to like Halloween (in fact, it&rsquo;s his favorite holiday). And that&rsquo;s one of the reasons he asked us this question about Chicago&rsquo;s most haunted spot. The other? He wanted affirmation he&rsquo;s sought all his life: proof of the <em>after</em>life.</p><p dir="ltr">While our investigation didn&rsquo;t quite convert Paul into a (ghost) believer, he said learning about the &ldquo;alley of death and mutilation&rdquo; from a historical perspective taught him something else: You don&rsquo;t have to believe in ghosts to believe in ghost stories.</p><p dir="ltr">Another takeaway? Scope out the fire exits next time you&rsquo;re at a matinee.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Katie Klocksin is an independent producer in Chicago. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>. Logan Jaffe is Curious City&rsquo;s multimedia producer. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a>.</em></p></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 19:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/we-aint-afraid-no-chicago-ghosts-111017 Real estate and religion: The tale of Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/real-estate-and-religion-tale-seventeenth-church-christ-scientist-110980 <p><div>These days Wacker Drive rivals LaSalle as the epicenter of Chicago&rsquo;s financial district. The drive&rsquo;s high-rise office buildings tower over the Chicago River like walls of a canyon. But a break in the skyline at the intersection of Wabash and Wacker makes way for a building that is only five stories above street level.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The structure looks nothing like any of its rectilinear neighbors, which favor steel and glass. Instead, it resembles a concrete space ship with a round, white, windowless facade from the second story up. And, the building has nothing to do with financial power. As spelled out in enormous letters spanning its curved wall, it&rsquo;s the home of the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.</div><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/cs church wide.jpg" title="Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist sits on a corner of prime real estate at the intersection of Wabash Ave. and Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago. Monica Schrager asked Curious City how the church has held on to the property for so long. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" /></div><p>This distinctive structure caught the eye of Monica Schrager, who works right across the street on the 10th floor of the old Jeweler Building. &ldquo;It has an interesting look,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s this small &lsquo;60s-style building that you never really see anyone coming in and out of in the middle of all these skyscrapers.&rdquo; Here&rsquo;s the question she asked us to look into:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><em>I&rsquo;m curious about the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist that sits on the corner of Wabash and Wacker: how it came to have that prime real estate and how it&rsquo;s managed to hold on to that prime real estate for so long.</em></div></div><p>It turns out Monica has a nose for a great story. As we look into the church&rsquo;s history, we learn how the tenets of a distinctive faith were translated into concrete and steel by an idealistic, but non-believing architect. And, we follow a devoted congregation as it risked building in a once-abandoned portion of the city ... only to have that neighborhood bloom decades later.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Which faith are we talking about?</span></p><p>Not to be confused with Scientology, Christian Science is a branch of protestant Christianity. It was founded in Massachusetts in the late 19th century by Mary Baker Eddy, who taught that the material world is a temporary illusion, while the only reality is spiritual. This belief informs all aspects of Christian Science practice, including its most famous: devout Christian Scientists don&rsquo;t seek medical treatment. Eddy taught a form of spiritual healing that is inspired by Jesus&rsquo; own healings in the New Testament.</p><p>Mrs. Eddy also taught that God does not communicate by way of a few chosen figures, like preachers or popes. God, she said, communicates directly and equally with all of his followers, so Christian Science is a non-hierarchical, democratic faith. Each church elects readers who serve a short term before passing responsibility to another church member. As the congregation&rsquo;s current First Reader, Lois Carlson, states: &nbsp;&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have many big cheeses.&rdquo;</p><p>Like Quakers, Christian Scientists also emphasize the importance of individual testimonies; during Wednesday services, church-goers are encouraged to stand and share their personal experiences with Christian Science healing. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;To uplift a neighborhood&rsquo;</span></p><p>It&rsquo;s notable that the intersection of Wabash and Wacker has any church at all, since there are few standalone churches around downtown. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed many of them, and many more relocated to quieter residential areas. In 1907, an unknown author penned an op-ed piece for the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune </em>which reads: &ldquo;One of the changes most noticeable between old Chicago and new Chicago is the disappearance of the churches which used to surround the courthouse square or line Wabash or Michigan avenue.&rdquo; Later, the author notes &ldquo;Chicago has nothing downtown to express the spiritual life of its people.&rdquo;</p><p>So, when the Seventeenth Church was established downtown in 1924, it was a bit of an anomaly.</p><p>For decades the congregation rented several downtown venues including, at one point, Orchestra Hall. By the late 1940s, though, the congregation wanted a church of its own. Members remained committed to being downtown. In this, they bucked a trend of building Christian Science churches in outer neighborhoods such as Beverly, Uptown and Hyde Park. Current members of the Seventeenth Church don&rsquo;t have records that indicate why the congregation prefered downtown, though member Dave Hohle has a hypothesis. &ldquo;I think a church will uplift a neighborhood,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And I think that&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s happened here.&rdquo;</p><p>Today, it seems like the corner of Wabash and Wacker might be the perfect candidate. Not so, according to Hohle. &ldquo;It didn&rsquo;t really interest them because it wasn&rsquo;t very central,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It was just sort of over here on the river.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Carlson points out that Wacker Drive was not always a major thoroughfare. &ldquo;It used to be that Michigan Avenue was its own entity and the Loop was its own entity, and there was no sense of connecting the two,&rdquo; she says.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Lot%202%20FOR%20WEB.png" title="" /></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/duo3.png" title="Site of the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist before construction in the mid-1950s. (Photos courtesy Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist and Chuckman's Chicago Nostalgia) " /></div></div><p>Obviously the congregation <em>did </em>decide to buy that property, after almost a decade of searching. At the time, the corner contained nothing but a parking lot and a short, rundown building, which they later demolished to make way for their new church. When they finally made the purchase in 1955, Wacker Drive was just starting to develop.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Kindred spirits: A radical faith and a non-believing architect</span></p><p>Say Hohle is right and the Seventeenth Church congregation wished to uplift their future neighborhood. Surely, then, the church would need uplifting architecture. Over two years, the congregation considered 34 architects, including celebrity designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as an architect with Christian Science roots. In 1963 they settled on a Harry Weese.</p><p>You may not know Weese by name, but there&rsquo;s a chance you&rsquo;ve seen his work in Chicago: the Time Life building, the towering Metropolitan Correctional Center on Van Buren street, and several others. His resume stretches as far as Washington, D.C., where he designed a cavernous metro, famous for its waffled concrete ceilings. &nbsp;</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/tai%20flickr%20dc%20metro%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="margin: 5px;" title="Harry Weese, the architect who designed Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist building, also designed the Washington, D.C. metro stations. (Flickr/tai)" /></div><p>Weese had an impressive resume, but then again, so did his competitors and, interestingly, he was not a religious man. (In interviews the church asked each candidate about their religious affiliation. Weese responded, &ldquo;My father was Episcopalian, my mother Presbyterian, and I&rsquo;m an architect.&rdquo;)</p><p>According to Robert Bruegmann, the co-author of <em>The Architecture of Harry Weese</em>, the congregation was impressed by the architect&rsquo;s ambitious, post-war vision for American cities.</p><p>&ldquo;The suburbs had sapped a lot of the vitality of the city,&rdquo; Bruegmann says. &ldquo;A lot of the city architecture and infrastructure was old. The city was in a pretty bad state and Chicago was no exception.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Weese wanted to build a new, more humane city, so he sought contracts for large-scale urban works such as the DC Metro. But Weese also believed architects could revitalize cities by designing new, monumental public buildings. &ldquo;So for Harry, a chance to build a church in the center of the city where the churches had been fleeing for a hundred years was a real opportunity, and he really seized it with both hands,&rdquo; Bruegmann says.</p><p>It&rsquo;s simply conjecture (again, the congregation has no records of this), but we do know the Seventeenth Church congregation was impressed with the architect&rsquo;s plans, if not the architect himself. According to Dave Hohle, the church approved Weese&rsquo;s design on the first round, a rare occurrence in architecture circles. &ldquo;There were, like, no adjustments,&rdquo; Hohle says. &ldquo;It was presented and it was unanimously approved.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Faith translated into design</span></p><p>The congregation&rsquo;s first reader, Lois Carlson, says that Weese&rsquo;s radical building, completed in 1968, matches Christian Science&rsquo;s radical theology. &ldquo;I think what&#39;s so beautiful about this building is that it&rsquo;s so clearly an idea that matches the metaphysical substance of the Christian Science faith,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Specifically, Bruegmann says Weese knew that acoustics were critical to a democratic congregation that valued every voice. That led him to fashion the main auditorium of the church as a greek-style amphitheater, which is ideal for projecting sound. There are 800 seats, and each is within 54 feet of the room&rsquo;s center.</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/inside%20church%20flickr%20dpyle%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="The Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist can hold up to 800 people, but a typical Sunday service is attended by about 40 people. (Flickr/dpyle)" /></div><p>Quite unusual for the time, Weese also worked with an audio engineer who created a system of hidden microphones and speakers so that members&rsquo; testimonies could be amplified. This audio system was so advanced it received a write-up in the Journal for the <a href="http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=1500">Society of Audio Engineers</a> in 1970.</p><p>A year after the church opened, it received a Distinguished Building Award from the American Institute of Architects. The AIA recognized the structure not just for its democratic design, but also for Weese&rsquo;s expert problem solving. To keep out the noises of a bustling city, the congregation did not want windows in the auditorium but, like most churches, they wanted space and light. So Weese built a tall, domed ceiling with an oculus-like skylight at the very top, which he called a lantern. To make sure the sunday school was equally well lit, Weese created a moat-like sunken garden around the church so that there could be windows into the basement levels. &nbsp;</p><p>Then of course, there is the building&rsquo;s eye-catching exterior. Bruegmann points out that the facade is modern but still achieves the kind of monumentality that Harry Weese admired in classical buildings. &ldquo;That dome that rounds that corner is one of the grandest urban gestures of virtually any city I know of,&rdquo; Bruegmann says.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">If you build it they (might) come</span></p><p>When the Seventeenth Church triumphantly opened its doors in 1968, the congregation established something few other churches had attempted: a place of worship in Chicago&rsquo;s bustling downtown. The trouble is, membership didn&rsquo;t grow, at least not on the national level. &nbsp;According to sociologist Rodney Stark, the Christian Science movement&rsquo;s membership started to drop in the 1940s and, by the 1960s, was in serious decline.</p><p>So what happened? Stark suggests that early in the 20th century, Christian Science was the fastest-growing faith in the country, but there&rsquo;s a caveat. He believes Christian Science always <em>seemed </em>more successful than it actually was, mostly because members tended to be well off financially. &nbsp;Like the Seventeenth Church, other congregations had resources to establish and build new churches around the country, even after membership began to decline.</p><p>Another theory from Stark: Medical treatment was very crude at the time that Mary Baker Eddy founded Christian Science. &ldquo;We had no antibiotics,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Part of the time they really didn&rsquo;t have any anesthetics. Doctors were pretty untrained and a lot of them were butchers.&rdquo; &nbsp;By comparison, spiritual healing seemed like a strong alternative. Stark argues that interest in Christian Science decreased in the mid-1900s after Western medicine improved.</p><p>Lastly, Stark argues that the first generation of Christian Scientists didn&rsquo;t produce a second generation. From the beginning, Christian Scientists didn&rsquo;t have a lot of children so they had to rely on new converts to expand. Converting new members is often difficult compared to raising children within a faith.</p><p>We can see how this affected the Chicago area by reading <em>The Christian Science Journal</em>, which lists every Christian Science church around the world. The religion was popular in Chicago; over the span of 61 years Christian Scientists opened 23 churches across the city. After the 1950s, Chicago churches began to close. By the new millenium, 13 of the original 23 churches were gone. Today there are only six.</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/10th%20Church%201%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="The former site of Tenth Church of Christ, Scientist. (Flickr/Jamie Bernstein)" /></div><p>The remains of these closed churches are dotted all around Chicago. Some have been sold to congregations of other faiths. Thirteenth Church in Beverly has been converted into 16 loft condominiums. The abandoned 10th Church in Hyde Park was sold to a developer, but it&rsquo;s now in foreclosure and falling to pieces.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Holding onto your religion ... and property</span></p><p>So how did the Seventeenth Church hang on? This is the second part of Monica Schrager&rsquo;s question, and it&rsquo;s a good one, when you consider two things: The church now sits among prime real estate, and the congregation is modest in size.</p><p>In the 1980s Wacker Drive saw a major boom in office construction. Eventually Wacker replaced LaSalle as the center of Chicago&rsquo;s financial industry, with massive, glassy skyscrapers to show it. In 2013, <a href="http://s1156.photobucket.com/user/ksershon/media/2013USsMostExpensiveStreetsforOfficeSpace.jpg.html">Jones Lang and LaSalle listed Wacker Drive as the 20th-most expensive street for office space </a>in the country. Next door to the church, a hotel developer &nbsp;bought a narrow empty lot for 5 million dollars. (That&rsquo;s over one thousand dollars per square foot. The developer is now in the process of building a Hilton Garden Inn on that site.) Right next door to that, the historic motor club building was auctioned off in 2011 for 9.7 million. Word is, that building will soon be a hotel as well. &nbsp;</p><p>There may be a competitive real estate market raging outside the walls of Seventeenth Church but, believe it or not, the church says it&rsquo;s never gotten a serious offer from any kind of buyer. Still, Seventeenth Church is a big building, while the congregation is likely small.</p><p>Christian Science branch churches never publish their membership numbers because they don&rsquo;t want to be distracted by material measurements, so we can&rsquo;t know the exact size of the Seventeenth Church congregation. However, when I attend a recent church service, I count approximately 30 people in the 800-seat auditorium. Dave Hohle says that number is likely low, adding that perhaps forty or so attendees arrive for typical Sunday services.</p><p>If you think there&rsquo;s a mismatch between the building&rsquo;s stature and the size of the congregation, Lois Carlson notes the church was paid off in 1978, and members cover maintenance costs.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, even though we&rsquo;re a small congregation, we&rsquo;re an incredibly financially committed group,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>There&rsquo;s likely additional income. On occasion, the church receives a visit from a big movie studio. The Seventeenth Church amphitheater was the set for the &ldquo;choosing ceremony&rdquo; in the blockbuster film <em>Divergent</em>. The church&rsquo;s exterior played a cameo in <em>Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.</em> (In the film, the church was spared, while robots laid waste to the rest of downtown Chicago.) The church did receive income from those films but does not disclose the amount.</p><p>The congregation, regardless of costs, seems to be just as committed to downtown as it was when it first sought property in the 1940s. First and foremost, Lois Carlson says, the church can be a resource for what she calls &ldquo;hungry hearts that are looking for a deeper understanding for God.&rdquo; The church operates a reading room in the lobby six days a week. Carlson says tourists and curious passersby come into the reading room regularly. A small handful of people have become members this way. &ldquo;We just feel like we belong here because the need is so great,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>In keeping with that, the congregation regularly shares Harry Weese&rsquo;s architectural gem. They lend their auditorium to interfaith groups, and the local alderman conducts community meetings there. A couple times each month the church welcomes tour groups from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. In October, more than 4,000 visitors arrived as part of the Open House Chicago event.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Down the road?</span></p><p>For now, it seems like Seventeenth Church congregation wants to stay put, but what about over the next decade or two? Will it be able to sustain itself? Professor Bruegmann is concerned that the building might not survive if the congregation were to move or dissolve. In fact, many of Harry Weese&rsquo;s buildings have already met the wrecking ball. Bruegmann argues that buildings from the &lsquo;60s and &lsquo;70s are no longer new, but they are not yet considered historic.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s exactly at that moment when they&rsquo;re middle-aged buildings that they&rsquo;re most vulnerable,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Like Monica, he&rsquo;s very aware of the competitive real estate market on Wacker Drive. &ldquo;The economics of having such a small building on such a prominent, very expensive site are going to weigh so heavily in the balance,&rdquo; he worries. &ldquo;If the current congregation moved out, it would be extremely difficult to figure out what to do with a building like that and how you might save it.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mschrager.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Monica Schrager submitted our question about the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist (Photo courtesy of Monica Schrager)" />Monica Schrager was thrilled that our investigation made a connection between her current home &mdash; Chicago&rsquo;s Humboldt Park neighborhood &mdash; and Washington, D.C., area, where she grew up. The relevant detail? Architect Harry Weese designed the Seventeenth Church as well as the DC Metro!</p><p>Monica is a web developer by trade but her interest in architecture is responsible for her question about Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.</p><p>&ldquo;I love the variety of architecture we have in the city, from Mies Van Der Rohe to Frank Lloyd Wright,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Monica works right across the street from Seventeenth Church in the old Jeweler Building. She sees the church every day outside her office window and she&rsquo;s definitely rooting for the church to survive, especially now that she has seen the inside. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Just the whole combination of the lighting and the acoustics is kind of really neat,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;You almost don&rsquo;t feel like you&rsquo;re in the middle of the city. It&rsquo;s an oasis of sorts.&rdquo;</p><p>Her bottom line? She thinks Wacker Drive needs an oasis more than it needs another skyscraper.</p><p><em>Ellen Mayer is the Curious City intern. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/ellenrebeccam">@ellenrebeccam</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/real-estate-and-religion-tale-seventeenth-church-christ-scientist-110980 How America's most plentiful bird disappeared http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/how-americas-most-plentiful-bird-disappeared-110725 <p><p>It is hard to imagine what a big part of American life the passenger pigeon once was. By some estimates it made up 25 to 40 percent of all the birds on the continent. The Native American Seneca tribe viewed the bird as a gift from the gods because they were so abundant. There are 13 towns named after them in Illinois alone. When Charles Dickens traveled to the states, we fed him passenger pigeon.</p><p>But in just a few decades the bird vanished. On the 100th anniversary of its extinction, I wanted to understand how a bird could go from being the most plentiful bird in North America to non-existence. So I met naturalist Joel Greenberg at his house just outside Chicago.</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/Pigeon_Joel%20Greenberg.JPG" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Author Joel Greenberg poses with his stuffed passenger pigeon, Heinrich. Greenberg is author of, “A Feathered River Across the Sky, The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction.” (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" /></div><p>Greenberg is perhaps this species&rsquo; biggest fan. A stuffed bird named Heinrich sits on Greenberg&rsquo;s kitchen table and a bumper sticker on his car says &ldquo;ask me about my passenger pigeon.&rdquo; He authored the book, <a href="http://passengerpigeon.org/newbook.html"><em>A Feathered River Across The Sky, The Passenger Pigeon&rsquo;s Flight to Extinction</em>. </a></p><p>Greenberg must encounter a lot of misunderstandings, because he wants to make it absolutely clear that Heinrich is not the same kind of pigeon you see flying around the city, nor is he a carrier pigeon. Instead Heinrich has a shimmery pink breast, and bluish back. He is a pretty bird.</p><p>But what made this species really special&mdash;the thing I find almost incomprehensible&mdash;is the huge numbers of them that flew together.</p><p>It must have been an incredible sight to see millions of birds fly across the sky together. The famous naturalist <a href="http://www.audubon.org/john-james-audubon">John James Audubon</a> observed a group so big, it eclipsed the sun for 14 hours. Another naturalist, <a href="http://www.wilsonsociety.org/society/awilsoninfo.html">Alexander Wilson</a>, was on a river trip. Greenberg says Wilson pulled ashore to buy milk from a farmer and &ldquo;suddenly there was this huge roar, and the sky turned dark. He was terrified. He thought a tornado was coming and he looked at the farmer and said what do we do? And the farmer said, &#39;just the pigeons&#39;.&rdquo;</p><p>The birds did not just travel over forests and fields. They also flew over big cities like Chicago, turning buildings white with their poop.</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/Pigeon_hunting.png" style="float: right; height: 249px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p>Greenberg recounts a famous story from Columbus, Ohio in the 1850s.</p><p>&ldquo;People reported being cold by the downdraft of the beating of hundreds of millions of wings,&quot; he said. &quot;And people who had never seen it before dropped to their knees in prayer thinking the end time was near.&rdquo;</p><p>The bird sounds like a nuisance. And it was. But it was also a source of food. Early settlers credit it with sustaining them until crops came. Like buffalo, the passenger pigeon was a symbol of America&rsquo;s abundance, a resource so big, we thought it couldn&rsquo;t run out. &ldquo;Sometimes they were so abundant they were worth nothing,&rdquo; Greenberg said. &ldquo;They were fed to hogs. One eyewitness account says they were used to fill potholes in the road.&rdquo;</p><p>So how does a species go from an estimated billions to non-existence?</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The Killings</span></p><p>Humans hunted the passenger pigeon for many years and some of the methods were downright strange.</p><p>Greenberg says some people filled a clay pot with sulfur, set it on fire and placed it under nesting birds. The birds would topple out of the trees. Greenberg says one commenter observed this method was good for the ladies, because it didn&rsquo;t involve too much exertion or guns.</p><p>Some farmers in Ontario kept it more simple: when the birds flew over their fields, they just threw potatoes at them.</p><p>&ldquo;Now it&rsquo;s good to know they lost more potatoes than they got pigeons, but every so often a pigeon would fall and you&rsquo;d have most of a stew fall at your feet,&rdquo; Greenberg said.</p><p>The pigeons were also used in shooting tournaments. One trap, called a plunge shooter, would catapult live birds into the air. According to Greenberg, sometimes people blinded the pigeon, or ripped out feathers and put cayenne on their skin to make the bird fly in circles.</p><p>Chicago was a major center for shoots and Captain Bogardus, one of the most famous shooters, was from Illinois. He was said to have shot 500 birds in a single practice session, just to stay sharp.</p><p>But Greenberg says the real tipping point for the birds was the growth of two new technologies: the telegraph and the train.</p><p>The birds often nested in huge groups. The telegraph made it easy to spread word of the nesting locations and attracted big crowds of hunters&mdash;some working full time to track the bird. With the growth of railroads the meat could be shipped to city markets, where newly industrialized communities were hungry for cheap meat.</p><p>The birds flew so closely together that a single shot could kill multiple birds. But even more efficient were net traps. Hunters would attract birds using a live decoy&mdash;blinded and tied to a stool&mdash;hence the term stool pigeon.</p><p>&ldquo;With a single release of the net they could catch hundreds of birds, sometimes 1,200 or 1,300 at a time,&rdquo; Greenberg explained.</p><p>One newspaper from the time reported 7.2 million bird <span>carcasses</span> were shipped from a single nesting site, which gives you an idea of how plentiful they were. But Greenberg believes the bird usually laid only about one egg a year, and now those nestings were regularly disrupted. The massive killings caught up with them. People started to notice that it was harder to find the bird in the wild and eventually impossible.</p><p>&ldquo;People had so much trouble trying to wrap their minds around how it could disappear,&rdquo; Greenberg said.</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/Pigeon_Food.JPG" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="A passenger pigeon could hold half a cup of acorns in their two-inch head at one time. The pigeon stored the food in a special compartment for digestion at a later time. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" /></div><p>They came up with all kinds of theories to explain why it wasn&rsquo;t human&rsquo;s fault, like that the birds moved to South America and changed their appearance.</p><p>Greenberg says he worries he&rsquo;s seeing a similar reaction now.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a common human reaction that when confronted with an inconvenient truth to deny it,&quot; he said. &quot;You can see it today [with] climate change. If I own coal mines and want to put carbon into the air... climate change, could be bad, what do I do? Let&rsquo;s say there is no such thing.&rdquo;</p><p>It feels insensitive to ask, but it&rsquo;s hard not to wonder why the death of a species&mdash;no matter how fascinating&mdash;should matter to the general population.</p><p>Greenberg says other species have a right to exist, and it&rsquo;s immoral to prioritize their worth on human&rsquo;s needs alone. But he also says there completely selfish reasons to preserve a species.</p><p>He points to an analogy from Paul and Anne Ehrlich&rsquo;s book, <em>Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species</em>.</p><p>&ldquo;They give an analogy of an airplane and a rivet pops and the plane&rsquo;s fine,&quot; he said.&quot; But at some point enough rivets pop where the system starts to break down.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Beyond the Passenger Pigeon</span></p><p>The day after I meet Greenberg planes criss-cross Chicago for the Air and Water Show.</p><p>Like flocks of pigeons they fill the sky with a roar. You can even hear it inside the <a href="http://www.naturemuseum.org/">Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum</a> where I meet ecologist <a href="http://www.naturemuseum.org/about-us/senior-staff">Steve Sullivan. </a></p><p>&ldquo;This being the anniversary of the passenger pigeon we talk a lot about the pigeon,&quot; Sullivan said. &quot;But this story repeats itself again and again.&quot;</p><p>The museum has an exhibit called, &ldquo;Nature&#39;s Struggle: Survival and Extinction.&rdquo; The exhibit starts by showing what Illinois would have been like over a hundred years ago. Passenger pigeons fill the sky, but there are also more rattlesnakes, bears and beavers.</p><p>I ask Sullivan what animal is the passenger pigeon of today and he mentions monarch butterflies. Like the passenger pigeon, most of us think of it as common and plentiful. But because of a range of factors, including herbicides that kill their favorite food source of milkweed, the <a href="http://vertebrates.si.edu/birds/Martha/index.html">monarch&rsquo;s numbers are plummeting. </a></p><p>In the museum&rsquo;s butterfly conservation lab, Sullivan leaned over and pointed inside paper cups.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh look you can see a couple of caterpillars that are crawling up towards the top of their little enclosures,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>There are no monarchs today, instead they are raising silvery checkerspots. Eventually the museum will release these butterflies into the wild to help boost their population.</p><p>Sullivan says you can track conservation efforts like this one back to the passenger pigeon. Despite all the wild theories, many people ended up acknowledging that humans drove that extinction. It was a big moment in history, one of the first times the general public realized they could have a huge and permanent impact on nature. It launched a conservation movement and led to early environmental legislation.</p><p>That gives Sullivan hope. He says beavers, otters, and even white tailed deer were at one time extirpated (in other words, locally extinct). But once we realized the harm we could do, we used conservation efforts to bring such animals back.</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/Pigeon_Martha.jpg" style="height: 528px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Martha, the last passenger pigeon. (Enno Meyer/Wikipedia Commons)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon</span></div><p>One of the reasons the passenger pigeon story was so motivating is because we actually knew about the very last bird.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s rare that we know with virtual certainty the hour and day that a species ceases to exist,&rdquo; Greenberg said.</p><p>That last bird&rsquo;s name was <a href="http://vertebrates.si.edu/birds/Martha/index.html">Martha. Unlike her ancestors, Martha didn&rsquo;t spend her days migrating across the country. The only time she ever flew was first class on a plane</a>.</p><p>She most likely came from a captive flock in Chicago&rsquo;s Hyde Park. It was the only group ever studied by scientists. If you&rsquo;ve seen a photo of a pigeon in captivity, it was probably one of them.</p><p>Martha was sent to the Cincinnati Zoo. As the species became more rare, huge prizes were offered to find the bird. But it was too late. Martha eventually became the last of her kind. As she grew older, she became slow and still. The zoo moved her perch lower, so she could reach it.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a story on weekends that big crowds would throw sand on her to get her to move,&rdquo; Greenberg said.</p><p>Martha died 100 years ago on September 1. The zoo froze her body in a 300-pound of block of ice and mailed her to the <a href="http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/martha-the-worlds-last-passenger-pigeon-67196038/?no-ist">Smithsonian. </a></p><p>Martha lived her last years alone. Pigeons were famous for traveling in gigantic groups, but John James Audubon remembers seeing one flying through the forest by itself. It moved quickly, darting through trees.</p><p>Audubon says it passed like a thought.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/how-americas-most-plentiful-bird-disappeared-110725