WBEZ | Loop http://www.wbez.org/tags/loop Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en ‘Nonsensical walk’ tempts tourists through Loop’s lesser-known parts http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/%E2%80%98nonsensical-walk%E2%80%99-tempts-tourists-through-loop%E2%80%99s-lesser-known-parts-106481 <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/loop%20tunnel%20flickr%20minglespy.jpg" style="height: 481px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago Detours is launching a walking tour of lesser known spaces inside the Loop. (Flickr/MingleSpy)" /></div><p dir="ltr" id="internal-source-marker_0.9427589514766905">When Amanda Scotese taught video production to high school students in neighborhoods like Avalon and Albany Park, she&rsquo;d bike or take public transit and arrive early enough to walk around and explore.</p><p dir="ltr">Scotese studied urban theory at the University of Chicago and was taken in by the 19th century concept of the <em>flaneur</em>, a kind of urban explorer or &ldquo;connoisseur of the street&rdquo; who walks for pleasure more than transportation. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;On the most basic level I just love walking,&rdquo; Scotese said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s such a basic way of learning about the world. Some people prefer to read books, but I walk a ton.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Scotese took indirect routes though Chicago&rsquo;s neighborhoods that offered her sights to see. She&rsquo;d wind up side streets and meander down alleys and boulevards. She looked for details in the landscape that might escape someone in more of a hurry, or in a car: a block where two-flats bled into old factories, another where storefront churches outnumbered every other kind of building; children playing in a hydrant or an elderly woman sitting on her porch in a forest of plants. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In our daily lives, we are often stuck in predictable patterns of movement, taking the same routes to and from work, accidentally tracing the same footsteps we made yesterday and the day before.</p><p dir="ltr">But Scotese says that &ldquo;by stepping off the same route, we can learn a lot.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chicago%20detours%20tour%20guide%20photo.jpg" style="float: left; height: 414px; width: 300px;" title="A Chicago Detours guide walks tourists through the Loop. The company is now offering a more unorthodox selection of walking tours. (Chicago Detours/Amanda Scotese)" />Not just an academic, Scotese has also channeled these interests into a business.</p><p dir="ltr">She has worked in tourism for more than a decade, including a stint with travel maven Rick Steves. In 2010, Scotese founded&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagodetours.com/">Chicago Detours</a>, which bills itself as &ldquo;a tour company for curious people.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In addition to offering walking tours that showcase downtown staples you can often see from a boat, Scotese has done things like&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2013/03/04/in-the-jumble-of-the-pedway-can-an-amateur-map-fill-in-the-blanks">publish a map to Chicago&rsquo;s underground Pedway</a>. Now she&rsquo;s launched a quarterly series of walking tours that explore the sorts of overlooked spaces she discovered on her own quirky trips.</p><p dir="ltr">The first, a &ldquo;Nonsensical Walk of Indoor Spaces,&rdquo; takes place this Friday, and will lead participants through a series of publically accessible &ndash; if rarely seen &ndash; Loop lobbies, Pedway passages, shortcuts and corridors. The tour starts at Block 37 and ends at the Chicago Board of Trade.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We go through the Daley Center, City Hall and the Thompson Center,&rdquo; Scotese said, ticking down her itinerary, which also includes &ldquo;taking the Pedway through the parking garage under [Millennium] Park.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The tour&rsquo;s unconventional narration will involve a game of telephone: The tour leader will pass back snippets of information to the first few participants, who will pass it back to the people behind them and so on.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I did this walk . . . to get a sense of what interior spaces are open to the public,&rdquo; Scotese said. &ldquo;It was just this entire world that I had never imagined: wild shortcuts, eateries tucked away in spaces you&rsquo;d never notice from outside.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Scotese hopes participants will get from the tour what she has from this and her other walks.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;In the few hours I wandered around downtown I had a much better sense of the city,&rdquo; she said.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Chicago Detours&rsquo; Nonsensical Walk of Indoor Spaces takes place April 5 from 4 to 6 p.m. Meet in the Pedway atrium of Block 37 at 108 N. State Street. Tickets are $20, space is limited and<a href="http://www.chicagodetours.com/"> reservations are required</a>.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Follow Robin Amer on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/rsamer">@rsamer</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 04 Apr 2013 12:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/%E2%80%98nonsensical-walk%E2%80%99-tempts-tourists-through-loop%E2%80%99s-lesser-known-parts-106481 Raising Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/raising-chicago-105064 <p><p>The ad appeared in the <em>Tribune</em> on January 29, 1857. James Hollingworth was prepared to move or raise your building. In 1857 Chicago, that was a booming business.</p><p>The city had been built on marshy ground near the lake. As the population grew, this became a public health problem. Cholera outbreaks were frequent. In 1854 alone, the disease wiped out 1 in 20 Chicagoans.</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/01-29--Street%20ad.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 145px; float: right;" title="'Chicago Tribune'--January 29, 1857" />City officials decided to construct a sewer system&ndash;that would take care of the deadly waste. Drainage would be difficult, since Chicago sat only a few feet above Lake Michigan. There were two options: (A) abandon all of downtown and start over on higher ground, or (B) jack up all the buildings where they were.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The city chose &rdquo;B&rdquo;.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Starting in 1856, Chicago raised itself out of the mud. Buildings were jacked up as much as fourteen feet, and new foundations put under them. Then the sewers were constructed on top of the old street level. When the sewers were completed, they were covered over and the land filled in to meet the new level of the buildings. The last step was paving new streets on top of the fill.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As mentioned, many people went into the building-raising business. One of the most successful entrepreneurs was a young cabinet maker named George Pullman.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Pullman contracted to raise an entire block on Lake Street at the same time. He had 6,000 jackscrews put under the buildings, and hired 600 men to take charge of ten jacks each. On the signal, each man turned the screws on his ten jacks one notch. The buildings went up a fraction of an inch.</div><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/1-29--Lake%20St%20raised.jpg" title="Raising Lake Street, 1860 (Wikipedia)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">This process was repeated again and again over four days. Meanwhile, temporary timbers were placed under the buildings and new foundations constructed. Then the buildings were lowered into place. All this was smoothly done, while business inside the buildings went on as usual.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Sometimes putting a new foundation under a building wasn&rsquo;t practical. In that case, you hired a moving company. They would put wooden logs under your structure and roll it to a new lot. Chicagoans got used to the sight of buildings slowly advancing down the middle of the street.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Raising the city took nearly twenty years. In the end, Chicago had the most modern sewer system in the world, and public health was much better.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 29 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/raising-chicago-105064 Hollywood comes to Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/hollywood-comes-chicago-103225 <p><p>Maybe they got the idea from Atlanta, which had just staged a grand premiere for <em>Gone With the Wind</em>.</p><p>The year was 1940, and the businessmen of the State Street Council were looking for ways to promote Chicago.&nbsp; It was decades before anybody would &ndash; or could &ndash; call the Midwest &ldquo;flyover country.&rdquo; Yet to many people on the East or West coasts, Chicago was simply the place where you had to change trains.</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/10-23--Mounties01.jpg" title="State Street businessmen show the Mountie spirit (State Street Council Annual Report for 1940)" /></div><p>So now Chicago would host its own Hollywood premiere. And if that little Southern town had gotten GWTW, Chicago would get Cecil B. DeMille.</p><p>DeMille was Hollywood&rsquo;s greatest showman, known for his historical blockbusters. His latest movie was an epic of the Canadian Mounties called <em>North West Mounted Police</em>. The stars were Gary Cooper and Madeleine Carroll, supported by the customary cast of thousands.</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/10-23--Times%20ad.jpg" style="width: 260px; height: 330px; float: left;" title="The big day is here! (Chicago Daily Times--October 23, 1940)" /></div><p>DeMille couldn&#39;t help noticing all the press that Atlanta premiere had received. He enthusiastically embraced the State Street Council&#39;s proposal. His world premiere would be tremendous . . . stupendous . . . the most spectacular event to hit Chicago since the World&#39;s Fair!</p><div class="image-insert-image ">On the afternoon of the October 23, DeMille, his stars, and the rest of the movie people arrived at North Western Station. The publicity drums had been beating for weeks, and a crowd of over 10,000 was on hand to see them. Led by horsemen dressed in Mountie uniforms, the Hollywood party paraded to City Hall so they could be officially greeted by Mayor Kelly.</div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Later that evening, DeMille and company were the honored guests at a Palmer House banquet. Entertainment was provided by three sets of singers, comedy vets Laurel &amp; Hardy, and comedy rookie Red Skelton. DeMille gave a speech about how his movie would help bring together &ldquo;the two great English-speaking nations of North America.&rdquo; The festivities closed with Cooper, Carroll, and other players acting out scenes from the movie.</p><p>At 7:30 the next evening, the Hollywood group gathered at the WGN radio studios in the Tribune Tower. They broadcast a special program to a nationwide audience, with short-wave transmissions beamed into the more remote regions of Canada.</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/10-23--dinner.jpg" title="The Palmer House banquet (State Street Council Annual Report for 1940)" /></div><p>Then came another parade, from the Tribune Tower to State Street, for the actual first-run of the movie. The film was being shown simultaneously at both the Chicago and the State-Lake theaters. Two theaters at once &ndash; that was another special bonus!</p><p>DeMille and his troupe left the next day. <em>North West Mounted Police</em> made a pile of money at the box office, but critics consider it one of DeMille&rsquo;s lesser films. Still, the two days had been a lot of fun. And for many years afterward, Chicagoans fondly remembered the excitement of the city&rsquo;s first Hollywood premiere.</p></p> Tue, 23 Oct 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/hollywood-comes-chicago-103225 The high cost of downtown parking – in 1970 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/high-cost-downtown-parking-%E2%80%93-1970-101608 <p><p>Downtown garages are getting expensive &ndash; and we know what&#39;s happened to our parking meters. Yet this is nothing new. On this August 13th in 1970, Chicagoans were complaining about the high cost of parking.</p><p>&ldquo;Drive to the Loop to save money? Forget it!&rdquo; the <em>Tribune</em> said. And it did seem like the CTA offered a cheaper alternative. The basic bus or &quot;L&quot; fare was 45 cents. Even if a 10-cent transfer were added both ways, that worked out to $1.10 for a daily round trip.</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/08-13--Loop%20parking.jpg" title="Pay for parking or take the 'L'? (photo by the author)" /></div><p>That cost compared to a minimum of $1.50 for all-day parking at the least expensive Loop garages. Luckily for the car-driving public, gas prices were holding steady at 40 cents a gallon.</p><p>The problem was supply-and-demand. There were about 53,000 parking spaces in the central part of the city. But new construction on the edge of downtown was taking over land occupied by parking lots. At the same time, that new construction was bringing more auto commuters into the area.</p><p>Parking rates varied by geography. Garages near State and Madison were most expensive &ndash; the typical charge was $4 for eight hours, with some places edging up to $6. As you moved outward, prices dropped. North and west of the river, you could expect to pay $1 or $2 for the same eight hours.</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/08-13--State%20Street.JPG" title="'I think that car is pulling out!' (photo by the author)" /></div><p>Like any wise shopper, you could save money by doing comparison shopping. One Lake Street garage charged $1.50 for the first hour, and $3.50 for an eight-hour stay. A half-block down the street, the prices were $1.15 for the first hour, and a flat $3 for anything up to 24 hours.</p><p>The best rates were offered by the Grant Park Garage. Since it was owned and operated by the city, the garage functioned as a public convenience. More than 3,500 cars could be stored in the underground lot, with the maximum eight-hour price set at $1.70.</p><p>So now you are in the year 2012, and you read this story, and you see the cheap parking prices of four decades ago. You feel a little envy. But remember, all things are relative. Back in 1970, the newspaper that reported the story cost only 10 cents.</p><p>Sorry, got to go now. I&#39;ve got to buy another parking receipt to slap on my dashboard.</p></p> Mon, 13 Aug 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/high-cost-downtown-parking-%E2%80%93-1970-101608 Plaque to the future http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/plaque-future-100298 <p><p>I have a confession to make. I read plaques.</p><p>I like to think it&rsquo;s because I&rsquo;m a historian. That&rsquo;s better than saying I have an obsessive personality.</p><p>I do know that, when my kids were growing up, it drove them crazy that Dad was always stopping to read what someone had posted in bronze on the side of a bridge or public building or roadside rest stop. Now that my son and daughter are grown, I only drive my wife crazy.</p><p>My subject today is two downtown bridge plaques. The first is on the Columbus Drive Bridge. The key bit of information here is that when the bridge opened in 1982, Jane Byrne was mayor of 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/00--Byrne%20Plaque.JPG" title=" " /></div><p>I remember Jane Byrne&rsquo;s mayoralty vividly, and I would guess that other Chicagoans my age do, too. Yet an otherwise-knowledgeable local 28-year-old recently asked me, &ldquo;Who was Jane Byrne?&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s first female mayor? Conqueror of the old Daley Machine? To many in the younger generation, she is just a name on a bridge plaque &mdash; which few people bother to notice.</p><p>Now for the second plaque. This one is on the Clark Street Bridge. No, not the big one. The little one under it.</p><p>In 1931, Big Bill Thompson was running for re-election as mayor. Meanwhile, the new bridge over the river at Clark Street was under construction. Even though the work was still in progress, Thompson had his plaque put on the bridge. Show the voters what Big Bill was building for them!</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/00--Clark%20Street%20Bridge.JPG" title="Dueling plaques on the Clark Street Bridge" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><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/07-03--Clark%20Bridge%20Plaque%2002.JPG" title="Closeup of the bottom plaque--'Hey! I was mayor, too!'" /></div></div></div><p>Thompson lost the election to Anton Cermak. When the bridge was finished later that year, the new mayor made sure he could claim some of the credit with his own mini-plaque. It&#39;s really sort of ridiculous, and has always reminded me of a &ldquo;P.S.&rdquo; at the end of a long letter.</p><p>The point of today&#39;s post is that we should all take public plaques seriously. Well, maybe not <em><u>seriously</u></em>. Still, for anyone interested in history, they are a neglected window into the past. So from time to time, I&rsquo;ll be visiting some Chicago-area plaques.</p><p>I&rsquo;m on the Board of Trustees of the Park Ridge Public Library. When the voters rejected a plan to build a new library, one of my colleagues joked that we&rsquo;d lost our opportunity to be immortalized on a plaque.</p><p>Is that what politicians are thinking when they propose some massive public works project? I don&rsquo;t know. But we will be reading those plaques here, anyway. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 17 Jul 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/plaque-future-100298 Save the Garrick! http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-05/save-garrick-99580 <p><p>On this June 1st in 1960, the City of Chicago decided that the Garrick Theater Building could be torn down. Another obsolete remnant of the past was being replaced with something more modern and more functional, in this case a parking garage.</p><p>Not quite. The Garrick was an official city landmark.</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/6-1--Schiller%20Building.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Garrick Theater Building (author's collection)" /></div><p>Located at 64 West Randolph Street, the Garrick was a 17-story office tower with a 1,300-seat theater. Built in 1892, it had originally been known as the Schiller Building. Architecture scholars considered the complex one of the finest works of Adler &amp; Sullivan.</p><p>By 1960 the Garrick was owned by the Balaban &amp; Katz movie theater chain. That February the city&#39;s new commission on architectural landmarks designated the Garrick as one of 38 structures of &quot;architectural importance.&quot; To much of the general public, who knew the Garrick as only a run-down Loop movie house, the announcement came as a revelation. So did the events that followed.</p><p>Two months after the landmark designation, Balaban &amp; Katz cleared the office tower of tenants. In May came the news that the building would be demolished. Now, in June, the city&rsquo;s commission on architectural landmarks declared that the Garrick might be a dandy building, but wasn&#39;t worth saving.</p><p>&ldquo;The office building has proved to be uneconomical for the owners to operate for some years,&rdquo; the commission said. &ldquo;The design of the theater is such that it is virtually impossible to adapt it to the present wide-screen requirements of a motion picture house.&rdquo; The wreckers could get on with their work.</p><div><p>Preservationists were outraged. What good was landmark status if a building could be torn down so easily? Mayor Richard J. Daley came out in favor of saving the Garrick. He appointed a commission to study the matter. Meanwhile, the city refused to issue a wrecking permit.</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/Sullivan.jpg" style="float: left; width: 159px; height: 250px;" title="Architect Louis Sullivan (Wikipedia)" /></div></div><div><p>The owners went to court. Demonstrators marched with &ldquo;Save the Garrick&rdquo; signs. Aldermen toured the shuttered building, and discussed whether the city could use it. A few people declared that the Garrick was a &ldquo;useless relic,&rdquo; and that the property owners should be free to dispose of it.</p></div><p>In November the appellate court ruled that the city had acted illegally in denying a wrecking permit. The issue was decided. Demolition began on January 16, 1961.</p><p>Part of the Garrick facade was saved. Featuring portraits of German writers, it was incorporated into the Second City Theatre Building. And as a result of the Garrick battle, Chicago&rsquo;s landmark preservation ordinance has been strengthened.</p></p> Fri, 01 Jun 2012 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-05/save-garrick-99580 The Great Loop Flood http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-04/great-loop-flood-97894 <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/AP920415053.jpg" style="height: 1018px; width: 620px;" title="Water is pumped out of the basement of the Chicago Board of Trade, right, on April 15, 1992, as businesses tried to cope with flooding in the Loop. (AP/Charles Bennett)"></div><p>Twenty years ago today, Chicagoans got an unexpected history lesson. April 13, 1992 -- the day of the flood.</p><p>Early in the 20th Century, a network of tunnels was built 40 feet below the streets of downtown&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-13--Marshall%20Field%27s%20%28Wikipedia%20Commons%29.jpg" style="float: left; width: 325px; height: 216px; " title="Freight tunnel at Marshall Field's, 1912 (Wikipedia Commons)"></p><p>Chicago. The tunnels were used mostly for hauling freight between Loop buildings. They were abandoned during the 1950s.</p><p>By 1991 most Chicagoans knew nothing about the freight tunnels. That December, a contractor happened to be sinking wooden pilings into the river at the Kinzie Street Bridge. The work caused a crack in one of the tunnel walls. The city was notified about the accident.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">Months passed. There was no water leak, so there didn’t seem to be any hurry about fixing the crack. Then, shortly before 6 a.m. on the morning of April 13, the Fire Department received a call about flooding in the basement of the Merchandise Mart.</div></div><p>Had a water main broken? That explanation was soon discarded, as the real problem became evident–the river had pushed open the crack in the freight tunnel wall, and was pouring through.</p><p>The flood spread southward, into the Loop. Electric and gas lines were knocked out. More basements were flooded. The waters eventually reach as far south as the Hilton.</p><p>Trading was suspended&nbsp;at the exchanges. Government offices shut down. Businesses closed early and sent their employees home–but not on the subway, because the power was out there, too. Thousands of people milled aimlessly around&nbsp;downtown, trading rumors.</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/04-13--Kinzie%20St%20Bridge.JPG" style="float: left; width: 325px; height: 216px; " title="Where it started--Kinzie Street Bridge"></div></div><p>It was an odd disaster. At street level, everything looked as it always had. Officials assured the public that the situation was under control. Governor Jim Edgar&nbsp;met with Mayor Richard M. Daley at City Hall. Afterward the governor told reporters there was no need to call out the National Guard.</p><p>About 11 a.m. the&nbsp;river locks were opened. That let the Chicago River resume its natural course into Lake Michigan. The water in the tunnels continued to rise, but more slowly.&nbsp;</p><p>By evening the water level had&nbsp;finally stabilized. Now the cleaning up and pumping out began. It would&nbsp;take weeks. A private contractor finally had to be brought in to seal the original leak at Kinzie Street.</p><p>The price tag for damaged goods, repair costs, and lost business was over $100,000,000. For insurance reasons, the April 13th water event is officially classified as a “leak.” But no matter what name is used, those who experienced it firsthand often echo the reaction of their mayor – ”What a day!”</p></p> Fri, 13 Apr 2012 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-04/great-loop-flood-97894 The world's first skyscraper http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-03-01/worlds-first-skyscraper-96741 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-27/Home Insurance Building_Schmidt.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Skyscraper!</p><p>We're so used to hearing the word, we don't really think about it. Today we have airplanes. We've flown to the moon. Scraping the sky doesn't seem like such a big deal.</p><p>But go back to this date in 1884. On March 1st the city issued a permit to erect an office building at the northeast corner of La Salle and Adams. The Home Insurance Building would start a revolution.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-24/03-01--Home Insurance Building.jpg" style="width: 262px; height: 400px; margin: 5px; float: right;" title="The technology behind the Home Insurance Building would start a revolution. (Collection of John Schmidt)">Before 1884 buildings were supported by their walls. The higher you went, the wider the bottom. That's because the base had to carry the weight of everything above it. Think of the pyramids.</p><p>Of course, you could take some of the weight off the walls by putting support columns inside the building. Trouble was, you reduced interior space, and wound up with a bunch of small rooms.</p><p>And because your outside walls were weight-bearing, glass windows had to be small. That limited the sunlight coming into your building. You want larger windows? Then you build buttresses holding up your walls, like the Gothic cathedrals.</p><p>William LeBaron Jenney, architect of the Home Insurance Building, changed this. Metals had become stronger and easier to use. Jenney built an interior metal frame as the main support of his building.</p><p>Most of the frame was iron. But Jenney also used steel, making Home Insurance the first building with structural steel in its frame. The 10-story structure topped off at 138 feet in 1885.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-24/03-01--Jenney.jpg" style="width: 320px; height: 212px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title="Architect William LeBaron Jenney was the first to use a metal frame in one of his buildings (Collection of John Schmidt)">Jenney's building was not totally supported by the metal frame, but it is important because it showed the way of the future. That's why it's considered the world's first skyscraper.</p><p>Now other architects began going higher and higher. Windows were made bigger and bigger. Compared to older structures, the walls of the new buildings looked like curtains of glass. This was the so-called Chicago School of Architecture.</p><p>About this same time, electricity was being harnessed. That was vital. The new power source made construction easier. And once the building was completed, electricity ran the elevators and lit the interior.</p><p>The Home Insurance Building added two additional floors in 1890. By then it was already being dwarfed by nearby construction. In 1931 Chicago's pioneer skyscraper was torn down--to make way for a taller building.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 01 Mar 2012 13:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-03-01/worlds-first-skyscraper-96741 'Safe Highways'--a 1925 traffic safety film http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-20/safe-highways-1925-traffic-safety-film-95568 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-19/safe highways image.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today's film was produced in 1925 by the CTA's predecessor, Chicago Surface Lines. CSL wanted to educate the public on traffic safety, and was willing to smash a lot of cars to do so. As a result, much of the film is unintentionally hilarious.</p><p>What's interesting to the historian is the street scenes from nearly 90 years ago. The downtown sites are easy to identify.&nbsp; But the film also goes out into the neighborhoods. I've been able to place a few of these outlying locations (see below). If anyone recognizes other sites, let me know in the comments section.</p><p>1:50--Archer Ave at RR just east of Cicero. Conductor is flagging the streetcar across the tracks.</p><p>2:10--Cicero Ave at 22nd St (Cermak Rd). The old Western Electric complex is clearly visible. Notice that CSL ran two-car trains on some of the busier routes.</p><p>3:15--Cicero Ave at Erie. The Lucille Theater was at 653 N. Cicero Ave.</p><p>7:00--Possibly North Avenue. The center-of-the-street trolley poles are a clue.</p><p>8:14--Traffic signals were new in 1925, and the public was still getting used to them</p><p>9:20--Either Broadway or Clark Street. The streetcar is signed for Route 1.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/35332321?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="601" frameborder="0" height="451"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 20 Jan 2012 13:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-20/safe-highways-1925-traffic-safety-film-95568 There in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-06/there-chicago-95224 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-06/j schmidt 2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-04/02--1947-Z.JPG" style="width: 495px; height: 353px;" title="Wells St @ Polk St (view north)"></p><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-04/02--1947--Wells-Polk.jpg" title="1947 (photographer unknown/author's collection)" width="495" height="353"></p><p>How well did you find your way around the Chicago of 1947?</p><p>The building with the clock tower is Grand Central Station. Built in 1890, for many years it was the Chicago terminus of the Baltimore &amp; Ohio Railroad. Grand Central closed in 1969, and was demolished two years later.</p><p>But other landmarks remain. Looking further north on Wells Street, you can make out the 'L' at Van Buren and the top of the Insurance Exchange Building.</p><p>A lot fewer cars around 65 years ago--and no parking meters!</p></p> Fri, 06 Jan 2012 13:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-06/there-chicago-95224