Street Smart Chicago

Hospital Emergency: The Save Prentice movement goes national

Chicago History, Gold Coast/Near North No Comments »

Architecture advocacy groups Landmarks Illinois and Preservation Chicago have spent more than a year trying to save the old Prentice Women’s Hospital in Streeterville. On Wednesday, they made it a national issue.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation named the now nearly vacant building to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places during a press conference and rally held just outside the building.

Both groups continue to fight for granting the building landmark status. In April, Northwestern University, the building’s longtime owner, agreed to table its demolition plans for sixty days while Chicago considers its possible status. But the Landmarks Commission deferred its vote on June 2, and now the advocates remain uncertain as to whether it will be even on the agenda for the July 7 meeting. In what he feels is a closing window of opportunity, Preservation Chicago director Jonathan Fine says the city needs to recognize the need to preserve its cultural legacy that extends inward from its most visible areas.

“Chicago, as great of a city as it is, sometimes can’t look beyond its own navel when it comes to architecture,” he says. “Two years ago we lost eight of the nine Gropius Buildings on the Michael Reese Hospital campus, and in exchange we now have a sea of taxpayer-funded mud down there. We are on the verge of making the same mistake twice. Read the rest of this entry »

A Thousand Voices in the Night: The University of Chicago celebrates the centennial of its Interfraternity Sing

Chicago History, Hyde Park No Comments »

Lanterns have been strung from the trees around Hutchinson Courtyard in the University of Chicago quads, speckling the area with light on a dark and warm summer night. This is the Saturday of Alumni Weekend, so the campus is already buzzing with tradition and remembrance, but the chairs of the courtyard tonight are specifically (but not exclusively) filled with alumni who were in the Greek system.

The Interfraternity Sing is an annual University of Chicago tradition that harks back to June 1911, when it began as a way to replace the less popular Senior Sing. Now, it’s a beloved and successful Panhellenic singing competition. In 1916, twenty fraternities marched into Hutchinson Courtyard, but by 1922 there were thirty fraternities and more than 18,000 participants. Today, the IF Sing draws over 1,000 and is 100 years old—so it’s more than ready to have a birthday party.

“We are just really excited for Sing in general this year,” says Jessica Sheft-Ason, Kappa Alpha Theta’s public relations VP. “I think because it is the 100th anniversary, many of the girls in our sorority are looking forward to it even more than usual.” Read the rest of this entry »

411: Haymarket Rioting, as Planned

Chicago History, Events, West Loop No Comments »

Striking laborers and plotting anarchists crowd Haymarket Square while policemen attempt to keep the peace. Suddenly, a pipe bomb explodes on the police line from an unknown source. Thus began the Haymarket Riot, which is still considered the day in which the Chicago Police Department lost the most officers it ever has in a single day. Consequently, this will also be what occurs on April 30 at 2pm with Paul Durica’s fourth reenactment, which he plans to “remind us that we all share in the legacy.” To do this, the Pocket Guide to Hell teamed up with the Illinois Labor History Society, the Version Arts Festival, Haymarket Pub & Brewery and the Fulton River District Association, enlisting the help of Chicago’s historian Tim Samuelson and musician Jon Langford, who will perform the song one of the convicted anarchists sang in his jail cell. Just like on his walking tours, Durica sets this reenactment at the actual site of the original Haymarket Riot—Randolph, Desplaines and Halsted—which demonstrates his goal of “reanimating spaces and connecting past and present.” Considering the current state of labor affairs in Midwestern states like Wisconsin, this connection should not be difficult to find. Volunteers will don period hats and badges, and everyone is encouraged to wear a costume. In fact, everyone will become a participant by acting either as a policeman, an anarchist, a laborer or a curious onlooker. For more information, visit pocketguidetohell.tumblr.com. (Elizabeth Kossnar)

411: Of Sausage Kings and Building Amenities

Chicago History No Comments »

The real Sausage King of Chicago

In between such overly familiar tourist attractions as Navy Pier or Wrigley Field are the unsung Chicago landmarks. In “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” for example, Matthew Broderick proclaimed himself “Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago” in a Gold Coast restaurant on West Schiller, between Dearborn and State Parkway. Adolph Luetgert was known as “Sausage King of Chicago” because he put the body of his murdered wife in a sausage vat of a Lakeview meat packing company on Diversey, between Ashland and Damen. Domu.com, a web-based listing of Chicago apartments for renters and landlords, has created a historical map of Chicago with all the things we wish teachers taught us in history class. The project started out as a simple interactive map for the domu.com users to learn more about an area they may want to live. Domu’s Andrew Porter and John Kristoff created a basic Google map and “as we began to get deeper, we unearthed more and more history. The list kept increasing in size and we were permitted to grow along with it,” says Porter. The map now has twelve categories of Chicago history and more than 500 entries. Categories include oddities, mobsters, residents, tragedies, alumni and more. “We got a little carried away but we were really excited about it,” Porter admits. Read the rest of this entry »

Pipe Dreams: How tobacconist Iwan Ries survived the Civil War, the Great Conflagration and the smoking ban

Chicago History, Loop 1 Comment »

Photo: Kristine Sherred

By Jennifer Kelly Price

I remember smelling my grandpa’s pipes, pulling them one by one from an immaculately polished brown leather box kept on quiet display in his den, lifting the lid and instantly being transported to another era. Though I never saw him smoke them, I remember picturing him young—a dashing soldier in his twenties, courting my grandma, puffing a pipe all gentle-like. I could smell that sweetness in the air and on his skin. The smell of a good pipe strikes a note of palpable nostalgia, even for those without direct associations. It’s almost as though the marriage of sweet tobacco and burning wood sprung forth far enough back in history that it exists in our collective memory. Comforting. Relaxing. Swathed with manliness and class.

That’s what the Iwan Ries family stands for. Iwan Ries, the oldest family-owned tobacconist in the country, has touched three centuries and passed through five generations of one family. A phenomenal boom in the fifties and sixties gave the family-run business the momentum to develop their own brand of tobacco, Three Star Blue. They launched a catalog and mail-order service, and began filling orders worldwide. Ries’ daughter Rosalie married Stanley Levi, and Ries passed the business onto his son-in-law. The current owner, Chuck Levi, joined the business as a young man in the fifties, allowing his father to travel the world and gather pipes never before available to American consumers. His own son Kevin Levi now manages the business. Read the rest of this entry »

In the Loop: Chicago Detours leads learning expeditions in the city

Architecture, Chicago History, Loop No Comments »

Photo: Kristine Sherred

Standing just inside the Dearborn Street entrance of Chase Tower, Amanda Scotese welcomes her Friday Chicago Detours group to “Explore the Loop without Freezing.” This morning brings only four curious people together, but Scotese caps the number of tickets at twenty anyway, creating what she characterizes as a unique, personal and immersive urban experience. The attendees give their names and hometowns before Scotese pulls out the multimedia component, an iPad, starting with a nineteenth-century clip of a Chicago intersection and a Studs Terkel snippet.

“It’s not just facts. This is about stories and a theme that binds them together,” says Scotese.

Her digital collection of archival footage, ephemera and images “you can’t piece together on the Internet” complement her mental reserve of “forgotten stories,” as she calls the fascinating history she shares at each stop. She encourages questions and conversation, fostering a collaborative educational environment unlike the talking head on run-of-the-mill tours.

“People love to learn!” she exclaims. “I don’t pretend to know everything, and I’m not into making up answers.” Anything she doesn’t know, she researches and posts answers to on the Chicago Detours blog. Read the rest of this entry »

Bertrand Goldberg’s legacy at risk

Architecture, Chicago History, Gold Coast/Near North No Comments »

The fight to save Prentice Hospital continues. Preservation Chicago has circulated this video, which covers the story. Newcity made Prentice the centerpiece of a cover story about the threat to Chicago’s mid-century modern architecture this summer.

Save Prentice! from Aaron Cahan on Vimeo.

411: A Walk through the Park’s History

Chicago History, Green, Loop No Comments »

If you have ever gone to Lollapalooza, attended a concert at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion or simply strolled through its elegant gardens, you should consider joining Lawrence Okrent and the Friends of Downtown this Thursday, December 2, for a brown-bag luncheon presentation about the origins and rich history of Grant Park.

Urban planning and zoning expert Okrent (who prefers to be called Larry) has more than forty years experience navigating the history and peculiarities of Chicago land development. Not to mention that over his career, Okrent has amassed an extensive archive of aerial and historical photographs of Chicago. Who better then to illustrate the complex history of Grant Park.

Okrent can tell you, for example, that the land that is now Grant Park was once just a gap of water standing between the natural Lake Michigan shoreline and the elevated Illinois Trestle just to the east. And you might be interested to learn that that little water gap was first filled in with rubble from the Great Fire or that the park didn’t attain its characteristic landscaping until the 1920’s and thirties. Read the rest of this entry »

The One-Man Gang: How Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago became America’s first Heisman Trophy winner

Chicago History, Hyde Park, Sports No Comments »

By Martin Northway

He lives on in crackling 1930s football footage: a running back in a long, Homeric dash ranging from sideline to sideline, on a field so muddy water stands in visible pools; he is a speeding human gyroscope, maintaining his balance while he evades and breaks tackles. Every defender seems to have a shot, yet he crashes into the end zone.

Comparisons of John Jacob “Jay” Berwanger with other football players fail. Legendary sports broadcaster Red Barber called him simply “the greatest college player I ever saw.” Late former President and onetime Michigan star Gerald Ford bragged about his scar from tackling Jay Berwanger in 1934.

The famous Red Grange said Berwanger had a “faraway look” allowing him to see downfield and rapidly adjust. Grange also said Berwanger could hit a hole closing on him, drumming his feet lightly, freezing tacklers before slashing through.

In fall 1935, the star back of the University of Chicago Maroons was selected as the first recipient of what came to be known as the Heisman Trophy. “Seventy-five years later, Jay Berwanger still receives positive publicity,” says Brian Cooper, Dubuque newspaper editor and sports author, writer of a forthcoming biography of Berwanger. “Not just because he was the first Heisman recipient but because [of] how he played the game—tenacious and tireless, and playing both ways every game”—and “how he lived his entire life.” Read the rest of this entry »

No Small Plans: Celebrating GO TO 2040, Chicago’s first major regional blueprint since Burnham

Chicago History, Media, Politics No Comments »

It’s pouring, but that doesn’t dampen the spirits of a thousand sharply-dressed politicians, urban planners and other civic leaders crammed into a tent on top of Millennium Park’s Harris Theater. They’re here to launch GO TO 2040, a blueprint for making tough development and spending choices in the Chicago area’s 284 communities, for the next few decades and beyond.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) will lead the implementation process, and stakes are high. As the region’s population balloons from its current 8.6 million to an estimated 11 million by 2040, the decisions we make now will determine whether the Chicago area becomes more prosperous, green and equitable or devolves into a depressed, grid-locked, smog-choked dystopia.

The plan, developed by CMAP and its partner organizations over three years and drawing on feedback from more than 35,000 residents, includes the four themes of Livable Communities, Human Capital, Efficient Governance and Regional Mobility. It makes detailed recommendations for facing challenges like job creation, preserving the environment, housing and transportation. Read the rest of this entry »