Sunday, May 20, 2012

NATO comes to the South Loop, Day 2

Thousands of NATO protestors descended upon the South Loop this afternoon, arriving at Michigan Avenue and 18th Street at 3:25pm.  The protestors had gathered at Petrillo Music Shell earlier in the day for a rally and began their march at 2:00pm, heading south toward McCormick Place, where leaders from 60 countries were assembled for the NATO Summit.  The march ended at Michigan Avenue and Cermak Road, where numerous veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan gave back their medals as a sign of protest against U.S. involvement in those countries.  Shortly before 5:00pm, a large group of protestors started heading west on Cermak Road, while others retraced their steps north back to downtown.  By 5:30pm, the remaining protestors were being told to disperse.  There was an enormous police presence along the march route, and except for a few altercations as marchers were being directed to disperse, it was a peaceful protest.  Here are some images from the afternoon.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

NATO comes to the South Loop, Day 1

The NATO Summit gets underway on Sunday, but already the neighborhood around McCormick Place has taken on an entirely different feeling.  Many residents have chosen to leave the area for the weekend, due to broad road closures and parking restrictions, and numerous businesses (including Glessner and Clarke House Museums) have closed as well.   A number of buildings along Michigan Avenue have boarded up their windows in anticipation of the large protest scheduled to march south along Michigan on Sunday afternoon. 

An unscheduled protest march marched south along Michigan just after today, arriving at 18th Street before turning around and heading back to downtown where they continued to march for hours.

Below are a few pictures of the neighborhood and protest march.

Sign at entrance for non-dignitaries attending summit at Calumet Avenue and 21st Street.

One of numerous EPA air monitoring devices set up in the neighborhood to monitor the level of tear gas and other potentially dangerous gases that could be released during the protest march on Sunday.  This device is at the corner of Prairie Avenue and 18th Street.

Blockade on the 2000 block of South Prairie Avenue utilizing concrete barriers and a snow plow.

Security checkpoint on 21st Street at Indiana Avenue.

Indiana Avenue at Cermak Road looking toward McCormick Place.

Locomobile Lofts at 2000 S. Michigan Avenue boarded up in anticipation of Sunday's march.

Protest march on Michigan Avenue approaching 18th Street just after today.

Protestors stopped at 18th Street.

Police blocking off Cullerton Street at Michigan Avenue, next to Second Presbyterian Church.

Protestor being searched and detained.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Upcoming NATO Summit recalls protest march of 1884

Later this week, heads of state from around the globe will arrive in Chicago for the NATO Summit.  The two-day meeting will be held at McCormick Place on Sunday May 20 and Monday May 21, 2012, just a few blocks south of Glessner House Museum.  In light of all the media attention on the anticipated protest march which will head south along Michigan Avenue from the Petrillo Bandshell to McCormick Place on Sunday, we look back to another protest and march held on Thanksgiving Day in 1884 along Michigan and Prairie Avenues that was directed toward residents of the neighborhood.

(Chicago Tribune, November 28, 1884)


Unfurled for the First Time in America by Discontented Chicago Proletariats

“The Disinherited Class of the Earth” Denounces the Capitalistic Turkey-Eaters

And Parades the Heart of the City, While the First Regiment Has a Street Riot Drill


One thousand men stood shivering in the drizzling rain in Market square yesterday afternoon in answer to a call made upon the Socialists to meet and express their reasons for not giving thanks to the Lord on the National day of thanksgiving.  Around the speakers’ stand, which consisted of half a dozen empty chicken crates plied one on the other, were grouped banners and rudely-constructed shields bearing such inscriptions as “Our capitalistic robbers may well thank their Lord that we, their victims, have not yet strangled them”; “Thanks to our ‘Lords,’ who have the kindness to feast on our earnings”; “Shall we thank our ‘Lords’ for our misery, destitution, and poverty?”; “The turkeys and champagne upon the tables of our ‘Lords’ was purchased by us”; “Why we thank? Because our capitalistic brothers are happily enjoying our turkeys, our wines, and our houses.”

While a band was playing the Marseillaise Hymn, a young man, whose bloated face and badly-worn pantaloons suggested mightily vigils in groggeries, created some excitement by mounting the chicken-coops and yelling: “Boys, I ain’t a-eatin’ no turkey today, and I’m a-goin’ to call this ‘ere meetin’ to order.  We want guns, we do, G-d d—n us, and we want to fight like men and burn ---.”  At this point the wildly-swinging arms and dilapidated pantaloons disappeared, the crowd howled and the fiery orator was unceremoniously hustled out through the crowd and told to go back to the bridewell, where he belongs.

“Men of the disinherited class of the earth,” said Mr. A. R. Parsons, as he called the meeting to order, “we are assembled here on this day of National thanksgiving to curse the capitalistic robbers who are feasting on the blood of our wives and children.  We are justified in cursing these vipers by the Bible which they hurt at us with so much unction,” and he quoted from the Gospel of St. John and from St. James and from Solomon’s wise sayings to prove his assertion.

Mr. C. D. Griffin’s turkey had evidently fallen short of his expectations, for he occupied ten minutes in assailing the weight system in vogue in Chicago.  “There is but one remedy for all our evils,” he concluded: “we’ve got to strike at property; it looks like a sacrifice to destroy all those fine buildings but it must be done.  We can’t secure justice in any other way.  No man should have more than he can use – one house, one store, one suit of clothes; if we find them vacant it is our duty to occupy them or destroy them as circumstances dictate.”

While Mr. Griffin was speaking, a body of men from the West Side, carrying two red and two black flags, drew up in front of the stand, and at the cheers of the spectators.  “This is the first time in America that the black flag of hunger has been carried in the streets of a city.  Shall we submit to being starved?  No, we will flaunt these black emblems of want and despair in the faces of the rich robbers as they are eating our turkey and drinking our wine.”

Mr. Samuel Fielden was the next speaker.  He had got no further than “Fellow Christians,” when he was loudly hissed, and in broken English from several directions came the sentiment “Don’t insult us.”  Mr. Fielden changed his tack, and during his rabid speech didn’t believe in God, man, or the Devil.  “When I was a boy,” said he, “my mother taught me the Lord’s Prayer, which I believe, beings something like this: ‘Our Father which art in Heaven.’  [Derisive laughter.]  He is in Heaven yet, and evidently intends to stay there.  We have no authentic record that He has ever visited this earth.  He knows when he has a good thing, and intends to hang to it.”  This bit of profanity tickled the crowd immensely.

Some very pronounced Socialistic resolutions were read and adopted.  The most striking clauses being that property rights should no longer be maintained or respected; that such useless things as lawyers, insurers, brokers, jailers, police, politicians, armies, and navies should be deprived of their employment; that no man shall pay you anything or receive pay for anything, or deprive himself of what he may desire; that one suit of clothes is enough for any man; that forcible opposition to the opening of all stores, storehouses, vacant tenements, and transporting property for the good of the people in general should be dealt with summarily, “in order to save bloodshed.”

Mr. August Spies complained that when the Socialists asked for bread, Carter Harrison appointed 400 new policemen to drive them from their homes and hovels.

A speech in German by Mr. Schwab concluded the speech-making, and about 500 men fell in line behind the red and black flags and marched through Michigan and other avenues, where the aristocracy is supposed to dwell, in order, as they put it, “to make the voice of hunger heard.”  An inconsistency, apparently unnoticed by the Socialistic leaders, was that the men carrying and surrounding the black flags that “cry for bread” were all well-dressed, sleek, and fat, and in far greater danger of gout than of starvation.

The men present were in great part Poles, Germans, and Bohemians.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Joseph Sears and his Prairie Avenue roots

On Sunday May 6, 2012, members of the Kenilworth Historical Society journeyed down to Prairie Avenue  for a private tour of the street and Glessner House Museum.  The destination was far from random.  Joseph Sears, the founder of the beautiful planned community of Kenilworth on Chicago’s North Shore, had been a long time resident of Prairie Avenue during its heyday in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  Members were anxious to learn more about the community that Sears called home before moving permanently to Kenilworth in 1892.

Joseph Sears was born on March 24, 1843 and was educated in the Chicago public schools.  In 1868, he married Helen Barry and began working as superintendent of a new plant for N. K. Fairbank, manufacturers of lard, oil, soap, and candles.  Within five years he was admitted as a junior partner in the firm.

By that time Sears had already moved to the Prairie Avenue neighborhood, originally living in a house on Prairie south of 22nd Street.  One of the attractions of the area no doubt was the Swedenborgian church, known as the “New Church Hall,” located at the southeast corner of Prairie Avenue and 18th Street.  The church had been built there in 1872, after their previous building was destroyed in the Chicago Fire.  In 1879, Sears purchased a lot less than 100 feet south of the church property, and soon after hired Burnham and Root to design his home.  (Architect Daniel Burnham was a fellow Swedenborgian).  During construction in 1881-1882, Sears and his growing family rented a house at 1919 S. Prairie Avenue, now known as the Marshall Field Jr. house.  (It is one of only seven surviving mansions remaining on Prairie Avenue today).

In 1880, the church sold their property and moved to a more central location in downtown Chicago, where Sears continued to attend.  By coincidence, the church property was acquired by Sears’ business partner, Nathaniel K. Fairbank.  In 1892, William W. Kimball, manufacturer of pianos and organs, completed his Chateauesque style mansion on the site, and that mansion remains today as well, now used as the national headquarters for the U. S. Soccer Federation.

Shortly after completing his home at 1815 S. Prairie Avenue, Sears’ traveled to England, where he became entranced with the beautiful planned communities there.  He came back to the U.S. and purchased a large tract of land on Chicago’s north shore, where he soon after established the community of Kenilworth.  In 1892, he left Prairie Avenue and took up permanent residence in a new home at Kenilworth, where he lived until his death in 1912. 

When Sears moved to Kenilworth he brought an interesting item with him.  After moving into the Prairie Avenue home in 1882, he had a log cabin playhouse built for his children.  The structure was carefully dismantled and reconstructed at Sears’ Kenilworth home.  In 1945, the family dismantled it yet again and moved it to a new family home in Northbrook.  In 1968, it was dismantled for the third time and moved back to Kenilworth, where it can be seen today adjacent to the Kenilworth Club.

Sears leased his Prairie Avenue home for a number of years.  For much of that time it was occupied by Levy Mayer, a prominent Chicago attorney and general counsel for Armour, one of the largest meatpackers in the country.  In 1902, the house was sold to Arthur Meeker, the European representative for Armour.  Meeker had the house significantly remodeled from plans prepared by architect Arthur Heun.  After Meeker moved to the north side, the building was occupied by various publishing houses, including D. C. Heath and Company.  It was razed in 1967.
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