Monday, August 25, 2014

Pullman may soon be our newest National Park

Administration and Factory buildings

On Thursday, August 21, 2014, more than 300 people crowded into the Pullman Administration Building on Chicago’s far South Side to show their support for the designation of the landmark Town of Pullman as a National Park.  Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, was at the meeting to hear the overwhelming show of support from residents, preservationists, historians, and politicians on the importance of the Pullman community in American history.

Alderman Anthony Beale and U. S. Representative Robin Kelly both spoke.  Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, who earlier this year introduced bill S.1962 to designate Pullman as a National Park, sent representatives, as did Governor Quinn.   Mayor Rahm Emanuel had met with Director Jarvis earlier in the day, but upon hearing of the large crowd in attendance, made a last minute appearance.

Arcade Row, built for Pullman management,
 with the Greenstone Church in the distance

The bipartisan bill introduced by Durbin and Kirk has not moved forward, typical of most bills introduced into Congress.  The best chance for the designation to occur anytime soon would be for President Barack Obama to use his power under the Antiquities Act to designate Pullman as National Park 402.  Emanuel, Obama’s former Chief of Staff, promised at the meeting to make the call and ask the President to exercise his power.

When one thinks of a National Park, images of Yellowstone and Yosemite come to mind.  But in the past 25 years, the National Park Service has made a concerted effort to embrace sites that tell the whole American experience – including the stories of immigrants, laborers, women, African-Americans, and more.  Pullman has the potential to tell all of these stories, and would also be the only National Park in the greater Chicagoland area.

Looking east from atop the Arcade Building

The model factory town of Pullman was developed in the early 1880s by George Pullman for his Pullman Palace Car Company.  Pullman (who was a neighbor of the Glessners, residing at 1729 S. Prairie Avenue) envisioned a utopian community with good housing and other amenities to improve the quality of life for his workers (and, as a direct result, a happy workforce).  Architect Solon S. Beman used locally made brick to design the factory and public buildings, and housing in a pleasing Queen Anne style.  Landscape architect Nathan F. Barrett designed the parks, streetscapes and overall plan, creating a unified appearance for the town. 

Pullman strikers outside the Arcade Building, 1894

During the 1880s and early 1890s, people came from around the world to visit the Town of Pullman and marvel at its appearance and success.  It became one of the sites that many people visited when coming to Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.  But all of that changed the next year, when an economic downturn led to Pullman lowering the wages for his workers, but not the rents they paid back to the company for their homes.  The result was the infamous Pullman Strike of 1894, when company workers walked off the job, and members of the American Railway Union boycotted Pullman cars, paralyzing rail traffic across the country.  The National Guard was brought in to restore order, and ultimately the labor action was defeated, but the strike left permanent scars.

Pullman porters

The company was forced to sell off all of its property not used directly in the manufacture of its railroad cars, and in time, the housing was all transferred into private ownership.  In 1937, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African-American union in the country founded in 1925 by A. Philip Randolph, was formally recognized by the company. 

Hotel Florence; Administration building at far left

In 1970, the Pullman Historic District, which covers approximately 300 acres, was designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its importance in social history, architecture, and urban planning.  The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency manages the Administration and Factory complex and the Hotel Florence as an historic site.  The Historic Pullman Foundation operates a visitor center for the many thousands of people who visit annually, and co-sponsors an annual tour of homes each October with the Pullman Civic Organization.

Today, Pullman stands poised and ready to be recognized as the newest national park.  To read the bill introduced by Senators Durbin and Kirk, and to voice your support for the designation, visit

Monday, August 18, 2014

House Moving Part III: Clarke House, 1977

Last week, we looked at the first move of Chicago’s historic Clarke house in 1872.  This week we will examine the second move of the house in 1977.

After the 1872 move, the house continued to serve as a private family residence for generations of the Chrimes and Walters families.  In 1941, it was sold to Bishop Louis Henry Ford and the St. Paul Church of God in Christ.  They used the building for church purposes and the Bishop’s residence for the next 35 years.  Respectful of its history, they celebrated the birthday of the house each year.

Discussions surrounding the creation of the Prairie Avenue Historic District were underway by 1970 when both the Clarke and Glessner houses were designated landmarks by the city of Chicago.  Within two years, the city began negotiations to purchase the Clarke house from the church and move it from its location at 4526 S. Wabash Avenue, where it had stood for 100 years, back to its original neighborhood.

The move almost stopped before it started.  On Monday January 31, 1977, fire broke out in the basement of the building.  Fortunately there was no major structural damage, and the many layers of paint on the interior moldings protected them from the blaze.  Three days later, an article in the Chicago Tribune announced that the city was continuing its negotiations to purchase and move the house, in spite of the fire.

In late August, detailed plans were announced for the move of the house later in the year.  Wilbert Hasbrouck, a respected preservation architect was retained by the city to oversee the move and the restoration of the house at its new site at 1827 S. Indiana Avenue.  He undertook an extensive analysis of the house and its structure, to determine exactly how the house could be moved, and how it would be restored to its original 1836 appearance. 

Ironically, the 1977 move proved much more difficult that the earlier move, due to the presence of power lines, street lights, and most significantly the elevated train tracks.  The tracks of the Englewood-Jackson Park L (a.k.a. the Green Line) stood a few blocks east of the house and would have to be crossed.  Numerous moving techniques were considered and dismissed – dismantling the building into three layers; utilizing the railroad rights-of-way; and using a barge on Lake Michigan for part of the move.

Ultimately it was decided to raise the house 25 feet and slide it above the el tracks using an elaborate combination of jacks and support cribbing.  The diagrams above, which appeared in the Chicago Tribune on August 20, 1977 showed the basic steps:
-remove the cupola, porches and other small parts of the house;
-place the house onto a 64-wheel trailer, pulled by a 1-1/2 ton truck;
-move the house onto jacks and support cribbing on the west side of the el tracks which crossed 44th Street between Prairie and Calumet avenues and raise it a foot at a time to a height of 25 feet;
-winch the house across the tracks on rollers along steel I-beams to the support cribbing on the east side of the tracks, and then lower the house a foot at a time back down to the ground and onto the 64-wheel trailer;
-complete the move via trailer to the new site.

The proposed route for the move, as shown in the map above, covered 32 blocks:
-north on Wabash to 44th Street;
-east on 44th Street to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive;
-north on King Drive to 31st Street;
-west on 31st Street to Michigan Avenue;
-north on Michigan Avenue to Cermak Road;
-east on Cermak Road to Indiana Avenue;
-north on Indiana Avenue.

It was anticipated that the move would take approximately 12 days.  On the first day, the building, which weighed 120 tons, would be placed on the trailer and moved at a walking speed to the west side of the tracks.  Five days would then be needed to jack up the house to a height of 25 feet – one foot higher than the tracks.  The next day, the house would be winched across the tracks, a move that would only take about 30 minutes.  Then five more days to move the house back down to the ground, and finally one more day to complete the move onto extra-wide footings at its new location.

November 18: Removal of the cupola

The move began on Wednesday November 23, 1977, the day before Thanksgiving, at which time the house was moved as far as the tracks on 44th Street.  Everything proceeded accordingly to plan (although small pieces fell off the house at various points along route) and the structure was ready to be winched across the tracks.  At one minute after midnight early on Sunday December 4th, the electric power was shut off on the el tracks and the house was slowly pulled across the tracks.  A crowd of 2,000 people gathered to watch the event, despite the bitter cold temperatures.

December 4: The move over the Green Line tracks

The temperature created a problem.  After the house was move onto the cribbing on the east side of the tracks, it was discovered that the hydraulic jacks had frozen.  The house would sit suspended in mid-air for the next two weeks, surprising commuters who encountered the house at eye level as they crossed the bridge at 44th Street.

December 12:  Trimming trees on 44th Street

December 18:  On King Drive at 41st Street

December 18: Crossing the Michigan Avenue bridge
over I-55 at 25th Street

Finally, on Sunday December 18th, the house was moved the last leg of its journey and placed on to its new foundation.  The final cost of the move was $410,000.  An extensive restoration was undertaken over the next 4-1/2 years, in a partnership between the City of Chicago which owned the building, The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Illinois which agreed to furnish the house to the time period, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation which would operate the tours in conjunction with Glessner House Museum, which they owned and operated at the time.  Robert Furhoff undertook an extensive analysis of the interior of the house, uncovering original paint layers and wallpapers which were replicated in the restoration.  One of the most significant projects was the recreation of the east portico, based on the one historic photograph that survived showing the house during the occupancy of the Clarke family, dating to the mid-1860s.

The house opened to the public as an historic house museum in 1982.  In 2004, additional restoration work was completed including the recreation of the matching portico on the west side of the house.

Photos courtesy of Clarke House Museum.

Monday, August 11, 2014

House Moving Part II: Clarke House, 1872

Clarke House at its original location on the east side
of Michigan Avenue in the 1860s
(Courtesy of Clarke House Museum)

The move of the Clarke House to its current location in 1977 is well documented.  This, of course, was the second time the house had been moved.  In this article, we will examine the first move of the house in the spring of 1872.

After the death of Caroline Clarke in January 1860, her children continued to reside in the house.  This included daughter Mary, and her husband Frank Williams, who moved back into the house so that Mary could care for her younger siblings.  The Great Chicago Fire in October 1871 spared the house and surrounding neighborhood, but within months, the family decided to sell the family homestead.

The three acres of land on the east side of Michigan Avenue south of 16th Street on which the house stood were sold to St. Paul’s Universalist Church.  Their building had been lost in the Fire, and like many congregations, they were looking to rebuild farther from downtown and within the growing residential district on the south side.  The house itself was sold to John Chrimes, a tailor, who also purchased an empty lot nearly four miles to the south at 4526 S. Wabash Avenue on to which he would move his house.

St. Paul's Universalist Church, built on the
original site of Clarke House

The house had been a prominent and familiar landmark in Chicago since the time it was built in 1836.  As such, its relocation was the source of great interest, and the Chicago Tribune published a lengthy article about the history of the house and the period in which it was built.  Excerpts of that article entitled “The Clarke House.  Another Old Landmark About to Pass Away,” published May 26, 1872 follow.

“Thirty-six years ago Henry B. Clarke was building a $10,000 house on the southern lake shore.  It was a great feather in the cap of the South Division, then very much crowed over and overslaughed by the domineering North Side.

“So it was timely and helpful, from a South Side point of view, that Henry B. Clarke commenced his ten thousand dollar house on the lake shore.  The house, so long a landmark is now being removed to give place to a stylish city church, that of St. Paul’s Universalist Society, which is to adorn the east side of Michigan avenue, in the block between Sixteenth and Eighteenth streets.

“The Clarke homestead originally fronted east, looking out on the lake.  A picket fence and a cordon of tall poplars made the inclosure, of which the entrance was near what would now be the extension of Prairie avenue.

“And now the Clarke home is to be replaced by the Universalist Church, that twenty years ago was in the residence suburbs of the city on Washington street, between Dearborn and Clark.”

In the mid-1850s, when improvements were made to the house, the west facing side of the house became the main entrance to face Michigan Avenue, and a large portico, to match the original east facing portico, was constructed.  In preparation for the move, both of these porticos were removed.  A second lengthy article in the Chicago Tribune dated June 9, 1872 and entitled “The Clarke House. Discovery of Interesting Papers” detailed the discovery of a time capsule Henry B. Clarke had placed inside one of the columns as the east portico was being completed in January 1839.  The article read in part:

“When Henry B. Clarke was building the Clarke House, the well-known landmark, now on its way to Forty-seventh street from its site, since 1836, on Michigan avenue, at Eighteenth street, it will be remembered, from our recent sketch, that the crash of 1837 had some influence in the way of postponing the completion of the structure, and it was not until the winter of 1838-9 that Mr. Clarke finished the handsome full portico on his east front.  It was not for many years later, until Michigan avenue was opened in the rear of the house, that this portico was exactly repeated on the west, and, as it proved subsequently, principal front.

“Upon the sustaining core timber of one of the large fluted columns, it has, within a few days past, been discovered that Mr. Clarke spiked solidly, with two tenpenny nails driven straight through the package, a bundle of papers that now, for the first time in over thirty-three years, has seen the light of day.  The location was high and dry, and all the papers are as bright and clear as on the day they were wrapped up in this memorial.  It may be readily imagined that the Clarke family opened these papers with a vast deal of interest.  The packet consists of manuscript, currency, a tax-receipt, family memoranda, a memorial to Martin Van Buren, and a selection of newspapers of the day.

“In Chicago, since these tenpenny nails were driven, on a prairie, with scarcely 2,000 inhabitants, the children named in the Clarke family memoranda have lived to see a city of 300,000 send its outposts six miles below their once isolated suburban home.  Why will not the house-builders of to-day imitate the excellent example of Henry B. Clarke, and seek some means for the preservation of our current memoranda? . . . Mr. Clarke’s package has taken its place in the family archives as a relic it will not be easy to equal in interest or value.”

The items enclosed included a letter recommending Clarke’s appointment for the office of “receiver of Public Monies at the Land Office in Chicago, in the event of a vacancy occurring in that office.”  Clarke also included a tax receipt showing that he had paid his taxes in the amount of $7.50 for the year 1838.  A handwritten memorandum listed the members of the Clarke family along with a notation “My dislike for paper-promises to pay, I desire to be known.  I inclose one of the coots.” 

This latter statement referred to a $5.00 paper bank note issued by the Kirkland Safety Society of Kirkland, Ohio – the Mormon financial institution of Joseph Smith.  The notes had been issued in connection with the construction of the Mormon’s $60,000 Kirkland temple, but not being backed by hard currency, were rejected by Chicago banks and merchants. 

The house after its move to 4526 S. Wabash Avenue
with members of the Chrimes family in the foreground
(Courtesy of Clarke House Museum)

The house was placed on its new foundation in June 1872.  There were a few significant changes to the house as a result of the move.  The new foundation was a bit taller than the original, as indicated by the fact that the front entrance was reached by a flight of eleven steps, as opposed to eight as originally built.  In addition, the two porticoes were not rebuilt at the new site; they were replaced by open porches, and small entry vestibules were constructed at both ends of the main hall.  And the house was painted brown.  The most interesting change involved the orientation of the house.  Since it now sat on the west side of the street, the original east facade once again became the main front entrance for the house.  Three generations of the Chrimes family occupied the house until it was sold in 1941.

Next week:  The second move of the Clarke House in 1977

Monday, August 4, 2014

Moving a House on Prairie Avenue - 1891

The subject house where it was stopped on
Prairie Avenue just south of Twenty-first Street

The landmark Harriet F. Rees house, designed by Cobb & Frost, was built at 2110 S. Prairie Avenue in 1888.  Later this month, plans call for lifting the four-story masonry structure off of its original foundation and relocating it one block to the north where a new foundation will be prepared at 2017 S. Prairie Avenue.  All of this is being done in preparation for construction of the new DePaul Arena which will occupy the entire block on which the house currently sits.

Although the idea of moving a house is intimidating, the practice was actually quite common in the late 19th century.   In 1891, another house was moved along the 2100 block of Prairie Avenue and the episode created quite a stir amongst the residents at the time.  The long forgotten controversy is recorded for posterity in two articles published in the Chicago Tribune that year.

On September 14, 1891, the Tribune reported the situation in an article entitled “Prairie Avenue Residents Up In Arms – A House-Mover’s Disrespect for Stately Old Elm Trees.”  In this particular situation, Prairie Avenue was merely being used as the route between the original site of the house on Michigan Avenue and its new site at 46th Street and Indiana Avenue.  The article read:

“A dilapidated wreck of an old frame house completely blockades Prairie avenue, so far as traffic concerned, just south of Twenty-first street.  It has been standing there, covered with dirt and cobwebs, a very beggar of a house among the handsome residences of John B. Sherman, P. D. Armour, Eugene S. Pike, R. W. Roloson, M. M. Rothschild, and Mrs. E. J. Kimball, for the last three days.  It would have been out of this neighborhood long ago, but Mr. Armour, Mr. Pike, et al. will not permit it.  Not that they admire the old hulk, but they do not desire to have the stately old elms in front of their homes ruined.

“It had hardly passed Twenty-first street before a number of branches of the trees in front of Mr. Pike’s residence, No. 2101 Prairie Avenue, were broken off.  It is still jammed hard against the limb of another of Mr. Pike’s trees, where it was stopped by order of the Street Department in response to angry remonstrances of Phillip D. Armour of No. 2115.  Mr. Armour didn’t want to have his trees torn down by the building and he called on Commissioner Aldrich to protest against the further progress of the house in that direction.  Superintendent of Street Obstructions Bell ordered the house-mover to take the house down Twenty-first street to some street where it will cause less trouble.

“The building is owned by Tim Keefe, and was being taken from No. 1833 Michigan avenue by Building Mover William Kruger.  The permit was issued Aug. 15 to expire Aug. 31 and he did not secure its renewal until Sept. 11, a day after the injury to Mr. Pike’s trees was done.  The permit was for a house twenty-two feet wide, but one of the residents of the avenue who went to the trouble of measuring the building found that it is twenty-nine feet four inches wide, while the street is but thirty-two feet from curb to curb.

“’The City of Chicago,’ he declared, ‘had grown so large that we should no longer permit the removal of frame buildings over our streets.’” 

This photograph shows where the house was stopped during its move.  Shown from left to right are the houses of Max Rothschild (2112), Harriet Rees (2110), Mark Kimball (2108), John B. Sherman (2100) and Ebenezer Buckingham (2036).  The image dates to the early 1890s, so may well show the trees after they were damaged by the house move.

Troubles continued for Mr. Keefe, the owner of the house in question, as indicated by a second article entitled “Objects to Official Interference” which appeared six weeks later on October 27, 1891:

“Thomas H. Keefe bought a frame house at No. 1833 Michigan avenue, and hired William Kruger, a house mover, to transfer the building to Forty-sixth street and Indiana avenue.  The Street Department gave permission to move the house along Prairie avenue, but at Twenty-sixth street objections were made, and the building was turned back and sent down a side street.  Since then Keefe says progress has been stopped every few blocks by either the police or other city officers, and the building now blocks traffic on Forty-sixth street within a stone’s throw of its destination.  Yesterday Keefe and Kruger went into the Superior Court and sought to restrain further interference by asking an injunction against J. Frank Aldrich, Hempstead Washburne, Richard W. McClaughry, Nicholas Hunt, James E. Burke, and the city.”

No further information appears in the Tribune about the house, but presumably it was soon after moved the last few feet to its new location on Indiana Avenue, and the matter was finally put to rest.   

Next week:  The first move of the Henry B. Clarke house in 1872
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