Monday, September 25, 2017

The Two Grand Pacific Hotels in Chicago, Illinois.

Two iterations of the Grand Pacific Hotel (1873-1895 & 1898-1921) stood at the North East corner of Jackson and LaSalle Streets.
The Grand Pacific Hotel, Chicago. 1887
The now-famous writer, Oscar Wilde, stayed here during his 1882 tour of the US.

The Grand Pacific Hotel was one of two prominent hotels to be built in Chicago, after the Great Chicago Fire. The Grand Pacific rivaled the Palmer House as the city’s most luxurious hotel. It was located on the block bounded by Clark Street, LaSalle, Quincy, and Jackson.
The west half of the building was torn down around 1895 to make way for the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank building. The east half was remodeled by architects Jenney and Mundie. 

The second Grand Pacific Hotel opened March 12, 1898, with 188 rooms and continued in operation until 1921 when it was razed to make way for the Continental Illinois Bank building.
Postcard Circa 1913.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Alpha [Woman's] Suffrage Club of Chicago, Illinois.

The passage of the Illinois Presidential and Municipal Suffrage Bill in the summer of 1913 offered Negro women in Chicago the opportunity to merge their social welfare activities with electoral power.
This was primarily due to the creation of the first and one of the most important Negro female suffrage organizations in the state, the "Alpha Suffrage Club," at 2830 South State Street in Chicago. The Alpha Suffrage Club is believed to be the first Negro women's suffrage association in the United States.

It began in Chicago, Illinois on January 30, 1913, under the initiative of Ida B. Wells-Barnett and her white colleague, Belle Squire; the same year that Illinois gave women partial suffrage–that is, they could vote in local and national, but not state, elections. The club elected officers and held monthly meetings. 

The Club aimed to reinforce Negro involvement in the struggle for women's suffrage, due to Negro women being unable to be involved in the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA). 

The Alpha Suffrage Club was established to partially give a voice to women who could not represent themselves individually and worked specifically towards giving a voice to Negro women, as well as to “politicize” Negro women into the government system. In 1916, the club had nearly 200 members, including well-known female suffrage activists Mary E. Jackson, Viola Hill, Vera Wesley Green, and Sadie L. Adams.

Within the next three years, the group membership expanded into the thousands. The women were motivated by and sought to put an end to the countless lynchings of Negroes in America.

Amongst their community activities, they spread their support for, and within, the Negro population with their newsletter, "The Alpha Suffrage Record," first printed on March 18, 1914. 

As Wells and the Alpha Suffrage Club canvassed black neighborhoods to register women voters, they faced taunting from black men, who accused them of “trying to take the place of men and wear the trousers." However, Wells defied the fear that these men were trying to instill in her club members, urging them to continue registering voters.

Her courage and persistence paid off–in 1915, Oscar DePriest was elected as the first black alderman (like a city councilman) in Chicago, winning by a large margin.
Oscar DePriest
Black women played a decisive role in his election, with over a third of votes for DePriest coming from women. Were it not for the Alpha Suffrage Club and their bravery in continuing to register voters, DePriest likely would have lost. DePriest acknowledged the importance of their contribution, stating, “I am more than thankful for their work and as electors believe they have every necessary qualification that the men possess.” Wells’ actions were not only fearless, but they were also highly effective. Her work made a real difference in the success of black politicians in Chicago.

The publishing of this newsletter is very significant because this is the first time that Negroes had a public political voice.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

READ THE FIRST NEWSLETTER HERE ─► The Alpha Suffrage Record; Volume 1, Number 1, March 18, 1914, in my Digital Research Library of Illinois History® 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Luna [Amusement] Park, Halsted and 52nd Streets, Chicago, Illinois. (1907-1911)

Luna Park occupied the site of a former picnic grove owned by Joseph Oswald and commonly known as Oswald's Grove. In 1906, a group of investors, led by boxing promoter James "Big Jim" O'Leary (son of Mrs. O'Leary of Great Chicago Fire fame), announced plans to convert the ten-acre picnic grove into an amusement park. Big Jim promised the park would be a strictly legitimate business. Construction began in the fall of 1906 and the park opened the following year.
Luna Park originally started as a trolley park [1], which was smaller than most of the other Chicago amusement parks of that era; most notably Riverview Park (the largest amusement park in existence at that time.) and White City. Jim O'Leary became the park's manager in 1908.

Attractions included a midway with a small roller coaster,  a merry-go-round and other mechanical rides, a ballroom, a roller skating rink, live entertainment which included Vaudeville and Boxing matches, a restaurant, numerous games of chance, and souvenir stands.
Initially popular (averaging 5,000 patrons a day in its peak), attendance declined in light of the increasing competition from other Chicago-area amusement parks.
June 1908
In July of 1910, management temporarily closed the park in response to dwindling attendance. After Big Jim made a fortune in the 1910 Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries championship fight, the park was reopened in 1911 as O'Leary attempted to find a buyer to no avail.

Luna Park's proximity to the Union Stock Yards and the smell that arose from the yards, especially on hot summer days, may have quickened its demise.

In 1912, most of the attractions were removed; the remaining structures were converted into a large food market hall. In 1916, the grounds were sold to real estate developer James H. Milligan to focus on building single-family houses.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

[1] Trolley parks, which started in the 19th century, were picnic and recreation areas along or at the ends of streetcar lines in most of the larger cities. These were precursors to amusement parks. These trolley parks were created by the streetcar companies to give people a reason to use their services on weekends.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Saloon Building Plays an Important Role in Chicago's History. (1836-1871)

The 'Saloon Building' at the southeast corner of Clark and Lake Streets in Chicago.
The "Saloon Building" was a three-story brick building erected in 1836 by Capt. J.B.F. Russell and George W. Doan at the Southeast corner of Clark and Lake streets. It was named after the French word salon, meaning ‘small reception hall’ or ‘meeting hall,’ not a ‘drinking establishment.’
The 'Saloon Building' at the southeast corner of Clark and Lake Streets in Chicago.
The Saloon building was the largest hall west of Buffalo, New York, devoted to public meetings and political ceremonies. This was where Chicago received its city charter in 1837 and the building served as Chicago's City Hall and Municipal Court until 1842.

Note: During this time period, the word 'grocery' meant a saloon, tavern or pub.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Lake View House (Hotel), Chicago. 1854-1890

Built roughly where Lake Shore Drive and Byron Street now intersect, the building served as a hotel where city dwellers could go to escape noise and pollution.
The Hotel Lake View (aka Lake View Hotel) operated between July 4, 1854, and the 1890s. It was originally the home of Elisha Huntley with a lakefront view.
Photograph circa 1860.

In 1854, James Rees and Elisha Hundley built the Lakeview House as a resort for potential investors in local land. (According to legend, Walter Newberry stood on the hotel’s veranda admiring the view, suggested that it be called “Lake View House.”)
Lake View Hotel in the 1880s on Grace Street with additions to the hotel.

Wealthy Chicagoans seeking summer retreats from the city’s heat and disease bought up land in the eastern sector of the area. New railroad lines prompted the development of more residential land and added suburban characteristics to Lake View’s resort atmosphere.
1869 Map

The Lake View House was demolished by 1890.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.