March 24, 2012

Ferris Wheel Park

The Neighborhood
Amusement Park
District of Lake View 
painting by Armando Pedroso
Some Background
In 1890, the U.S. Congress decided that the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America should be located in Chicago, and accordingly, on April 9, the State of Illinois licensed the corporation known as the World's Columbian Exposition to prepare for this grand event.
The Corporation's directors, in October, 1890, appointed the rising architect,

Daniel H. Burnham, Construction Chief and delegated to him autocratic powers. Burnham, architect of the first skyscrapers was a good bet to score a smashing success, both for the Exposition and for himself. At this early stage, he was chiefly concerned at the lack of participation by America's civil engineers.
Seeking to stir them into action, he arranged to speak before the 'Saturday Afternoon Club', an informal group of architects and engineers who were interested in the Fair. Their gatherings had served as a sort of public opinion poll on many of the architectural and engineering structures of the Exposition.

It was immediately proposed to build a tower 500 feet higher than Eiffel's, but since this would be playing second fiddle to Eiffel's genius, this idea was dismissed. Mere "bigness" was not what was wanted. Something novel, original, daring and unique must be designed and built if American engineers were to retain their prestige and standing.
The assemble of the axle 
- 1893 Chicago Columbia Exposition
photo - Ebay
The view at the top - Man on Five
(Click to enlarge)
The dimensions - The Man of Five
"Seated in the audience was a tall, slight young engineer with a pale, resolute face. This was George Washington Gale Ferris, at that time the senior partner in a firm specializing in building steel bridges. Thirty-two years old, he had been educated at the California Military Academy and Rensseler Polytechnic Institute, where he received an engineering degree in 1881. For several years, he had worked on railroads and mining ventures and was one of the first to make a profession of testing materials and structures.
The popular story is that Ferris designed the wheel while at dinner with friends in a Chicago restaurant and that it was built without a change being made to this original sketch. There is some evidence, however, that he had designed the Wheel five or six years prior to the Exposition and it is possible that he chose a quiet moment after dinner to reveal these plans.
Ferris decided that this was the proper time and the opportunity he had been looking for to build his Great Wheel and he set about this monumental task."
According to the Chicago Tribune - 1893
And Then the Move to the
 District of Lake View 
double fold 1906 postcard - from my collection
zoomed view of above postcard 
photo - Chuckman Collection
What the neighborhood look like during the time of 
Ferris Wheel Park. Seminary Place was located west & perpendicular to this park, west of Clark Street
Seminary Place = Drummond Place
This 1894 Sanborn Map highlights the pre-construction site of the park - lot #2
Calumet 412 documented an amazing footage of the Ferris Wheel at Clark Street and Wrightwood Avenue, 1896. The vantage point in this short film is looking from the southwest corner of Wrightwood, northeast across Clark Street after having been moved from the grounds of the Colombian Exposition of 1893. This short movie filmed and directed by the Lumiere Brothers, is among the first film ever shot in Chicago. With this link is a stand-alone view of the film.
photos from 'storeyofchicago'
Review the photo towards the top of this post from Man on Five of the 'view' and imagine the view of the District of Lake View from Wrightwood and Clark streets.

photo - Ebay
It stood 264 feet tall and took 20 minutes for the 36 luxury cars to make one revolution
Diversey Beach with Ferris Wheel in the distance
to give you an idea the high of wheel
1904 postcard - Chuckman Collection
View southeast corner of Clark Street 
at Diversey Avenue (Parkway)
photo - Man on Five
 Streetcar on the move via Clark Street heading toward away from the car-barn (garage)
View one of the first movies filmed in America of the
 Ferris Wheel along Clark Street @ Wrightwood Avenue

 1894 Sanborn Fire Map 
This map shows the streetcar garages called carbarns
that were located between Clark Street and Orchard that flank the park for easy access to the park from Chicago. The owner of the park was also the owner of the carbarns and many public transportation routes in Chicago.
A Past and Present View
 Bill Epcke via Forgotten Chicago on Facebook 
Google Map east view from Drummond Place
Brian Wolf via Forgotten Chicago on Facebook
with a cool fade-out animation by Brad Cornelius  
According to a Forgotten Chicago contributor on Facebook, David Zornig, believes “just north of Wrightwood, there are still some odd shaped lots behind the old post office and the small hotel that used to be a movie theater; hence the odd driveway to the right of the hotel entrance. I believe that driveway was the lobby entrance. There's a picture of it on Cinema Treasures, but I don't recall the theater name. To the South of the current McDonald's, was the Playdium bowling alley that was there until the `70's. My grandfather sanded the lanes there. One could see from the McDonald's lot North, that there was a large enough strip of lots behind Clark St. storefronts, to accommodate something that size.” - 2012 testimony.
The Wheels' Planned Location in 1894
According to the authors of Northsiders: Essays on the history and culture of the Chicago Cubs (page 17) the residents of a subdivision of Pine Grove (northern Lakeview East ) voted in 1894 against a new trolley line along Evanston Avenue (Broadway) hence ending the opportunity of the ferris wheel to be located north of Belmont Avenue (exact location unknown). Chicago Tribune in 1894 indicated that the community of “Lake View would become a great amusement park area of the city”. 
Ferris Wheel Park was established in 1896 in the area south of Belmont on the corner area of Clark and (Sherman) Drummond in the new District of Lake View-Chicago.
Shortly after, and with vocal citizen opposition from a newly formed civic group called the Improvement and Protection Organization (IPO) the owners of the new park had to file for bankruptcy in 1900 due to lack of local community support and general citywide patronage. The lack of support of the park was due to its location within a residential subdivision and the residents of this new annex area were not fans of the owner of the park - Mr. Yerkes who owned the Chicago Electric Street Railway - owned and  operated streetcars on Evanston (Broadway) Avenue and Clark Street. Mr. Yerkes manage to extend his Clark Street operation to the end of the line on Drummond Avenue exclusively for this Ferris Wheel Park.
Transportation Industrialist Charles Yerkes
Mr. Yerkes owned the park and the transportation rails to his park - the end of the line from Chicago, at the time.
For years, Mr. Yerkes tried to circumvent property owners by trying through city governmental agencies to acquire property for his company without due process and succeed for a few more years with his creation until 1903-4.
In other words, he was trying to create a Great America in a middle of a urban residential street.
Construction or re-construction photo - not sure
The 'Wheel' was sold to the City of St. Louis by 1904 for their own amusement park that also failed.  As a side note, the man who owned the rights to the park, Charles Tyson Yerkes - the owner of the North West Rail Company that controlled transportation in the city at the time apparently skipped town by 1911 leaving his rail company to flounder and his dream park a distant memory. By 1906, the world famous carriage wheel was sold for scrap.
The 1895 re-assembly of the Ferris Wheel @ its new location along Clark Street & Wrightwood Avenue
Chicago History Museum
another view near Clark Street - 1899 
Man on Five
image - 'Challenging Chicago' by Perry Duis & 
donated Jackie Arreguin
View a vintage reel feed 
of the amusement park along Wrightwood & Clark
from YouTube via DNAinfo

images - Art Institute of Chicago 
Another season opener 1896
(click on article to enlarge)
Troubles in the Park 1896 
View from Pine Grove and Wrightwood Avenues
From content developer of Living History of Illinois and Chicago on Facebook, Neil Gale via Lee Bey of WBEZ
photo - Paul Petraitis, Forgotten Chicago on Facebook
In 1902 Another Possible Relocation

The Ferris Wheel found a home 
but not for long in 1906  

It's new home in the City of St. Louis 
photo via Shahrdad Khokamoradi via
Picture of Chicago-Faceook 
It's Demise in 1906
photo - Glen Miller, Forgotten Chicago-Facebook
2013 The City of Chicago TV produced a video of the current Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier. Check it out!
2015 The newer Ferris Wheel will be larger than the second one but not as large as the first. Read more with this link.
Andy Kowalczyk, contributor to Forgotten Chicago-Facebook mentioned that “It is regularly claimed that Dunns Bridge over the Kankakee River in Indiana was constructed from remnants of the ferris wheel” per his source Wikipedia. But according to Shahrdad Khodamoradi, a contributor to Forgotten Chicago-Facebook, “I think the bridge made of parts of the wheel is a myth. There are no reports of the wheel being carefully dismantled and repurposed. All accounts say it was dynamited in Forest Park and the axle buried there, as it was too heavy to move easily or cheaply.”

Post Notes: 

On the west side of Western Avenue @ Belmont was the iconic Riverview Park. Western Avenue was the western border of Old (township,city, District of) Lake View so not part of my blog but here is a good summary + vintage photos from a Forgotten Chicago on Facebook contributor, Glenn Miller. Also, a YouTube memory by WGN. Read the commentary from Forgotten Chicago on Facebook about this park.

Important Note:
These posts are exclusively used for educational purposes. I do not wish to gain monetary profit from this blog nor should anyone else without permission for the original source - thanks!

February 26, 2012

Holly-View: Film Studios

It Began in the North-Side
photo from Silent Movies Era on Facebook
It was all about the 'Latham Loop'
In 1895, a former Confederate officer of the American Civil War, Woodville Latham known as a chemistry professor at the University of Virginia teamed up with W.K.L. Dickson and another former Thomas Edison employee, Eugene Lauste to create the so-called “Latham Loop”- a loop device that was placed in the strip of film just before it entered the gate of the camera so that the projector could quickly pause to display the image and then advance the film, without pulling directly on the film strip and risking a tear. 
This new machine was called the Panopticon and this projector would allow a larger theater audience to view silent movies ultimately replacing Thomas Edison’s (limited in scope) Kinetoscope projector. After that invention was created a more modern but yet still silent film production process was born. Start-ups would begin to popped up out of nowhere - two would be established in the old District of Lake View where their were lots of rural areas to choose north of Irving Park Road. Before this innovation viewing audience look at slides - view this video history of 'slides in rapid motion' with this YouTube link.
manufacturer of projectors
This Chicago company had its main office & factory in the current neighborhood of West Ridge and according to a 
1923 Sanborn Fire Map also had a factory/office on Ravenswood between Byron & Larchmont Avenue within the current neighborhood of North Central then still referred to as the District of Lake View - name after the annexation.
 a zoomed 1923 view ...
"Howell was born in Michigan and traveled to Chicago to work in a machine shop that built and repaired motion picture projectors. In 1906 he applied for his first patent, a device that improved framing for 35mm Kinodrome motion picture projectors. With Bell’s experience as a movie projectionist, contacts in the movie industry, and ready cash, and Howell’s inventive genius and mechanical aptitude, the two men decided to start their own business. Incorporated with a capitalization of $5,000 in February 1907, Bell & Howell Company entered the business of manufacturing, jobbing, leasing, and repairing machines. 
What made the company famous, however, was its development of equipment that addressed the two most important problems plaguing the movie industry at the time: flickering and standardization. Flickering in the early movies was due to the effects of hand-cranked film, which made the speed erratic. Standardization was needed as divergences in film width during these years made it nearly impossible to show the same film in any two cities within the United States. By 1908, Bell & Howell refined the Kinodrome projector, the film perforator, and the camera & continuous printer, all for the 35mm film width. With the development of this complete system, and the company’s refusal to either manufacture or service products of any other size than the 35mm width, Bell & Howell forced film standardization within the motion picture industry."
An entire square block of studio space - 200 acre site
from Irving Park Road to Byron Street
Western Avenue (west side of street) to Claremont
The Main Building 3900 North Claremont Avenue with office space at 3945 North Western Avenue
William Nicholas Selig is safe to say is the father of silent films in Chicago and and then later in California. He was a brilliant marketer and probably would have been a master in today's social media world. Already a brilliant techie in a relatively still new and evolving technology called photography, Mr. Selig envisioned the potential of Thomas Edison's invention, the kinetoscope, and developed a projector for a mass sized audience and established a company bearing his name. In fact, Thomas Edison apparently pirated his first film and called his own
Sileg Polyscope Company in Chicago would produce films such as The Wizard of Oz (turn the music off),
The Coming of Columbus - filmed in Jackson Park, and 
The Spoilers A master of publicity promotion and excellent in networking his product Mr. Selig and his staff would form alliances with Hearst NewspapersChicago Tribune, and the 
War Department in Washington D.C. in order to be the center of film-making of the world. 
1915 article about the partnership with the 
Chicago Tribune
 1916  Reporting the war news in Europe
 February 1916
A sample of the reporting in the 
Chicago Tribune newspaper
  March 1916
A sample of the reporting in the 
Chicago Tribune newspaper
 April 1917
United States entered the conflict in Europe 
- April 2, 1917
Sileg Polyscope Company would be the first to blend Natural History with film-making trying to convince Teddy Roosevelt to film him on his oversee adventuresSileg Polyscope Company like other eastern studios would need warmer year round schedules to be profitable so moved from winterly Chicago to sunny California.
Below are articles from the Chicago Public Library online newspaper section about this innovative start-up.
Note: View more scenes from the Wizard of Oz from a site called Curtains. Also, view silent screen World War I movies from The Silent Movies Era from other companies 
Essanay Studios 
Manufacturing Company
Video from Save and Restore Essanay Studios
photo from Essanay Centers
View a movie from this studio about its' restoration plans

The Chicago film industry was the central hub for silent motion picture production and exhibition a decade before Hollywood became the undisputed capital of film making. In the early 1900's, Essanay Studios (podcast), founded by George K. Spoor and Gilbert Anderson, was one of the earliest and successful studios to produce movies in Chicago, employing stars such as Charlie Chaplin who filmed his first movie called 'His New Job' in at the Lake View District studio along with Lake Views' birth own, Gloria Swanson. 
Magazine spread 1909 
 image - Essanay Studio-Facebook
As early as 1907 this studio was originally located on Wells Street in the City of Chicago, the birth of new method of projected cinema. As the company gain popularity so too the need to move to a more expanse workspace. In 1908 the company moved to a rural area beyond the urbanized section of Chicago into the former township of Lake View regarded at the time as the 'Lake View District'. 

images - Chicago: Crossroads of America 
by Olivia Mahoney via Jackie Arreguin
Essanay Company discovered a home at 1333–45 West Argyle Street, presently the site of St. Augustine College. Essanay's first film, 'An Awful Skate' and 'The Hobo on Rollers' (July 1907), with Ben Turpin (studios' janitor) was produced for only a couple hundred dollars and grossed several thousand dollars after its' release.
Charlie Chapin in his first film at Essanay His New Job
Other films performed by Mr. Chaplin with this link
Charlie with Ben Turpin in the same movie
Gloria Swanson, in character, as Charlie Chaplin 
Group picture of some of the actors of the studio:
Beverly Bayne; Bryant Washburn; Gloria Swanson; Ben Turpin; Wallace Beery; Dick Travers; Ruth Stonehouse; Francis X. Bushman; Frank Owens; Charles Hitchcock; Matthew Betts; Bobbie Boulder; Rapley Holmes; Gerda Holmes; Frank Comerford; Frank Klauser.
Essanay rejection letter 
photo - Silent Movies Era on Facebook
During this period, four out of every five films in the U.S. were made in Chicago. Most all the camera and lighting technology demanded shooting in daylight in open-air sets, so in 1912 Essanay moved their production and studio presence to sunny and warmer California in 1917. It was the beginning of an exodus of all other film studios from Chicago to the Golden State, where they enjoyed year-round shooting schedules. 
Only the plain brick building on Argyle Street remains as a reminder of a period when Chicago was at the epic-center of world movie-making industry. Read an creative script read of the history of this studio by  Paul Peditto per Google Books.
As a side-note, Charlie Chaplin had a brief residency at the Brewster Apartments located on Diversey Parkway and Pine Grove where he would commute to the studio during production. 
Kitty Kelly was a movie critic for the Chicago Tribune This is an example of her work from 1915 

photo - Chicagology via Uptown Update
Sherlock Holmes movies 1916
 The studio is gone but not the man 1947 

(click on article to enlarge)
 100 year review by the Sun-Times
Restoration News in 2012
A 'restoration and reuse' project was underway to restore the old main studio building. 
View the promotional material below.

(click on article to enlarge)
According to DNAinfo ''notified the restoration group that funds from the college would no longer be available due to its three million dollar cost. The college was their primary contributor.' The restorationists created a Facebook page to keep their dream and project afloat in the hearts and minds of Chicagoans.
The Rothacker Film Company
In 1910 Rothacker Film Company was the first company to specialize in making films for industrial and commercial education, publicity, and advertising. The studio was built in 1915 in the District of Lake View. 
Florsheim Shoes was one company that understood the potential of advertising their products on film as of 1921. A dairy company that was once located on Broadway north of Addison (Walmart Express location) used Rothacker to exploit their product into the minds of the public using film to do it. In fact, this was the first film company to air the first one-reel picture film on an aircraft. The film was called ‘Howdy Chicago’ created for a publicity organization to market the commercial highlights of the City of Chicago to potential investors and businessman in first decade of the 20th century.
 1894 Sanborn Fire Map depicting the location of the film company at the top left of this image
1894 Sanborn Fire Map depicting the (zoomed) location of this film company
from old District of Lake View
(Western - Lakefront, Fullerton - Devon)
950 W. Edgecomb (Cuyler) Street
6227-35 N. Broadway Avenue
6242 N. Broadway
Lake View Born - Gloria Swanson
1914 as an extra in 'The Song of Soul' 
produced in the Essanay East studio building
photo - Ebay
GloriaSwanson was born Gloria Josephine Svensson on March 27, 1892 to Joseph Svensson and Adelaide Klanowski in the new District (former township) of Lake View. Her exact birth address is still a bit of a mystery. One account has her family residing near Waveland and Kenmore Avenues. Another account according to history journalist John R. Schmidt, has her born near Damen Avenue and Grace Street. In either case, she was raised in the Swedish Lutheran tradition of the day and attended Hawthorne Scholastic Academy.  

Gloria was a beautiful and talented child and her mother was constantly making her beautiful clothes. Her mother worried that her ears were too large and she was always making her special muffs and hats to hide them. Her father was employed by the U.S. Army transport service so the family moved frequently during her childhood. They lived in Key West, Florida and San Juan, Puerto RicoWhen Gloria was 15 she and her mother moved back to Chicago to continue her elementary education at Hawthorne School when Gloria's aunt suggested that they make a trip to start-up studio called Essanay Studios.
photo - Ebay
postcard - Ebay 
Essanay Studios, as mentioned before, was a start-up film studio in Chicago that also had studios in California. Gloria was immediately fascinated with film-making but she thought that movies themselves were crude and vulgar. Swanson continued to make two film reels for Essanay and it was there that she met Wallace Beery.
lovers in 1916
unknown source
Wallace Beery and Gloria Swanson met and fell in love at the Essanay studio lot. According the writer Robert J. Avrech in his article GloriaSwanson’s Not So Hollywood Wedding NightWallace Beery advised his girlfriend on all aspects of her career. He told her how to play scenes, how to read a contract, how to meet the right people.  They were married and he convinced the budding star to move to the Essanay new studios in California. He was 30 and she 17 years old.  
Gloria Swanson will be forever remembered as Norma Desmond in the classic movie called Sunset Boulevard. 
My Famous Script Segment of the Movie:
Joe Gillis: You're Norma Desmond?
You used to be in silent pictures. 
You used to be big! 
Norma Desmond replied with : I AM BIG! ...
... it's the pictures that got small 
Scenes from the movie (Movies in the Park) 
while sitting in Butler Field located in Grant Park 
photos - Garry Albrecht
Gloria Swanson 1929
in her 2nd grade Hawthorne School classroom 
photo - Under Glass by Mark Jacob and Richard Cahan 
Gloria Swanson era of starring in movies would waned by the mid 20th century but she would remain active and would have cameo roles in TV series such as Ben Casey and 
Carol Burnett Show and would appear on talk show like the Dick Cavett Show. She was once a guest on the 
What's My Line ShowGloria Swanson died in her sleep on April 4, 1983 of apparent heart attack. She was 89.
The Moving Picture World
Moving Picture World’ was a weekly movie industry periodical published during the silent film era. The magazine was founded in 1907 as the official organ of the Moving Picture Exhibitors' Association. There was not any 'issue copyright' renewals for this publication so ceased publication in 1927. 
This magazine highlighted the struggles during the early years of film production. There was a interesting article in the magazine called 'Chicago Letter' by Jas S. McQuade.
‘Chilling winds, heavy snowfall and ever-dropping temperatures ultimately is what kept Chicago from becoming the film capital of the United States. It’s the quintessential and often told story of Chicago’s harsh weather dictating the path of history’ writes the
But while most of the well known production companies are no longer based in Chicago that does not mean the film industry has forgotten the city. TV shows like Boss, 
Mob Doctor, Chicago FireDoubt, and Crisis have been filmed in our city. The 2013 was a banner year for new shows and movies filmed in Chicago. According to a publication called Movie Making, Chicago was listed as number one city to live and work for 2014.  
the filming of Doubt - photo Lake View Patch 2013 
 the filming of Doubt - photo Lake View Patch 2013 
the filming of Doubt - photo Lake View Patch 2013 
 the filming of Doubt - photo Lake View Patch 2013 
the filming of Doubt - photo Lake View Patch 2013 
View this clip for Lake View Patch on a new 2014 series called Chicago PD that was filmed at Roscoe and Sheffield. 
There are countless independent film companies still based in Chicago according to Production Hub while checking out the countless movies that has been filmed in Chicago! 
In 2016 Chicago Filmmakers began renovating a old firehouse for their students and productions in Edgewater in what was once referred to during the dawn of the 20th century the District of Lake View - the old township/city of Lake View.
TV Spin-offs in Chicago

first aired in 2012

first aired in 2015
first aired in 2016
this one first aired in 2017

Post Notes: Read and view my post about a Swedish girl named Gloria May Joesphine Svensson to be later known as 
Gloria Swanson and who starred in the movie production called Sunset Boulevard in my blog post called 
'Lake View's own: Gloria Swanson'. View all the silent films produced in Chicago including other lesser known independent studios. 

Important Note: 
These posts are exclusively used for educational purposes. I do not wish to gain monetary profit from this blog nor should anyone else without permission for the original source - thanks!