This week in Illinois history: July 2-8
July 2, 1888 - Springfield. Builders finish construction of the Illinois statehouse. The Illinois capitol took 20 years to build and was beset with obstacles from the get-go, according to its own website. Designed by the firm Cochrane and Garnsey, the building overran its $3 million budget by 50 percent, a worker perished on site and watchers even advised quitting the project. Though it opened on this day in 1888, parts of it were used as early as 1876.
July 3, 1904 - Chicago. Riverview Amusement Park opens. In its heyday, this venue featured 120 rides: “enormous wooden rollercoasters, the Aero-Stat, the double whirl ride and more,” according to its entry on DefunctParks.com. The website also mentions one roller coaster, the $80,000, 50 mph “Raging Wolf Bobs,” copied by another park. Alas, the park closed in 1967 amid violence, high taxes and upkeep costs.
Comiskey Park was home to the first Major League All-Star Game.
July 4, 1778 - Kaskaskia. British troops lose Kaskaskia to George Rogers Clark. As a piece in The Daily Herald notes, the city of Kaskaskia was founded in 1703 by the families of fur merchants from France. Early explorers also established a Catholic mission on the site. Its proximity to two rivers – the Mississippi and Kaskaskia – made it a strategic point during the French and Indian War. The British seized control of the city sometime around 1756. Two decades later, Gen. George Rogers Clark was dispatched with 175 troops to take it back, which he did "without a shot being fired." It seems many British troops were already gone, with only a token presence left.
July 5, 1918 - Pekin. The Illinois River claims the Columbia paddle steamer. Originally a cargo vessel, the Columbia had transitioned to passenger ferry before this accident. Foggy conditions made it hard to steer, much less avoid a log that ripped a gap in the boat’s hull, according to Wikipedia.org. More than 80 passengers perished when the decks buckled. Inspectors who had previously declared the ship safe were accused of negligence, “but the case never went to trial.”
July 6, 1933 - Chicago. The first Major League Baseball All-Star game is played at Comiskey Park. The 15-acre, concrete-and-steel venue hosted all-stars from the National League and American League, according to Wikipedia.org. Home of the Chicago White Sox, by the time Comiskey was demolished to make way for a new park in 1990, it was deemed “the oldest professional baseball park in operation,” according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago.
July 7, 1919 - Chicago. Chicago Seven defense attorney William Kunstler was born. Kunstler cemented his reputation by defending a rogue’s gallery of clients – including the notorious Chicago Seven in 1969-70, as Wikipedia.org reports. Others were the Catonsville Nine, the Black Panthers, Weather Underground and more. The Chicago Seven (Abbie Hoffman, most notably) were charged with spurring a riot in Chicago during a Vietnam War protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
July 8, 1896 - Chicago. William Jennings Bryant defends the gold and silver standard at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Bryant was jockeying for a spot on the presidential ticket when he delivered this convention speech, but it didn’t lead to the White House. Instead, he went down in history for delivering the rousing oration, which so stirred the crowd that it became a classic – one he re-recorded in 1921. In the speech, Bryant defended making both silver and gold the nation’s currency standard.