Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day in Chicago

This article is in celebration of St.Patrick's Day, and in Chicago, they celebrate it seriously!!
Chicago River, St. Patrick's Day, 2007
First of all, they dye the Chicago River green. It's pretty impressive, as you can see in these photographs from a 2007 visit to the Windy City. The view above is from the North Michigan Avenue Bridge looking along the river east towards Lake Michigan.
This is the shoreline and river in 1833 (courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).

The river has an interesting engineering history. When European settlers first occupied the land here, the river flowed east into Lake Michigan. But when the famous stockyards developed in the late-1800s, the carcasses flowed into Lake Michigan and threatened to pollute the city's drinking water source. So the river was artificially elevated and made to flow west into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, thereon to the Des Plains River, and eventually to the Mississippi River. This way, nasty organic debris flowed west to the Mississippi and did not foul Lake Michigan. Instead, the debris had the opportunity to foul St. Louis and Baton Rouge. The map above is from Wikimedia Commons.
This is an oblique aerial photograph of the Chicago River in 1944.  The photograph is from the archives of the Beach Erosion Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. At this time, Chicago was still a pretty gritty industrial city.

The historic stockyards are closed and the dead cows long gone. The river is still a Federal navigation project but now mostly carries tourist boats, pleasure craft, and water taxis through the city. To gain access to the river from Lake Michigan, boats have to enter locks and be raised a few feet (the amount varies depending on Lake level, which varies throughout the year). The Sanitary Canal to the south carries significant commercial barge traffic. The view above is from Michigan Avenue looking west.

Finally, the big parade. You see hundreds of policemen in formation, floats from fraternal organizations from surrounding states, and high school bands. I am not sure how you get to march; I suppose fill out an application and pay a fee. A good time is had by all.
Chicago River, view east towards Lake Michigan.
For a summertime view, here is the Chicago River looking east towards Lake Michigan. This photograph is from the 34th floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. If you are really rich, the condominiums in this area are pretty spectacular.

There are expansive views from these glittering new condominiums.
View of Chicago River mouth and Navy Pier from former Days Inn Hotel, October 1996
The mouth of the Chicago River is protected from storm waves by breakwaters.
Even Marilyn lived near the Chicago River for a couple of years.  Now she resides in Palm Springs, California - I suppose the Illinois winter was too much for her lack of garments.

More photographs from Chicago, including some from South Chicago, fit my theme of urban decay more closely than the prosperous Gold Coast.

All photographs taken with a Sony DCS-W7 digital camera except for the 1996 scene, which is a scan of Kodachrome film.

1 comment:

  1. No wonder we're having problems with reversing the flow of the Chicago River to prevent invasive species from entering Lake Michigan!

    (The Asian Carp just follow the green "algal growths" along the river!)

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