596 KILLED IN THEATER FIRE – On December 30, 1903, an overflow crowd of almost 2,000 people attended a special Christmas Holiday matinee performance of the play Mr. Bluebeard, here in the newly built fire-proof Iroquois Theater at 20 W. Randolph Street. School teachers had a whole row of seats and mothers brought their children from small towns outside the city.
At 3:15 p.m., a flash of flame spurted from an overhead electrical circuit and ignited the drapery at the side of the stage. A stagehand tried to lower the asbestos curtain but it only partially closed, the tunnel formed from the curtain and the front of the stage acted as a suction tube and swept a jet-like blast of fire out into the auditorium and up toward the balconies. The theater went into a panic and people rushed for the exits.
The fire was out in less than half an hour. Bodies were piled five and six feet high in front of the fire doors and exits that were locked or would not open. 200 bodies were piled up in a balcony stairway where they trampled each other attempting to get out. Others were still in their seats and sat glassy-eyed in death where they had been scorched by the jets of flame from the stage. Some were in sitting position, while others had fallen forward, with their heads resting on the seat in front, as though in prayer. Most of the 596 dead were women and children.
UPDATE – The archway of the theater was a replica of one that had been built in Paris to honor the death of 150 victims of a theater fire there in 1857. The Iroquois was reopened in 1924 as the Colonial Theater. The disaster was recreated in the 1955 film The Seven Little Foys, starring Bob Hope. Torn down in 1924, the present Oriental Theater was built on the site in 1925. Closed in 1981, the Oriental was restored and reopened in 1998
TRIBUNE REPORTER GUNNED DOWN BY THE MOB – In 1930, Alfred "Jake" Lingle, 39, was a police reporter for the Chicago Tribune, and a good friend of Al Capone. About noon on Monday, June 9, 1930, Lingle planned to catch the 1:30 train to Washington Park for a day at the races. He entered the Illinois Central pedestrian underpass at the southwest corner of Randolph and Michigan, and walked east toward the station. As he approached the foot of the stairway at the east exit, a blond man came up behind him and put a .38 Colt revolver behind his head and fired one shot. The bullet went upward into Lingle's brain and came out his forehead. Dropping his gun, the killer ran back to the stairway at the opposite end of the tunnel and escaped up the stairs. It was learned later that Lingle was a high lieutenant and a go-between for the Capone Syndicate. On December 21, 1930, Leo "Buster" Brothers, 31, was arrested in St. Louis and charged with Lingle's murder. After 14 years in prison, he was released in 1940. The underpass walkway and cast iron kiosk that Lingle entered on the southwest corner of Randolph and Michigan was renovated in 1987.
Where Are They Now? – Brothers was murdered by an unidentified gunman in 1950. Lingle was buried not far from Al Capone in Mt. Carmel Cemetery.
SALLY RAND AND FRANK SINATRA SET RECORDS – Fan Dancer Sally Rand set attendance records here at the Chicago Theater in 1934. The record stood until the 1940s when Frank Sinatra broke it. The restored Chicago Theater is one of the world's most beautiful theaters. It's interior is a miniature Palace of Versailles. 175 S. State Street.
Where Are They Now? – Sally Rand, 75, died in 1979, and is buried in Oakdale Memorial Park in Glendora, California. In Section Elm Lawn, Lot 34, Grave 10. Sinatra, 83, died in 1998, and is buried in Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California in B-8, #151
YOUNG SON OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN DIES – Mary Lincoln, widow of Abraham Lincoln and her son Thomas “Tad”, were living here in the Clifton Hotel in 1871. In May, Tad became ill with a chest cold. The accumulation of fluid in his lungs made it difficult for him to lie flat, so he had to sleep sitting up in a chair. On the morning of July 15, Tad died of compression of the heart and dropsy of the chest. He was three months past his 18th birthday. The 250-room Clifton was located at Monroe and Wabash, directly opposite the Palmer house.
Where is He Now? – Tad is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in
Springfield, Illinois with his mother, father, and his brothers, Eddie and Willie.
WICKEDEST RESORT IN THE COUNTRY – Roger Plant's resort at the northeast corner of Wells and Monroe was one of the wickedest vice resorts in the country in the 1860s. The police called it the "Barracks" but Roger called it "Under the Willow" because of a lone willow tree on the corner. There were about 60 rooms in the shacks that made up Roger's resort, and in them was practiced virtually every sort of vice and criminality known to man. There was a saloon, three brothels, and dens where young girls were raped by a dozen men and then sold to bordello's. It was believed that a tunnel ran from the brothel under Wells Street to the vice dens by the Chicago River. One of the tenants here was Sammy Caldwell, a burglar who was said to have been the first to gag and bind his victims with plaster and tape.
UPDATE – Roger and his 250-pound wife, closed the resort in 1868 and bought a house in the country. In 1894, Roger’s son and two daughters were operating three brothels on south Clark Street.
MRS. LINCOLN DECLARED INSANE – The palatial Grand Pacific hotel stood at the corner of Jackson and Clark in 1870. After it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1871, it was rebuilt and reopened in 1873. In 1875, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln was living here in the elegant 500-room hotel. While here she would roam about the hotel half-dressed in her night clothes. She would sit by a wall and talk mumbo jumbo. At times she thought that gas was the work of the devil and would use only candles in her room. On April 1, she left her room half-dressed and headed for the elevator that led to the lobby. Her son Robert, who was staying in the room next to her, stopped her and put his arms around her to force her back into the hall, she screamed "You are trying to murder me." Several days later she tried to kill herself by taking laudanum. On May 20, 1875, Robert Lincoln had the courts declare her insane and committed to the State Hospital at Bavaria. The Grand Pacific occupied the entire block bounded by Clark, Jackson, La Salle, and Quincy. The Illinois Trust and Savings Bank was later built on the site
Where is She Now? – Mary Todd Lincoln, 63, died in 1882, and is
buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois with her husband Abe, and her sons Tad, Eddie and Willie.
AL CAPONE SENTENCED TO PRISON – It was here in 1931 in the U. S. Courthouse that Al Capone was sentenced to Alcatraz for tax evasion. 219 S. Dearborn
UPDATE – The building served as Chicago's main post office until 1934. In 1851, part of this site was occupied by the first Jewish house of worship built in Illinois.
ORIGINAL CHINATOWN – The original Chinatown was centered here at Clark and Van Buren before it was moved to its present location in 1912. Every basement on Clark Street between Van Buren and Harrison was a hop-joint.
WHISKEY ROW – For more than thirty years (from 1883 to 1913) "Whiskey Row" was centered on the west side of State Street from Van Buren to Harrison. Every building was occupied by a saloon, a wine-room with girls, a gambling house, or all three combined. The Tivoli Saloon on the row was equipped with 8,000 mirrors.
UPDATE – The Chicago Public Library is now on the site.
THE “MICKEY FINN” INVENTED – In 1896, a terrible little man named Mickey Finn opened a bar here on South State Street called the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden Restaurant. It was the lowest and roughest of all the saloons on Whiskey Row. Only five-feet five inches tall and one hundred and forty pounds, Mickey ran a school for young pickpockets here in the saloon. The "garden" of the Palm Garden was a robbing den where his students picked pockets and rolled drunks. It included a scrawny little palm tree in a pot. One day, after he had been talking to a local negro voodoo doctor, Mickey invented a knockout drink which he called the "Mickey Finn Special." The house girls were instructed to give it to the men they drank with. After the "Mickey Finn" put them to sleep, they took them out into one of the two small back rooms, stripped them of their clothes and money and threw them out into the back alley. The saloon was located on the west side of State Street, between Harrison and Congress, at the southern end of Whiskey row near Harrison.
UPDATE – The police closed Mickey's saloon down on December 16, 1903. The term "Slip him a Mickey" is still used today. The Chicago Public Library is now on the site.
HELL’S HALF ACRE – In the 1870s and 1880s, "Hells Half Acre" was one of the roughest Parts of Chicago. Located on the block bounded by state, Plymouth Court, and by Taylor and Polk, every building was occupied by a groggery, a bordello, a saloon, a gambling den and streetwalkers cribs. The police never entered the area except in pairs, and seldom even then. The alley between State and Plymouth Court was called "Dead Man's Alley," a 30-foot passage that ran from Polk to Taylor. The alley was used by prostitutes and by robbers who held up their victims there.
WORST VICE AREA IN THE COUNTRY – Next to "Hell's Half Acre," and really part of it, was Custom House Place, (originally Fourth Avenue and now Federal Street). Custom House Place ran from Harrison to Twelfth (now Roosevelt Road) was probably the most renowned red-light district in the U. S. in 1893. In the brothels here could be found every low and demoralizing phase of life that the human mind could think of. Many of the women in the houses were even lower than brutes.
ORIGIN OF “WHITE” SLAVERY – In the 1890s, brothel madam Mary Hastings was not only one of the worst characters around "Hell's Half Acre," she was one of the worst in the entire city. She boasted than no man could imagine an act of perversion or degeneracy which she and her prostitutes would not perform. The origin of "white slave" is associated with Mary, who traveled the Midwest looking for young girls between the ages of 13 and 17 to work in her brothel. Once inside her three-story brothel here, they were stripped, locked in a top-floor room, and then turned over to professional rapists to "break them in."
UPDATE – Indicted in 1895, Mary fled to Toledo, Ohio. She never returned to Chicago. In 1910, Congress passed the White Slave (or Mann Act), making it unlawful to transport a woman across state lines for immoral purposes.
SATAN’S MILE – Satan's Mile extended south on State Street from Harrison to Twenty Second Street. South of Taylor Street was an area called “”Coon's Hollow“ where most of the citizens were Negroes. There were several bordellos in Coon's Hollow where white women were kept for the pleasure of Negro men.
FINEST WHOREHOUSE IN “LITTLE CHEYENNE” – Annie Stewart opened a brothel here in 1862 at 441 South Clark (now the 800 block) just a few doors south of Polk. When Annie left town in 1869, Carrie Watson took over the brothel. In 1873, Carrie made improvements to the three-story brownstone mansion. It had five parlors, over twenty bedrooms, a billiard room, and a bowling alley in the basement. A three-piece orchestra played music day and night. There were always twenty to thirty girls. For almost 25 years, the brothel enjoyed world wide fame for its high prices, the loveliness of the girls and the luxurious surroundings. It was the finest brothel in Chicago.
UPDATE – When Mayor Carter Harrison Jr. cleaned up Clark Street and "Little Cheyenne" on November 25, 1895, Carrie sold her mansion and retired to the suburbs.
MRS. O’LEARY’S COW BURNS DOWN CHICAGO – In 1871, Patrick O'Leary and his family lived in three rear rooms of a frame cottage at 558 De Koven Street. The two front rooms of the cottage were occupied by the family of Patrick McLaughlin. In the rear of the house was a two-story shanty used by the O'Leary's as a barn in which Mrs. Catherine O'Leary kept a horse, a calf and five cows. About 8:30 on the evening of Sunday, October 8, 1871, a fire broke out in the barn, and within two hours the fire destroyed most of Chicago. Legend has it that Mrs. O'Leary went into the barn to milk one of her cows, and that the animal kicked over a kerosene lamp and set the barn on fire. But both Mrs. O'Leary and her husband signed affidavits that no member of their family had entered the barn after nightfall. Another story of the fire's origin was that it was started by some boys smoking pipes and cigars in the hayloft of the barn. Although the O'Leary barn was destroyed, their home was left untouched by the fire. The Chicago Fire Department Training Academy is now located on the site
Where is She Now? – .Mrs. O’Leary died in 1895, and is buried with her husband Patrick, daughter Anna, and son “Big Jim” O’Leary, in Mount Olivet Cemetery at 2755 W. 111th Street