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Chicago's South Water Street market, Illinois Traction System railway, U-505 submarine, Elgin's Read Building featured in latest Historic Illinois

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[JUNE 18, 2005]  SPRINGFIELD -- Chicago's South Water Street produce market, the Illinois Traction System railway, the move of the U-505 submarine to indoor quarters at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, and Elgin's Read Building are featured in the latest issue of Historic Illinois, a publication of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

The cover article features Chicago's South Water Street produce market, which gained national renown for its bustling, hectic, frantic atmosphere. Vendors from the storefronts that lined several city blocks adjacent to the Chicago River in the early 1900s hawked everything from exotic fruits to wild game. The traffic gridlock near the market eventually proved horrendous, and a solution was proposed by architect Daniel Burnham in his 1909 Chicago Plan: Move the market from the central business district and construct a new double-decker boulevard there instead.

After years of wrangling by skeptical merchants, the market moved to the city's west side in 1925, and what is now Upper and Lower Wacker Drive was constructed in its place. An enormous new market complex was built closer to rail lines about two miles from Chicago's Loop, and wider streets, refrigeration units, and telephone and telegraph equipment meant the market had all of the latest technology and transportation resources. The six huge market warehouses now stand empty, victims of changes in the food distribution industry.

The article was written by Cynthia Fuener, publications editor with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

* * *

The electric-powered Illinois Traction System is the subject of another article. The Midwest's largest interurban electric railway, the Illinois Traction System stretched from Peoria to St. Louis, Decatur to Bloomington, and Springfield to Danville.

The first rails were laid in 1903 west from Danville, and most of the article and photographs deal with the Vermilion County section of the railway.

The system served effectively for five decades before automobile travel caused the demise of many passenger railroads.

The article was written by Keith Sculle, head of research and education for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

* * *

The slow-motion, 1,000-foot move of the U-505 submarine from its old outdoor location to new indoor quarters at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry is covered in another article. The World War II German submarine became part of the museum's permanent collection in 1954 and was docked outside the building for nearly 50 years. However, exposure to the elements had taken its toll, and museum officials began construction of an indoor exhibit area in 2003 to better protect the only submarine listed as a National Historic Landmark.

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Once the new facility was completed, the process of moving the 700-ton, 252-foot submarine from the southeast to the northeast side of the museum began. Over several days 18 self-powered dollies, guided by remote control, moved the sub one inch per minute for more than 1,000 feet, including a few 90-degree turns. The sub was then lowered, four inches at a time, into its new home -- an underground exhibit space 75 feet wide, 300 feet long and 42 feet deep. The new climate-controlled exhibit area features interactive displays, nearly 200 artifacts and exciting testimonials from U.S. sailors who captured the U-505 during World War II.

* * *

The Read Building on the grounds of the Elgin Mental Health Center was demolished in the late 1990s, but its memory remains in the files of the Illinois Historic American Buildings/Historic American Engineering Record.

The Northern Illinois Hospital and Asylum for the Insane in Elgin was built following an 1869 mandate from the Illinois General Assembly to create mental health facilities in the state. The 50,000-square-foot Read Building was built along with six other buildings in 1935 after the facility's population skyrocketed during the Great Depression. The building was named after Charles Read, hospital superintendent in 1930-1946, and constructed in the Moderne style with Colonial Revival ornamentation.

State hospital populations plummeted in the late 20th century due to advances in mental health care and a focus on community treatment options. The Read Building was deemed obsolete and torn down, but not before a detailed permanent record of its existence was created for the Illinois HABS/HAER collection.

The article was written by Andrew Heckenkamp of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Historic Illinois is a bimonthly Illinois Historic Preservation Agency publication that features historically significant sites in Illinois. Subscriptions are $10 per year, which includes six issues of Historic Illinois and one full-color Historic Illinois Calendar. For more information, call (217) 524-6045, visit, or write to Historic Illinois, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 1 Old State Capitol Plaza, Springfield, IL 62701-1507.

[Illinois Historic Preservation Agency news release]

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