Will the Spirit of Harry Weese Take Sides in the Wolf Point Viewing War?

Chicago’s fascinating historic past has a way of making itself known even in 2013!  Historic Wolf Point, a north view is shown above, is located where the Chicago River comes in from the Lake and branches North and South at the Apparel Center.  It was home to Chicago’s first taverns, and now is the focus of a controversy that has one of America’s most famous families (hint: Camelot?) and two of our most important developers coming up against a determined group of local condo owners from the Riverbend Condominium Association!

The early stories of our City are full of familiar names, given that those names now grace some of our most well-known Streets!  The tavern on the left of the picture above is James Kinzie’s tavern, known as the Wolf Tavern or Wolf Point Tavern, later run by a man named Wentworth, and the one on the right is Miller’s Tavern.  A ferry went between the two, operated by a man named Clybourn, and later Mark Beaubien built yet another tavern on the South bank, right about where that rowboat is sitting(!).

Gordon Hubbard came to Chicago in 1818, shortly after the Ft Dearborn massacre, and in 1880 wrote down his memories of that time.  Fort Dearborn was located where the river empties into the Lake, with Wolf Point out a mile to the West.  Hubbard recalled stories of a trader named Guarie who ran a trading post and tilled a cornfield at Wolf Point in the late 1700’s, hence the North Branch of the river that diverges at Wolf Point was also named Guarie’s River.

Not to be too abrupt, but now let’s flash forward to “Way After” our intrepid founding fathers of Chicago came to town.  Yes, the Kennedy family now owns the land on the north bank of the river, and plans have been presented by developers including Magellan and Hines Interests, LP to put three skyscrapers right along the river.  On top of providing a stark contrast to the world of our bucolic history lesson, the development’s footprint and zoning are also being challenged.  Let’s take a look!

The pictures above show the area around Wolf Point as it looks today.  The parking lot in the middle of the picture, where the development will be built, is one and the same as the location of the tavern in the old woodcut we saw before.  The highrise on the left is called Riverbend Condominiums, and as mentioned the condominium association has challenged the new development's plans in court.  On the right you see the type of impact the development might have on the view from West to East towards the Lake.  I am not taking sides here, the matter is being hashed out in court, but it does bring up the open ended question of just what right, if any, do condo owners in Chicago’s beautiful high rises have to unobstructed views?

Here’s a different view, with the same Riverbend Condo building at the top of the photo, showing the view from West to East as you go along the Chicago River towards the Lake, first before and then after the new buildings come into the picture.  The new buildings will greatly obscure the Condo building's vista.  As I mentioned there are contending legal positions, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in the courts, especially regarding judgment on the ‘rights’ or lack of ‘rights’ that homeowners have to their breathtaking Views of the City…

Just a little North of the Riverbend Condos is one of the special gems of Chicago architecture, the amazing River Cottages shown above, designed by one of our town’s most famous architects, Harry Weese.  There is hardly a more distinctive building in all of Chicago, and Mr. Weese's legacy graces many other Chicago neighborhoods as well.

The morning sun hitting the new Wolf Point buildings will also cast a shadow on the famous River Cottages, but my purpose here is to tell another story of the haunted places I have experienced in my career.

You see, Mr. Weese was going to move in to one of the River Cottage town homes but unfortunately he passed away in 1988.  Coincidentally, a good friend of mine and her husband moved in to the unit that was to belong to Mr. Weese, and according to not only them but also from friends who have visited the home, and the reactions of the animals that have come along with them, (maybe like what you see here!), there is definitely a presence, albeit a warm and friendly presence, that has been felt by many who have stopped by.  We'll check and see what Mr. Weese thinks if new shadows from Wolf Point start to darken his beloved building!

The Ronald McDonald House Charities had a wonderful benefit at the famous Back Room jazz club last Thursday 9/26.  Thousands and thousands of dollars were raised for this most worthy cause.  The new Ronald McDonald House by our Lurie Children’s Hospital is the largest in the country, a huge testament to good people here in Chicagoland, and quite fitting given that Mr. Kroc started McDonalds in this area all those years ago.  I’m not sure about that woman in the middle but those sure are a couple of great looking guys!

I moved back up to River North recently, and while a piece of my heart will always stay in the South Loop I now get to add to my knowledge of this vibrant and exciting neighborhood.  Just to the South of my new home is the beautiful Kingsbury Plaza building, in the upper left hand corner of the picture, a fine example of the newer rental buildings going up in town.  You can bet I’ll be trying to spend a little more time down at the East Bank Club, running diagonally in the picture with its special East Bank riverside perch.

I go way back career-wise in the River North area, having sold many units at Tuxedo Park and elsewhere over the years.  I had the vision for Kingsbury Estates and sold all of the original lots for the magnificent homes there, as well as listing and selling homes there in the resale market, such as this beauty at 450 West Huron.

But in keeping with my love of the famous characters in Chicago’s history, let’s not forget former Alderman Burt Natarus, a fellow River North resident.  Regardless of one’s politics, it is indisputable that Alderman Natarus gave many years of his life to serving Chicago.  He is even more approachable now than when he was regularly in the nightly news, and I have enjoyed saying hello to him when I see him at my new local Caribou Coffee place on Kingsbury!

Hope you all enjoy the colors of Autumn!

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