Burke wants Chicago to start planning for 175th birthday
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org July 5, 2011 2:30PM
Updated: July 5, 2011 2:30PM
On March 4, 2012, Chicago will celebrate the 175th anniversary of its incorporation as a city — and the City Council’s resident historian doesn’t want the “important historical milestone” to pass unnoticed.
At the behest of Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), the City Council’s Finance and Special Events committees approved a resolution Tuesday urging City Hall to start planning the appropriate celebration.
Burke said he has no particular celebration in mind. In fact, he’s wide open.
“I would envision, perhaps, an essay contest in the schools or a contest to have a piece of public art dedicated or a symposium to bring leaders from around the world to Chicago or a lecture series where historians — some of the authors of Chicago books — can shed light on how Chicago developed into this great metropolis,” the alderman said.
“It is an opportunity for education, for celebration, for planning for the future. And we should not let the opportunity pass without in some way replicating what leaders of Chicago have done” during past celebrations.
Burke has written several books about Chicago’s rich political history and fashions himself as the Council’s resident historian. He showcased his vast knowledge again Tuesday — by recalling past birthday celebrations.
When Chicago turned 50, the event was marked by a parade of Chicago police officers and firefighters from the Harrison Street station to City Hall then on to LaSalle and Adams. A celebration at Plymouth Congregational Church included a “performance of Indian chants and war whoops and a re-enactment of an early City Council meeting,” Burke said.
The city’s centennial was marked by a seven-month series of activities organized by a jubilee committee led by then-Mayor Ed Kelly. The festivities began with a shot fired at noon across Lake Michigan from a relic Fort Dearborn canon, followed by 98 shots from the Illinois National Guard and a 100th shot from the canon.
Then-Mayor Richard J. Daley led a three-hour torchlight parade through the Loop to commemorate the city’s 125th birthday, with the theme of Chicago’s image then and now. That was followed by a Chicago Exposition for Progress that drew 85,000 visitors to Navy Pier.
In 1987, then-Mayor Harold Washington celebrated Chicago’s 150th birthday with a sold-out party at Navy Pier. A time capsule was buried at the Hotel Morton containing a Bears Super Bowl poster, a William “the Refrigerator” Perry T-shirt and a basketball autographed by Bulls super-star Michael Jordan and then-head coach Doug Collins.
On Tuesday, Special Events Committee Chairman Walter Burnett (27th) noted that Burke was “one of the few people who’ve been through celebrating this before.”
Burke responded by recalling his role as a political lightning rod who marshaled opposition to Washington during the 1980’s power struggle known as, “Council Wars.”
“I don’t know if Harold [Washington] invited me to that party,” Burke said.