|Natalie Carpenter-Tait >> Forgotten Chicago|
I worked for Bell Labs, which was part of AT&T back when it was still a monopoly. Western Electric was also part of AT&T. I knew WE made phones, switching equipment, wire, transistors, computers, etc. But I never knew it used to make RADAR equipment. This is another example of how industrial America retooled for World War II.
"Radar ( radio detection and ranging ) became one of the "miracles" of scientific development hastened by the demands of the Second World War. It was the "all-seeing" electronic eye which sought out the enemy for all the armed services and also the device which provided precision controls for weapons and airplanes ( and promised such controls for industrial machines ). Chicago, already the radio and communications equipment capital of the world, became easily the unquestioned leader in radar. Employment in the radio and electronics industry in the city increased from 35,000 at the beginning of the war to 75,000 in the spring of 1945. ( In the general field of electrical machinery, which included electronics, employment increased from 47,900 to 110,000 from 1939 to 1945, annual output from $269,000,000 to $1,600,000,000. ) In 1944, Western Electric, the nation's largest manufacturer of radar, produced $340,000,000 worth of the output of this billion-dollar-a-year industry, and supplied more than one-half of all the United States airborne and shipborne radar sets. And its 1945 record greatly outstripped the 1944 one. In the first six months it manufactured 19,800 radar sets compared to the 22,000 for the entire year of 1944. Also Western Electric ( along with Bell Telephone Laboratories ) was one of the leading contributors ( and the leading industrial contributor ) to radio research and engineering. With Armour Research Institute, Chicago, it had an important part in the development of sonar, or submarine sound detecting. Among other products, Western Electric, which held government contracts for $750,000,000 in the peak year of 1944, were field telephone sets, wire and cable, microphones, headsets, tank radios, and the famous gun director discussed previously. Western Electric was indeed the nation's arsenal of war communications equipment."
Mary Watters Illinois In The Second World War, Volume II: The Production Front Illinois State Historical Library, 1952 p. 104
|John K Tapp posted|
Here's a fun one... the old Western Electric radar test track at Grand and Normandy, where Applebee's is now. Practically across the street from the Radio Flyer plant.
Lots of fake stories that circulated about what it was didn't fool my dad, having been both a product of the Navy's radar school and a former WE employee.
It was chosen because it's the highest point in the city.
I actually made my way to the top of it at one point, the factory had long been closed. Mostly beer bottles and graffiti, and disappointing. Plus, really visible and inviting police trouble by being really visible.
The factory buildings were last owned by Komatsu-Dresser before being torn down for the Home Depot, and I made my way up to their roofs as a teen, as well.
And since you grew-up in that area too, do you remember the metals fabricators plant across the street that blew up and was on fire,& could not be put out with water cuz of the magnesium & called ORD to put it out with foam....
I do, very well. The water from the hydrants froze my van in place and I blew the transmission trying to get it out. They had a creepy night watchman kid with a creepy mini apt. Their lot was the shortcut to the back side of the Brickyard.
Jim Wagner, that was Fullerton wire and steel. I lived a couple of blocks away and watched them pour gallons of water on it to no avail. Suddenly hours later a foam truck pull up and the fire ended quickly. Water on magnesium caused the explosion that blew out the windows around the top of the building. It actually shook our house!
Highest elevation in the city is at Dan Ryan Woods. Maybe highest elevation west of the loop?
it was built in the late 30s/early 40s. Borders may have been different, before some burbs were annexed. I think it may have actually referred to the available land; Beverly was solidly residential by then.
Google told WBEZ that the highest point is at 92nd/Leavitt.
Built in ‘51 when WE moved into the space.
the radar track maybe, but they were using that space during the war, according to the records.
correction, built 1943
the railroad spur was for the mental hospital at Irving/Oak Park.
I worked at the Clark gas station there for a time in 1989. More fun stories from that time too.
I remember a figure in the millions to tear down just that structure, and it was fairly well-known that the demolition costs for it were keeping the property from being redeveloped.
There was a picture of security at the old factory standing next to a 4' high pile of dead pigeons. Somebody was prolifically disposing of the large pigeon population with a pellet gun.
it was a looming industrial hulk that influenced the vibe of the whole neighborhood for blocks around. It definitely depressed property values and the street became a magnet for stolen cars. They rented out parts of the factory building for band sessions near the end.
|safe_image for The Story of Chicago's Bridge to Nowhere.|
Bill O'Brien: It did radar testing.
John Weissmuller: Yes there was a radar manufacturing plant nearby and they built this platform to test systems They used to bounce signals off of downtown building which could be easily in site.
Wally Slowik: It's actually a good place for this type of testing. It's location just west of the glacial ridge, most everything east of it is below it.