Frederic B. Skillman to Jane Addams, August 14, 1906

Halsted Street Property Owners,
(The West Chicago Landowners' Protective Association)
Office, 903 Chamber of Commerce Building.

Chicago, August 14, 1906.

Dear Sir:-

We desire to inform you that the owners of property on Halsted Street have completed their permanent organization, to work against the proposed widening of Halsted Street, from Twenty-second Street to Chicago Avenue, and have obtained a Charter from the Secretary of State of Illinois, under the name of The West Chicago Landowners' Protective Association.

It is the desire of the members of the Association to obtain a remonstrance petition, objecting to the proposed widening of the street, and, under the law governing local improvements, the owners representing a majority of the frontage on Halsted Street along the line of the proposed improvement, must sign this petition, in order to have proceedings for such widening, stayed. The Association objects to widening the street, for the following reasons:

FIRST.-–The cost of the proposed widening would be large, and would fall almost entirely upon the property along the line of the improvement. A more considerable portion of the assessment will eventually fall upon the property on the East side of the street, as, after the shortening of the lots on the West side of the street, the lots on the West side of the street will not be considered as valuable as the lots on the East side of the street, and, therefore, the lots on the East side of the street will have to pay a larger proportion of the assessment. The lots on the West side of the street will, nevertheless, have to pay a large portion, but the lots on the East side of street will have to pay a larger portion. Conservative estimates obtained by the officers of the Association put the cost of the proposed improvement at about Fifteen Million Dollars. It will readily be seen how large a sum must be borne by each property owner when you take into consideration that there is only about three miles that will have to bear the greater portion of this assessment.

SECOND.-–The proposed widening will interfere with and interrupt business on the street. The demolishing and tearing down of buildings and fronts along the street will be such as to practically drive away business from Halsted Street. The shortening of the lots will make many stores too shallow for business purposes, and the interference and the interruption of business will be such as to practically put many shopkeepers entirely out of business, and, in many cases, would result in the most unjust hardship upon such storekeepers, as they may not be able to find suitable locations to re-establish themselves in business upon which they depend for a livelihood. In this respect you should take into consideration that in awarding damages for property taken in such proposed widening of the street, no damages will be awarded for the destruction of business that might otherwise have been done in the future, and that a judgment in condemnation, therefore, would be entirely inadequate to compensate the owners of property for the damages sustained.

THIRD.-–In every instance where the property taken is covered by a mortgage, the condemnation money would first have to go to the payment or reduction of the mortgages, as the mortgagee would have a prior claim to the owner. This, in itself, would work great hardship as a subsequent assessment would be levied upon the property for benefits, so called, which would have to be paid by the owner and not by the mortgagee. [page 2]

Another thing to be considered is the fact that damages will be awarded to the owners of the respective pieces of property by the name of "owners and parties interested."  The court and jury in a condemnation suit not deciding who is entitled to the money, but assessing damages merely, as above stated, to the "owners and parties interested" of the specific piece of property, and then, under a provision of our Statute, the money would be paid over to the County Treasurer for the benefit of the parties, and in many cases it would then have to be determined by the courts who the owners are and how the money is to be divided between the owners, mortgagees, tenants with leases, and other parties interested in the property, thus leading to expenses, court costs, attorney's fees, litigation and other legal complications. In many cases property will actually be taken and buildings razed, and the money awarded as damages for such taking and razing of buildings be paid to the County Treasurer to be litigated over for many years before it is paid to the parties entitled thereto.

Another thing to be considered is that when condemnation proceedings are started, tenants, especially of stores, will begin to throw up their leases and to remove to other premises where their possession is not in danger of being disturbed, and the property involved in such condemnation will remain vacant, perhaps for a number of years, before the cases are decided, during all of which time taxes, assessments and other expenses will still go on.

Another thing to be considered, is, that some of the best industries and drawing attractions of the street that have aided the business interests of the street in the past and have been the mainstay of the street, will be driven away.  This is especially true of the theaters on Halsted Street, which, at the present time, are in operation. This proposed condemnation suit will cut down their property thirty-four feet, and will make it impossible for them to continue as they can not spare this thirty-four feet and continue running such theaters. The lots after taking thirty-four feet off will be too shallow to allow the operation of the theaters upon the lots and consequently these theaters will have to be abandoned, and some of the chief drawing attractions of the street will be discontinued, to the incalculable damage of business upon the street.

If after considering these matters, you desire to oppose the widening of Halsted Street, the most efficacious way of doing so is to join our organization, which has been organized with this particular object in view, and for the purpose of enabling you to join our organization, we enclose an application blank to be signed by you. We would extremely regret the failure to obtain your [cooperation] and support in this matter, but if, however, for any reason you should not desire to join our organization and at the same time desire to oppose the proposed widening of Halsted Street, we request you, if you are the owner of property on Halsted Street along the line of the proposed improvement, to sign the enclosed remonstrance as such owner, filling in the legal description of your property in the proper place, which you can copy from your deed, and the number of feet frontage owned by you. This remonstrance must be signed by the owner of the legal title in person and not by agent, and should be signed whether you join the organization or not.

We desire, however, to impress you with the advisability of joining the Association, as there are large and powerful influences bending every effort, by every known means, to accomplish the widening of the street, against the wishes of the property owners, and it will only be by banding together and working in unison that the property owners will be able to defeat the objects of the powerful few, who, in this matter, are working from motives of self-interest and gain. These men are not resting but intend to push through this project without delay, so that you must also act without delay, if you desire to conserve your interests. It has been rumored persistently that this widening is for the purpose of enabling the elevated railroad to be extended through the street. The effect of putting through an elevated railroad upon a street in the West Side has been well demonstrated by the history of West Lake Street. Can you afford to take these chances of having the value of your property practically destroyed?

In conclusion, we request that you sign the enclosed blanks [today], so that they may not be lost or forgotten and so that we may be enabled to procure a remonstrance from a majority of the owners of the frontage as speedily as possible, this being necessary in the interest of all the property owners.

Respectfully yours,


By order of its Board of Directors.

Dr. F. B. Skillman, President.