This week in history: McKinley dedicates Chicago’s federal building

On Chicago Day 1899, President William McKinley laid the cornerstone on what would become Chicago’s Federal Building.

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The rotunda of the Chicago Federal Building

The rotunda of the Chicago Federal Building as it looked in 1961. President William McKinley visited Chicago on Oct. 9, 1899, to lay the cornerstone for the Beaux Arts-styled building, which was completed in 1905.

From the Sun-Times Archives.

As reported in the Chicago Daily News, sister publication of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Every year on October 9, Chicago used to celebrate what it called “Chicago Day.” The date commemorated the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

On Chicago Day 1899, President William McKinley laid the cornerstone on what would become Chicago’s Federal Building.

The site of the Beaux-Arts building, which once stood on the block bounded by Dearborn, Adams and Clark streets and Jackson Boulevard, drew massive crowds all hoping to “catch a glimpse of President McKinley,” a Chicago Daily News report from the day said.

McKinley arrived hat-less at the site in a carriage drawn by four horses, the report said. “The salvos of cheers and shouts were tremendous. The president’s smile was pleasant.”

After speeches from judges, senators and cabinet members and even a blessing, the corner stone finally came down.

“The spectators arose at the first turn of the windlass. As the block descended there was an impressive silence,” the report described. Afterwards, a reverend invoked the “Divine blessing on city, state and nation.”

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