|RIPARIAN RIGHTS & LAW SUITS|
During this period of transition, when property owners, Cap Streeter, the Lincoln Park Commissioners, and the state of Illinois each had a claim at stake, work that had already been completed was challenged by legal arguments and subsequent law suits. Tempers flared, as evidenced by the open letter to Governor Altgeld, below. Riparian (water) rights in this context refers to lake frontage property owners and the Lincoln Park Commissioners' building of Lake Shore Drive at a distance parallel to the lake shore. (See People v. Kirk in the tab, above.)
|Chicago Daily Tribune, May 10, 1894||May 10, 1894
||Chicago Daily Tribune, January 31, 1895
|Report of the Submerged and Shore Lands Legislative Investigating Committee: Made in Pursuance of the Statute, to the Governor of the Illinois and the Forty-seventh General Assembly of Illinois, Volume 2|
|This 1911 "Report of the Submerged and Shore Lands Legislative Investigating Committee" attempts to present some history and sort out the state of the Streeterville district during a time when|
In 1833 the shore line was east of the meander line a distance of 115 feet at Ohio st., 105 feet at Ontario st. and 75 feet at Erie st. From Huron st. to Oak st. the coast line remained practically as it existed in the year (1821) that the meander line was established. Between Indiana and Superior sts. the shore line extended very rapidly during the periods from 1837 to 1869, being advanced along Indiana st. at the rate of 40 feet per year. It is not unreasonable to suppose that natural accretions were entirely responsible for this rapid filling of the submerged lands.
In 1872 the shore between Chicago av. And Oak st. was not a great distance east of the meander line. During the past forty years, however, this entire tract, which has a lake frontage of nearly three-fourths mile, has been built up and extended out into the lake about 1,300 feet. Few buildings have been constructed on this property. Here and there may be seen “For Sale” signs, but we are informed that the title and trust companies are disinclined to guarantee title to these made lands, and prospective purchasers are therefore naturally backward about assuming any risks. Once the title to these lands is assured and the sale of them properly authorized they will find a ready market, for the property is probably the most desirable in Chicago.
George Wellington Streeter, popularly known as “Cap” Streeter, was shipwrecked in 1886 upon a sand bar which existed at that time in the form of an island in the lake about opposite the water works. The captain settled on the island, made his home there and claimed title to it by right of discovery. He asserted that he had entered a homestead claim and claimed to have received a patent from the United States Government to assure his title. The shoreline of the lake in 1886, according to Captain Streeter, was very near to the present location of the water works, and he recollects seeing the wrecked hull of a boat lying on the bank in that vicinity. Later, refuse, dirt and other material were dumped into the lake, and finally his island was united to the mainland – and his troubles began. The captain now has scarcely a vestige of his former rights left him.
The Streeterville tract, of “District of Lake Michigan,” is located between Indiana st. and Oak st., with St. Clair st. the western boundary as far north as Superior st., and Pine st. being the boundary between Superior and Oak sts. The tract extends to Lake Michigan on the east. The distance north and south is about three-fourths of a mile; east and west it is about 1,600 feet; nearly 150 acres are here involved.
This large tract has been subject to a great amount of publicity and litigation with powerful interests endeavoring to wrest ownership from the Government, State and municipal corporation and numerous influential swatters, the prize being made lands conservatively estimated at a value of over $5,000,000. It is to be regretted that as a last resort a public body was used to give color of title by actions prompting judicial inquiry to determine by what right the public interests were sacrificed. Under the guise of making a public improvement these valuable lands were practically given away, the public interest being supposed to be served by the construction of the Lake Shore Drive along the property as compared to the value of the land.
There appeared no seeming necessity for the Drive as built and fully 75 per cent of the traffic is borne by Pine st. instead of making the long detour around the shore drive.
The most charitable view of this transaction can only be that it was consummated to acquire title in behalf of special interests. According to decisions rendered the matter is still subject to judicial inquiry as to whether the public secured full value for the rights and privileges by it conferred. Public officials have been negligent and there appears good ground for believing that the action of the Park Board can be set aside and restoration or full remuneration secured to the public.
I made request of your honorable Committee that you should give me your opinion as to the holdings of the court with reference to the lands lying between Ohio st. and Oak st. and Lake Michigan, and also as to your views concerning the transfers which have been made by the Commissioners of Lincoln Park to riparian owners in exchange for their riparian rights.
In pursuance to my request you have submitted to me the following, which I here set forth:
The made land lying between Ohio and Oak sts. and adjacent to the shores of Lake Michigan, in the city of Chicago, was the subject of litigation in the case of the People, etc., v. Kirk, 162 Ill., 138. There the Commissioners of Lincoln Park and owners of the land adjacent to the then shore of Lake Michigan entered into contract under date of June 22, whereby title in the land in question was to be conveyed to the property owners in consideration of the performance of certain acts by them.