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It's Cleanup Time

Esther Ilana Rabi

These tales of massive cleanups make Pesach cleaning seem like a picnic

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Removing every crumb from a house feels like a daunting task. But what if you had to clean up a lake? A mine? An entire city? A collection of some of the largest — and most innovative — cleanup projects 

The Muddy City 
When Chicago first become a major city in the 1850s, with a canal, railroad, and telegraph line, mud became a serious problem. The city, built on Lake Michigan, was just a few feet above water level — and there was no drainage from the city’s surface. At that time, a story was going around of a man offering to help a fellow buried to his neck in the muck in the middle of the street. “No, thank you,” the fellow said. “I have a fine horse under me.”The standing water housed bacteria. Epidemics of typhoid fever and dysentery broke out six years in a row, and in 1854, cholera killed six percent of the residents. The city tried grading the streets,  so the water would flow into the Chicago River. When that plan failed, it tried planking them over, but the moisture underneath warped and rotted all the planks. The Common Council decided to install storm sewers, but they wouldn’t work unless there was a downhill path for the water to follow. Since digging would be too expensive, they decided to raise the city instead!In 1858, a four-story, 70-foot-long brick building was lifted over six feet into the air. Six thousand jackscrews were put under the building, manned by 600 men. At a signal, each man turned the screws of his jacks one notch, and the building went up a fraction of an inch.As they kept at it, over four days, timbers were placed under the building and new foundations poured. Then the building was lowered into place, without the slightest damage. By 1860, engineers were so good at this that they were able to lift half a city block — a solid masonry row of shops and offices 320-feet long and four to five stories high. Business went on as usual during the lifting; people shopped and worked in the buildings as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. One hotel patron was puzzled to note that the steps from the street to the hotel were becoming steeper every day. 

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