Saturday, January 19, 2013

"It Can Be Done"

Dear Friends of President Reagan’s Chicago Home:

We did it! We incorporated in the State of Illinois on Wednesday, January 16, 2013.  Here’s our corporate purpose statement:  
Friends of President Reagan’s Chicago Home (the Corporation) is organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (or a corresponding provision of any future United States Internal Revenue law).  More specifically, the Corporation is organized to develop and operate a museum and center located at 832 E. 57th Street, in partnership with home’s current owner, reflecting the historical relevance of Reagan’s life growing up there and elsewhere in Illinois. The museum and center will also celebrate President Reagan’s historic accomplishments, highlight his suffering with Alzheimer’s, complementing mission of nearby Center for Care and Discovery, and provide educational and community-enriching opportunities.  Friends also intends to make a contribution each year to the other Reagan homes in Illinois underscoring that “The Ronald Reagan Trail” is one, with Chicago home enhancing the whole.
With your support, we’re on our way to winning one more for the Gipper!**

As Ronald Reagan always said, “It can be done.”

The quest to save and transform President Reagan’s Chicago Home has, of course, just begun. 

For inspiration, I offer Ronald Reagan being sworn in as President of the United States on January 20, 1981, followed by his Inaugural Address

Who, among us, old enough to remember, can forget that momentous, magnificent day that advanced American freedom and opportunity in such a palpable way? 

It won’t be the last! And, this largely symbolic victory of saving Reagan’s home, which is within our reach, will help lay the groundwork for another such goosebump-inducing day, leaving a lump in your throat like that of the Gipper as he told the story of Martin Treptow on D-Day.  As newly inaugurated President Reagan said, like Treptow, With Gods help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. And, after all, why shouldn't be believe that? We are Americans.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,
Mary Claire Kendall
Acting President/CEO
Friends of President Reagan’s Chicago Home (site of future updates)

** On Friday, January 18, we raised our first seed money today to cover initial costs of incorporation and other incidentals, but have several hundred dollars more to go.  If you wish to help the cause, you may send your tax-deductible contributions made payable to “Friends of Pres. Reagan’s Chicago Home” to P.O. Box 3772, Washington, DC 20027-3772. Or for those who wish to make a contribution that will arrive more speedily, you may use PayPal. Our email for this purpose is

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Interim Victory for Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home

By Mary Claire Kendall

Today, being the 6th anniversary of the official opening of the home in Barbados where George Washington lived for two months when he was 19, seems a particularly fitting time to announce that on Friday, January 11, the Friends of President Reagan’s Chicago Home, had a MAJOR interim victory.

As Acting President/CEO of the Friends, I spoke with Eleanor Gorski, Assistant Commissioner for Historic Preservation at the Department of Housing and Economic Development in Chicago, who approves demolition permits. I had called the department on Thursday and was told by staff person that there had been “a lot of back and forth” vis-à-vis the home at “higher levels” and someone would be contacting me. 

Ms. Gorski affirmed that she fully expects the review process will take the full 90 days and that granting the Reagan home landmark status, after all, is one of the possibilities they are considering. The home was, of course, denied landmark status in late 2012 about which I wrote in the Washington Examiner.

Only two days before the department spokesperson, Pete Strazzobosco, was downplaying the worth of the Reagan home.  As he told the Hyde Park Herald, “It’s a pretty modest apartment building for its style and age. It doesn’t have very much style, at least not enough for the Landmarks Commission to consider a possible landmark for it.” (January 9 issue) But, the next day at 8 p.m., the University of Chicago’s student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon, reported, that, according to Strazzobosco, the City of Chicago’s Historic Preservation Division will use this time to ‘reach out to the property owner and discuss alternatives to demolition.’” 

Friends were working in a major way behind the scenes in last week, given what appeared to be the imminent demolition of the home, according to intelligence we had and, indeed, according to everything we had heard since mid-October when the University of Chicago had a public meeting to announce the home would be demolished. That night the plan for just a plaque to honor President Reagan’s memory was hatched, a deal my friend the late Redd Griffin brokered as a fallback position. He felt that might be all he could get since all the forces were so heavily weighted against saving the home. 

Photo of site from January 8, 2012, 4:30 p.m. (CT)

We will be formally incorporating this week...

Here is draft of Mission Statement: 

The goal of Friends of President Reagan’s Chicago Home is to work with the University of Chicago to develop a plan to transform President Reagan’s Chicago home at 832 E. 57th Street into a museum and center... The museum would be an exact replica of the “six-flat” home as it looked in 1915 when the Reagans lived there, providing information on the historical context and Reagan’s experience there, where in 1915, Chicago had a population of over 2.2 million, whereas Tampico, where Reagan was born and lived until he was three, had a population of less than 1000.  The center would be a celebration President Reagan’s historic presidency and would build bridges to the immediate community... as well as to the larger national and international community. A side benefit is the travel and tourism dollars the museum and center would attract, given the deep and broad reservoir of affection for President Reagan nationally and internationally, which would create jobs. “Friends” also intends to make a contribution each year to the other Reagan homes in Illinois to underscore the fact that “The Ronald Reagan Trail” is a team and far from being a zero sum game, the Reagan Chicago Museum and Center will synergistically enhance the whole.

More information to follow...

And, again, those interested in supporting this cause may send contributions to: 

Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home
P.O. Box 3772
Washington, DC 20027-3772

The initial contribution to help cover the incorporation can be structured as a non-profit donation.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

To Raze or Not to Raze Reagan Home: 90 Day Review

By Mary Claire Kendall

A stay of execution has been issued on Reagan Chicago home for 90 days maximum, as Lee Bey reports on WBEZ.  Without the efforts of Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home, this would not even be news and the likelihood that home might ultimately be saved virtually non-existent. 

As my source in Hyde Park wrote me late last night: 

    Lee Bey, an ardent preservationist, has a very popular architectural blog and radio program on WBEZ, the local public educational station.
    He is a former licensed architect (SOM) who knows his way around Chicago having been both a former newspaper reporter (Sun-Times) and Deputy Mayor to Richard M. Daley (2002).
    Here in Chicago, the authority of his "endorsement" will be exceedingly helpful...
    Thanks to you, things are looking up.


Here’s my comment on Lee Bey’s article: 

Thank you, Lee, for bringing attention to President Ronald Reagan’s Hyde Park home as a young boy. This home, about which he wrote and spoke, had great emotional resonance for our 40th president. It’s an important historic landmark not only for Chicago but for the nation. As I wrote in my Washington Examiner piece last month, “When President Reagan was four, he loved looking out the window of his home on 832 East 57th Street in Hyde Park, not far from the University of Chicago, watching the horse-drawn fire engines storm down the street. He later wrote in a 1988 letter, that watching the firemen ‘come down the street at full gallop ... made me decide I wanted to be a fireman.’ So he did—only the fires he put out were of a larger, geopolitical nature, such as winning the Cold War without firing a shot.”  Goodness gracious, if Barbados can preserve a home whereGeorge Washington lived for only two months, Chicago can find it in its heart and soul to save the only Chicago home of the only president born and bred in Illinois, where his first memory was, about which he also spoke very poignantly, which I will be sharing in another op-ed shortly. 

And, this is what I wrote in response to a reader who asserted: 1) President Reagan’s 1988 recollection must have conflated his experience with his Dixon years, because, this reader falsely said, he had Alzheimer’s in 1988; and 2) President Reagan did not “win the Cold War without firing a shot,” which is commonly the way Reagan’s legacy is summed up:

Thanks for your comment. Actually, he shared his recollections in 1981 at the White House with a prominent figure... contrary to what some believe, based on a lack of knowledge, the home on the south side of Chicago, where he lived with his parents and older brother, at age 4, had great emotional resonance for young Dutch Reagan... stay tuned for more details... as for Reagan’s key role in winning the Cold War, it is well-documented in “Reagan’s Secret War,” which I reviewed in this piece

And, this is what I wrote in response to reader who claimed building will look bad all by itself and made an insulting comment about President Reagan: 

Au contraire, it’s a beautiful building and will look great by itself once some architectural brilliance is applied. Artfully blending the old with the new is something the Kennedy Administration pioneered. Jackie Kennedy was the driving force in preserving Lafayette Square and the 18th century buildings along Jackson Place bordering the square. It was a totally uphill battle for her but she had a vision and stuck with – and won. It’s the same vision for saving the Reagan home, which of course is also an uphill battle - a beautiful structure with historic value. The tan brick it’s constructed with is indicative of a turn-of-the-century middle class residence that was considered a cut above. In 1986, it was written up by the Chicago Landmark Commission as having landmark potential. The city’s 1985 inventory of all buildings listed it in the top 2% of historic buildings in Chicago. And, of course, Ronald Reagan was an historic president, with a refreshing aura who brought an era of record prosperity including growth of real GDP of almost 36% and nearly 20 million jobs created. By the way, saving the Reagan home will also create jobs. 

And, this is my response to a very intemperate reader, whose comments I cannot even post, they were so inappropriate. 

Regarding your suggestion that those who favor saving the Reagan home are out of the mainstream, in fact, in 1986, the Reagan home was written up by the Chicago Landmarks Commission as “noteworthy due to historical associations,” which gave it “landmark potential.” The city’s 1985 inventory of all buildings listed it in the top 2% of historic buildings in Chicago. As for the book I cited, that is just one example of many that report on President Reagan’s central role in ending the Cold War, one of his many historic achievements that make him a truly great president, according to those with the credibility to make those judgments. As for your other most unfortunate and intemperate comments, I will “consider the source,” as my great grandmother always wisely counseled.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Saving President Reagan's Chicago Home

By Mary Claire Kendall
 1983, Washington, DC, USA — President Ronald Reagan
— Image by © Shepard Sherbell/CORBIS SABA

Happy New Year!  Albeit, it’s not entirely happy.  You see, Obamites are getting ready to demolish the home in Chicago where President Ronald Reagan lived at age 4 and had his first memories, about which he spoke and wrote poignantly, bringing him to the brink of tears at one point. We’re working intensively behind the scenes: VERY SYMBOLIC if they destroy home; VERY SYMBOLIC if we save it. We will know if our efforts to save home are succeeding in next few days.

President Reagan’s Chicago home was written up as having “Landmark Potential” during Reagan’s presidency, i.e., May 1986, and two months later was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Then, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his Landmarks Commission (including new political appointees inexperienced in preservation) denied it landmark status—now that President Barack Obama is in office and his presidential library will in all likelihood be located not far from Reagan’s Chicago home. 

For more information, see:

Author in front of Reagan Chicago Home, November 30, 2012.
Credit: Matthew A. Rarey.
Demolition equipment that showed up behind the Reagan home
the day after Christmas; one of three back hauls, usually equipped
with a shovel, which they retrofit with  jaws to pick up debris after boom
destroys building, placing it in piles for carting away.
Wrecking crane that showed up behind the Reagan home
the day after Christmas
Reagan home is being readied for demolition, shown here with
metal fencing and green cloth, to catch dust produced during
the demolition,  temporary construction erected mid-December

About Me

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I am a writer and producer. My book, "Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends," was published in 2015 in the United States and in Spain in 2016 under the title "También Dios pasa por Hollywood." Also, see me on Twitter @maryclairerose and Linked In.