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.

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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.