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.

File/WhiteHouse.gov

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.” http://washingtonexaminer.com/hyde-park-showdown-over-reagans-childhood-home/article/2515272#.UOZfoKllTQM  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.

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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.