Sunday, March 24, 2013

Time has almost run out to save the Chicago Reagan home from destruction

Reagan home earlier this month
The 90-day reprieve to save the only Chicago home of Ronald Reagan expires on Wednesday. The situation is bleak.

From the Weekly Standard:
Absent a miracle, Ronald Reagan's childhood home in Chicago will be slated for demolition this week to make way for a new facility owned by the University of Chicago. It's a sad and unnecessary end to a historic residence of a president born and bred in the state.

Those who would preserve the place have tried just about everything. But the small-minded Commission on Chicago Landmarks has refused to give the small apartment building on 57th Street landmark status. It's not "associated with Mr. Reagan during his active and productive years," and the building "does not have sufficient architectural significance," the commission decided. How about historic significance? Meanwhile, an effort to raise millions to buy the property and turn it into a Reagan museum failed to raise enough in time.

Was politics a factor here? Of course it was. Chicago is a Democratic redoubt and the Reagan site is in Hyde Park, better known as the neighborhood of President Obama. No doubt that home will be lovingly tended for centuries to come. And the University of Chicago is also said to be lobbying for an Obama Presidential Library in Hyde Park. Even a small Reagan presence—recalling a president who overshadows Obama—might clash.

The university won't bear all the blame when the Reagan home is torn down. Conservatives and Reagan fans are partly at fault. They haven't rallied to the cause, though they've had plenty of time to do so. Instead, they appear satisfied that Reagan's birthplace in Tampico, his home in Dixon as a teenager, and his four years at Eureka College are sufficient memorials to our 40th president's more than two decades in Illinois.
Reagan is the only president who was born in Illinois and lived here until accepting a broadcast job in Iowa after graduation. He was the first president to live in Chicago. Reagan was not Millard Fillmore, "Dutch" was one of the most consequential presidents in the history of our republic. And yes, Reagan has ties to the University of Chicago. He was a practitioner of the economic truths of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, a U of C professor.

More from my friends Nicholas Hahn III and Mary Claire Kendall, officers of Friends of President Reagan’s Chicago Home, Inc. in the Chicago Sun-Times:
The Friends of President Reagan's Chicago home proposes transforming 832 E. 57th Street into a museum and center. All the university needs to do is amend their plans. The museum would replicate the flat as it looked in 1915 when young "Dutch" Reagan, age 4, would gaze out the window to the excitement outside. The center would celebrate Reagan’s historic presidency and his diverse and inclusive background.

Ohio, IL
The ordinariness of it all — where one of our most extraordinary presidents once lived — is worth preserving.
As I have, "Friends" proposes adding the Hyde Park six-flat to the Ronald Reagan Trail, which connects all of the northern Illinois towns where Dutch lived--with one obvious omission--and other Prairie State locations with ties to our 40th president.

And yes, the Weekly Standard is right--conservatives have not rallied to the cause of the Chicago Reagan home.

But concerned people can help. You can mail a tax-deductible contribution to:
Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home
P.O. Box 3772
Washington, DC 20027-3772
Or you can contribute via PayPal.

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