Sunday, January 06, 2013

(Photos) Endangered Chicago Reagan apartment amid rubble

This afternoon I drove to Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood to check the status of what I call the Ronald Reagan apartment. In 1915 "Dutch" Reagan and his family lived in an apartment at 832 E. 57th Street. The University of Chicago has owned the building since 2004. It's across the street from the University of Chicago's Medical Center's New Pavillion. Ironically, Michelle Obama and White House Senior Counsel Valerie Jarrett are former top executives of the Med Center. President Obama once taught constitutional law at the university, which is now lobbying to be the site of his presidential library.

Last month, Heneghan Wrecking, working on behalf of the U of C, filed for a demolition permit for the Reagan apartment. But almost immediately, the City of Chicago put that permit request on hold. There is a 90-day maximum for this action. Several neighboring buildings have already been torn down.

The full address of the building is 832-834 E. 57th Street. As you can see, the flats on the left are already being demolished. The Reagans lived on the first floor. Metal fencing and green construction cloth now surround the dwelling.

In An American Life, Reagan recalled his time in the city:
Our stay in Chicago introduced me to a congested urban world of gaslit sidewalks and streets alive with people, carriages, trolley cars, and occasional automobiles. Once, while watching a clanging horse-drawn fire engine race past me with a cloud of steam rising behind it, I decided that it was my intention to become a fireman.

There I am in front of the Reagan building in happier days--the summer of 2011.

"University of Chicago...tear down this wall!"

Way in back is the Med Center's New Pavillion. Dutch's apartment is on the right.

An unlucky neighbor of the Reagan building.

The back of the Reagan apartment. Moving in for the kill?

The future of the Reagan apartment?

The University of Chicago does have some sense of history. Pictured above is the sign for Staff Field and the Haydon Track, which is one block north of the Reagan building. When the Maroons were coached by Amos Alonzo Stagg, they were a national football powerhouse and a member of what is now the Big 10. Ted Haydon was a longtime coach for the Chicago track team. Both are members of their sport's respective Hall of Fames.

The university wants to replace the Reagan apartment and adjoining buildings with a parking lot and what it is calling green space. The Reagan building can stand and the U of C can have their parking lot. My suggestion for the building is to transform it into a Reagan-Milton Friedman museum. The Nobel Laureate was a University of Chicago economic professor; Reagan put Friedman's theories to work while president.

Dutch was the first president to live in Chicago and the only president who was born in Illinois.

As for the green space, Washington Park, one of the city's largest, is one block away from 832 E. 57th Street.

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