CHICAGO, Illinois, January 25, 2013 - A new Cold War is brewing here in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and it has nothing to do with the frigid temperature.
The apartment building at 832 E. 57th Street was once the Chicago home of a boy who would become a President.
No, it’s not Barack Obama of Hawaii. It was at the apartment’s first floor window that a young Ronald Reagan looked out upon the world.
But some powerful Chicagoans are planning to demolish Reagan’s historic home. Is it politically motivated? Is Mayor Rahm Emanuel behind the move?
It was a different world back in 1915. Reagan’s family had moved here from Tampico, Illinois. His father had gotten a job at the famed Marshall Field’s – now only a memory. A coin-operated gas lamp was the only home’s only source of heat.
But it didn’t stop a young “Dutch” Reagan from dreaming.
Young Reagan would watch the horse-drawn fire engines galloping wildly down the streets to save the day and he decided that he, too, would become a firefighter. It was here, too, that he survived a bout with pneumonia – he had the fight in him even then.
You can almost imagine him skipping down these streets, playing with his brother Neil, whose nickname was “Moon.”
What makes a man great? And what makes a great president? Historians pen large tomes about that. Every man is the sum of his experiences – his loves, his losses, his achievements, and failures. How he sees the world and how the world sees him.
And this place – this place was a part of Reagan’s formative years – what he discovered and experienced here in Chicago helped him on the way to greatness.
Now, the University of Chicago Medical Center has announced plans to turn Reagan’s Chicago home into a parking lot.
In 2012, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks denied Reagan’s home landmark status. The University of Chicago set demolition for January and the bulldozers quickly moved in. The wrecking balls are ready.
A “plaque” could mark the historic spot instead, say university representatives.
In January, Reagan’s home was granted a last minute stay of execution by the City of Chicago, at least for now. But the clock is ticking and it could be 90 days or less before demolition begins.
While the university is planning to kill Reagan’s home, University of Chicago is also aggressively lobbying to be the site of President Barack Obama’s presidential library.
Could the Reagan site become a parking lot for Obama’s library? Opponents of the demolition say yes.
There is good reason for them to be suspicious.
First Lady Michelle Obama and the president’s close advisor Valerie Jarrett are former top executives of the University of Chicago Medical Center. President Obama was a lecturer at the law school for twelve years. And let’s not forget, Obama’s Hyde Park home is here too.
This is still Chicago. Barack Obama’s Chicago. Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago.
It is safe to say that Democrats don’t want any reminders of a Republican president named Reagan and his glory days a stone’s throw from a future Obama Presidential Library.
Better to raze the building now, than later. But do they have the right to erase Ronald Reagan from Chicago history?
Only time – and that wrecking ball - will tell.
William J. Kelly is an Emmy award-winning TV producer and conservative columnist. He is also a contributor to the American Spectator and Breitbart.com. He is a native from
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