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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Who knew Hyde Park had a Reagan connection?

832 E. 57th St.
ALSO note that this home was the subject of a post over at Unknown Chicago, a ChicagoNow blog.

So Hyde Park can now claim two Presidents although one of them spent only a brief time in this area of my city. Brought to the fore thanks to this Sun-Times article:
Locked up, abandoned and forgotten, the vacant six-flat standing at the northeast corner of 57th and Maryland has no plaques or statues and few clues to its history.

Now, the little-known childhood home of Ronald Reagan in Hyde Park could soon be torn down by the University of Chicago, which has quietly plotted its demolition, the Sun-Times has learned.

The plan has made unlikely allies of conservatives who consider Reagan an icon and liberal Hyde Parkers who say the university’s secrecy is typical of how it has treated its neighbors for decades.

It puts the school that provided the intellectual force behind “Reaganomics” in the awkward spot of attempting to destroy what was until the election of Barack Obama the only home in Chicago where a president has lived.
This is what the need for preservation is about:
Hyde Park Historical Society board member Jack Spicer, also the president of all-volunteer Preservation Chicago, said the Reagan six-flat — just a mile south of President Obama’s Kenwood home — is the finest remaining example of what was once a solid working and middle-class black neighborhood. Destroying it would create “a medical canyon” that separates the hospital from the city and risks deepening long-standing wounds in university-resident relations, he said.

“Whatever you think of Reagan — once the building’s gone, it’s gone forever,” he added.

Landmarks Illinois president Jim Peters also said that he would like to see the block preserved. Reagan’s home is protected by a zoning giving critics 90 days to object if and when the university announces a plan to destroy it, he said.

Further headaches could come from conservatives keen to name everything from aircraft carriers to schools in Reagan’s honor.
How did they find this place?
Park Ridge resident Tom Roeser, 82, discovered the link in the early 1980s when he pressed Reagan for details of the home during a visit to the White House. Reagan couldn’t remember the address, but passed on a message: “My father was picked up often as a common drunk — the police records should have that fact.”

Records confirmed that John R. Reagan was arrested by Chicago Police for drunkenness in 1915, giving the 57th Street address, said Roeser, a former op-ed columnist for the Sun-Times and a former Quaker Oats vice president.
You never know what place or places have an historical connection.

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