A medical campus expansion riles fans of a former president,
University of Chicago Medicine’s new $700 million Center for Care and Discovery is scheduled to open Feb. 23 (See story, p. 22). But for some historical preservationists and conservative activists, the bigger countdown is for an old apartment building across the street.
The clock is ticking for the six-flat, which was given a 90-day stay of demolition on Dec. 27 by the city’s preservation staff. While the neighborhood attracts tourists because President Barack Obama’s home is nearby, all the fuss is because another U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, lived there briefly as a child (March 7, 2011, p. 36). The university’s plans call for tearing down the structure to expand the medical campus. Writer Mary Claire Kendall announced this month on her blog, Friends of President Reagan’s Chicago Home, that she will be collecting tax-deductible contributions to fight for the building’s preservation. “Let’s win one more for the Gipper and save the only Chicago home of the only president born and bred in Illinois,” Kendall wrote.
But the city and university offered little hope the building would be preserved.
Peter Strazzabosco, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development, said the president’s short residency earned the property its “orange” historical rating, which triggers an automatic 90-day demolition delay, during which the city and property owners discuss development plans and alternatives to demolition. But typically, only properties affiliated with a historical figure’s “active years” warrant city action for preservation, he said.
According to a statement from the university’s communications department, there are no plans to preserve the Reagan family’s old residence: “832 E. 57th St. is one of a number of vacant buildings the university owns that will be taken down to allow for expansion of the medical and biological research campus. The university has been in conversation with some members of the community about the possibility of a marker.”
Some buildings, shown above, near Ronald Reagan’s childhood Chicago home have
already been torn down. The future president, shown just prior to when his family moved to the city, lived at that
home in 1915.