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20 years



University of Chicago will tear down
childhood home of Ronald Reagan for
planned Barack Obama Library.
In 2004 the University of Chicago Medical Center purchased several row homes bordering other property owned by the Medical Center. One of them—an apartment building—was located at 832 E. 57th Street in an area of Chicago known as Hyde Park. At the time they purchased the residences, UCMC said it was making plans to expand the Medical Center at some later date. The homes, which were occupied by tenants until 2011 would be demolished to provide additional parking space for a greatly expanded medical center. At least, that was the plan in 2004. In 2009 that plan changed. Now, according to the left, it changed again. But, don't believe them. We'll get into that in a few minutes.

Although it was not public knowledge at the time, one of those homes (forefront) in the block of row houses purchased by UCMC to specifically demolish at some future date for the planned expansion of the medical center was located at 832 E. 57th Street in what is known as the Hyde Park district of Chicago. John Reagan, the father of Ronald Reagan rented the first floor apartment in 1914. The Reagans lived there for a year. Ultimately the family moved to Dixon, Illinois. Reagan said he remembered the Hyde Park house fondly, since it was there he decided—when he grew up—that he was going to be a firefighter.

The University has owned the property since 2004. In 2011 the University of Chicago evicted all of the tenets and made plans to demolish all of the buildings it owned in the Hyde Park area to build, the university said with deliberate vagueness, some "...unknown University of Chicago facility."

It was about that time in 2011 and 2012 people who didn't know, discovered that 832 E. 57th St. was the childhood home of former President Ronald Wilson Reagan. Many learned it from the Washington Times which reported that the University of Chicago, which had been negotiating with Barack Obama to place his presidential library there, planned to turn Reagan's childhood home into a parking lot for the future library.

Reagan's father found employment at Marshall Field's in 1914 and the family packed up and moved to Chicago from Tampico, IL (where the future president was born one hundred years before the UCMC began evicting all of the tenants still living in the historic site in 2011). I wonder if the family evicted from the old Reagan apartment in 2011 knew the 40th President of the United States lived there in 1914? I wonder if there was a child sleeping in Reagan's bedroom in the 57th Street flat? I wonder if he knew that the greatest man in the 20th century slept where he slept and, perhaps, the newest tenet dreamed the same dreams that a great man dreamed there as a child?

Four separate efforts were made by Chicagians, proud of the fact that a President slept in Hyde Park every night in 1914, to gain historic landmark status for the building on 57th St. in order to protect it from demolition.

The leftwing-controlled Commission on Chicago Landmarks denied the applications each time. In one instance, the Commission ruled that the building at 832 E. 57th Street "...lacked architectural significance," and was not worthy of landmark status. On another instance the Commission rejected the request because "...the building was not associated with Reagan during his active and productive years and because the 40th President did nothing notable while living there." Of course, since Reagan was only three, it's understandable. However, at age 3, toddler Ronald Wilson Reagan developed a severe case of bronchial pneumonia in that first floor flat, and almost died in there. But, I guess that wasn't notable enough.

I wonder what significant thing Bubba Billy Clinton did as a child in Hope, Arkansas to merit his childhood home being declared a historic landmark? Delivering The Grit every Saturday morning? Oh, wait. I know. He was a "good ole boy" who grew up as a social progressive Jimmy Carter-Democrat. If he was a Reagan conservative Republican, his house would likely be the parking lot for the Hope, Arkansas Dairy Queen or Dollar General. And, even though it's not architecturally significant and even though Clinton did absolutely nothing notable while he lived there, his childhood home was designated as a historic landmark.

It seemed the more interest conservatives had in preserving the building at 832 E. 57th St. as a historic landmark, the more the bully-boy bosses of Chicago—particularly Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel—became more determined that it wouldn't happens. Having a Reagan-reminder in front, or just behind, a social progressive illegal alien "presidential" library just wouldn't work. There's no way the Cook County political bosses would allow a Reagan historic landmark within a country mile of an Obama library. Nor, for that matter, a national landmark designated by a brass plaque on the side of the road to tell the historic significance of what used to stand in that spot.

When the Commission of Chicago Landmarks denied that status to Reagan's home-for-a-year in Hyde Park at the end of 2012, saying a historic marker plaque could serve to remind people that the former president once lived in a home that time replaced with a parking lot. Savoring their victory, the University of Chicago scheduled the wrecking balls to begin the demolition in January, 2013. Pressure from citizens groups gave 832 E. 57th St. a brief reprieve. But the clock is still ticking. The University continues to fight for its right to convert those dwellings into an asphalt parking lot. As the University fights the people of Chicago to let progress have its way as it lobbies the White House for a signed contract, it's now using old style Chicago politics to convince the city that there never was a deal, or an attempt to close a deal, to put the Obama Library in the Hyde Park area, but only to expand the Medical Center in order to give better medical care to the people of Illinois.

Chiming in to convince Chicagoland that the story was never true is chicagoist.com, edited by a Chicago blogger named Chuck Sudo, one of several Obama fans who spin the news in Chicagoland. The apparently "authorless" piece (no author credits), which was immediately challenged by Fox News, screamed: "Reagan's childhood home will not be demolished for Obama library." The three paragraph "story" continued: "...One of President Ronald Reagan's childhood homes is due to be demolished, and it could be the future home for...Barack Obama's...library...or so says a columnist for conservative newspaper The Washington Times in a breathless, panicky editorial. Indeed, it's just a rumor, although it's true that the home where Reagan lived for just one year as a small child is due to be demolished, having been denied landmark status on more than one occasion."

The Chicago Sun-Times seemed to nod agreement with its own piece, saying: "Locked up, abandoned and forgotten, the vacant six flat standing at the northeast corner of 57th and Maryland has no plaques or statutes 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 Sun-Times said an unlikely alliance of conservatives who consider Reagan an icon has made the university's plan unlikely. People in Hyde Park said the university's secrecy about all things is typical of how it has treated its neighbors for decades, suggesting the neighborhood is convinced the home will be demolished.

Here's the rub that makes the Sun-Times' conclusion likely. Washington Times reporter William Kelly pointed out in his piece that Michelle Obama and Barack Obama's closest advisor, Valerie Jarrett are both former top executives of the University of Chicago Medical Center—and both of them have a ton of clout with the Board of Regents at the university. Add to that, Kelly pointed out, Obama himself was a lecturer at the law school for 12 years. Kelly also reminded us not to forget that Obama's Chicago home is in Hyde Park.

And, of course, Rahm Emanuel, one of Obama's closest friends, is still the mayor of Chicago and since he has inherited Big Bill Daley's voting machines, he's likely to be mayor until he tires of the job or goes to prison.


Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
All rights reserved