Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Newsmax and Washington Times stories inaccurate

Dear Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home:

The claim published in Newsmax today and the Washington Times on Friday, re-posted in Drudge, that the University of Chicago is planning to demolish the Reagan home at 832 E. 57th Street to make way for a parking lot for the Obama Presidential Library is utterly inaccurate, according to informed sources in Hyde Park.

We will be responding at more length in the coming days leading up to the Gipper's birthday on February 6.

Meantime, please refer to our latest post for more information about the constructive steps Friends is taking to save the Reagan home and work with the university to transform it into a museum and center.

As always, thank you for your financial support.  Every dollar helps at this critical juncture! We will have the credit card portal up shortly. Meantime, you may use PayPal to make a donation or send a check to our P.O. Box.  For those who would like to wire funds, I am pleased to facilitate this.  Just give me a call. (Information on the right.)

Good night and God bless!

Sincerely yours,
Mary Claire Kendall
Acting President/CEO
Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home, Inc.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Progress Report: Little Picture & Big Picture

Dear Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home:

Two months ago today, on Friday, November 30, I stopped by President Reagan’s Chicago home, then poised for demolition, on my from Midway to the Palmer House, and decided it was a no-brainer it should be saved.  That day, Jack Spicer, Hyde Park Historical Society Preservation Committee Chair, told me that the property at 832 E. 57th Street, where President Reagan lived when he was four, would most likely be demolished by January 1, 2013. The same day, the Landmarks Commission told me that, in spite of Redd Griffin’s compelling submission (below), the home was not deemed worthy of landmark status.

I was soon joined by Peter Hannaford, Richard Allen and other key Reagan insiders and preservation devotees in this quest. Since then, we’ve made significant progress. 

In front of President Reagan's Chicago home,
832 E. 57th Street, Friday, November 30.
Credit: Matthew A. Rarey
After building our core team, including Shirley Banister Public Affairs, we began to publicize this national initiative to save President Reagan’s Chicago home starting with my “Hyde Park Showdown over Reagan's childhood home” in the Washington Examiner, followed by Peter Hannaford’s  “Historic Home or Grassy Strip?” published in The American Spectator and posted on Drudge.  

Over the holidays, when the demolition and wrecking equipment showed up on site, we sprang into action and, after lots of behind-the-scenes work from Tuesday, January 1 to Wednesday, January 9, we discerned a palpable shift in the winds. 

On Friday, January 11, Eleanor Gorski, Assistant Commissioner for Historic Preservation at the Department of Housing and Economic Development in Chicago, who approves demolition permits, affirmed that she fully expects the review process will take the full 90 days—until March 29—and that granting the Reagan home landmark status, after all, is one of the possibilities they are considering.  The day before, I called the department and was told by a staff person that there had been “a lot of back and forth” vis-à-vis the home at “higher levels” and someone would be contacting me.  Only two days before the department spokesperson, Pete Strazzobosco, was downplaying the worth of the Reagan home.  As he told the Hyde Park Herald, “It’s a pretty modest apartment building for its style and age. It doesn’t have very much style, at least not enough for the Landmarks Commission to consider a possible landmark for it.” (January 9 issue) But, the next day at 8 p.m., the University of Chicago’s student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon reported that, according to Strazzobosco, “the City of Chicago’s Historic Preservation Division will use this time to ‘reach out to the property owner and discuss alternatives to demolition.’” 

On Wednesday, January 16, the Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home incorporated in the State of Illinois and this week we added two new board members—Don Totten, the most prominent early Illinois Republican support of President Reagan, and Dan Proft, a rising star in the Illinois Republican Party and political commentator for WLS in Chicago

The little picture in this initiative is our current effort to raise seed money to pay for the costs of incorporating as a non-profit and other incidentals. We are on our way to achieving our goal of raising the initial $10,000 and appreciate your support, either by check, sent to P.O. Box 3772, Washington, D.C. 20027-3772, or credit card via the Pay Pal portal to the right.  And, for those who would like to wire funds, just give me a call and I'll be pleased to facilitate this. 

The big picture, of course, is the significant funds we are raising to work with the University of Chicago to transform the home into a Reagan Museum and Center. More about that soon.

Thanks for all your support.

Let’s win one more for the Gipper!

Sincerely yours,
Mary Claire Kendall
Acting President/CEO
Friends of President Reagan’s Chicago Home, Inc.

Submitted to Commission on Chicago Landmarks 
by Redd Griffin, May 17, 2011

Suggestion for Chicago Landmark
Suggested Building:  832 E. 57th Street
Additional Background Information

The 832 E. 57th Street Building in Hyde Park meets Criterion 3 (Significant Person) as it was the childhood home of Ronald Reagan from 1914 to 1915.  Though Reagan spent just a year in the six-flat building as a three- to four-year-old and most of his youth in western Illinois, he wrote fondly of the gas-lit first-floor apartment where his family resided in the building. 

In a 1988 letter, he described watching horse-drawn firefighters “come down the street at full gallop… the sight made me decide I wanted to be a fireman.”  He described surviving a near-fatal bout of pneumonia, playing with a neighbor’s set of lead soldiers, how his older brother was run over by a beer wagon and how they both panicked while his parents went out for groceries, left the house, and got lost across the Midway. 

The former Reagan home is adjacent to the University of Chicago campus, the school that provided the intellectual force behind “Reaganomics” and is a few blocks from its new Milton Friedman Institute—named in tribute to the architect of Reagan’s free market policies.

The 832 E. 57th Street Building also meets Criterion 4 (Important Architecture) as an excellent example of a six-flat building, a general building type of significance to the historic visual character of Chicago’s neighborhoods.  When the Hyde Park area began to be developed as a more densely populated urban neighborhood in the 1890s, small apartment buildings containing a variety of units were becoming common in new middle- and working-class neighborhoods. 

These include the City’s ubiquitous “two-flats” and “three-flats,” as well as larger “six-flats” and “corner” apartment buildings. 

The 832 E. 57th Street Building is an excellent example of the type of six-flat buildings scattered throughout the Hyde Park community and is noteworthy for its quality use of traditional building materials, including brick cladding with detailing in stone, wood and decorative metal.  The building features elements from the Classical and Queen Anne styles.  Notable ornamentation includes the two-story metal window bays featuring panels with festoons, a pressed metal cornice, and an arched front entrance trimmed in stone.  The building is prominently located on a corner lot and features excellent architectural integrity in terms of its design, materials and decorative detailing. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Reagan, Giant of American History, Once a Tike in Chicago

Dear Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home:

Today, as America witnesses another peaceful transfer of power, on this the 57th Presidential Inauguration Day since 1789, giving Barack Obama his last four-year lease on power, it's instructive to listen to newly minted President Ronald Reagan's Inaugural Address, preceded by his swearing in, on January 20, 1981.

In retrospect, now more than ever, it's clear President Reagan was one of the giants of American history, about whom he spoke that day, choking up when he recounted the story of one brave American soldier.
This is the first time in our history that this ceremony has been held, as you’ve been told, on the West Front of the Capitol.
Standing here, one faces a magnificent vista, opening up on this city’s special beauty and history. At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose shoulders we stand. Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man. George Washington, father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led America out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence. And then beyond the Reflecting Pool, the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.
Beyond those moments -- those monuments to heroism is the Potomac River, and on the far shore the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery, with its row upon row of simple white markers bearing crosses or Stars of David. They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom.
Each one of those markers is a monument to the kind of hero I spoke of earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, the Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno, and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam.
Under one such a marker lies a young man, Martin Treptow, who left his job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the Western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy fire. We’re told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, “My Pledge,” he had written these words: "America must win this war. Therefore, I will work; I will save; I will sacrifice; I will endure; I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone."
But, President Reagan wasn't born a giant.  He started out, like all of us, as a little tike, first in Tampico, Illinois (est. pop: 900), where he was born on February 6, 1911, and lived until age three.

"Dutch" Reagan circa 1914.  Photo of photo taken at
Birthplace of President Ronald Reagan Museum.

Not long after the above photo was taken, his father Jack would lose his job as general manager at Pitney's General Store, after it was sold. So he packed up and moved his family to Chicago (est. pop. 2.2 million) on December 15, 1914, where he got a job at Marshall Field and the Mayfair annex on the South Side.

It was in Chicago that Reagan's first and strongest memories were formed and his winning personality shaped more definitively.  He survived near-fatal pneumonia and decided he would be a fire-fighter, by golly, as he looked out his big front window and watched the horse-drawn fire engines galloping furiously down the street. Unbeknownst to his neighbors on E. 57th Street, he was being formed to fight fires, only the fires he would put out were of a bigger, geopolitical nature.

Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home continues to work vigorously according to our corporate purpose statement, included in the "It Can Be Done" post.

God Bless America!

Sincerely yours,
Mary Claire Kendall
Acting President/CEO
Friends of President Reagan's Chicago


Friday, January 18, 2013

"It Can Be Done"

Dear Friends of President Reagans Chicago Home:

We did it! We incorporated in the State of Illinois on Wednesday, January 16, 2013.  Here’s our corporate purpose statement: 
Friends of President Reagan’s Chicago Home (the Corporation) is organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (or a corresponding provision of any future United States Internal Revenue law).  More specifically, the Corporation is organized to develop and operate a museum and center located at 832 E. 57th Street, in partnership with home’s current owner, reflecting the historical relevance of Reagan’s life growing up there and elsewhere in Illinois. The museum and center will also celebrate President Reagan’s historic accomplishments, highlight his suffering with Alzheimer’s, complementing mission of nearby Center for Care and Discovery, and provide educational and community-enriching opportunities.  Friends also intends to make a contribution each year to the other Reagan homes in Illinois underscoring that “The Ronald Reagan Trail” is one, with Chicago home enhancing the whole.
And, the good news is, we raised our first seed money today to cover initial costs of incorporation and other incidentals, but have several hundred dollars more to go.  If you wish to help the cause, you may send your tax-deductible contributions made payable to Friends of Pres. Reagans Chicago Home to P.O. Box 3772, Washington, DC 20027-3772. Or for those who wish to make a contribution that will arrive more speedily, you may use PayPal by using donate button in the upper right.

President Reagan talking to Senator Alphonse D'Amato, with the
"It Can Be Done" gold inscribed dark red leatherette placard in the foreground.
With your support, we’re on our way to winning one more for the Gipper!

As Ronald Reagan always said, “It can be done.”

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,
Mary Claire Kendall
Acting President/CEO
Friends of President Reagans Chicago Home

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Friends Poised to Incorporate

Dear Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home:

Tomorrow, the Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home will incorporate in Illinois.

We will be blogging here at

For information on the early stages of this national initiative, December 14, 2012 to January 13, 2013, see "Mary Claire's Pearl's of Wisdom."  

This initiative came about when I visited Chicago on November 30, for a Hemingway-focused weekend after my mentor on Hemingway, Redd Griffin of Oak Park, suddenly and unexpectedly died on November 20.  He was the main person championing the cause of saving Reagan's South Side Chicago home on the edge of the University of Chicago campus.  Little Dutch Reagan lived there in that home with his family in 1915.

Little Ronald "Dutch" Reagan, standing next to his mother Nelle,
just before moving to Chicago. To his right is his brother Neil,
nicknamed "Moon," and his father Jack.

When I stopped by the home on my way from Midway into town, it was a no-brainer it should be saved.  A week later, I wrote about it in the Washington Examiner and two days later Peter Hannaford penned a piece for the American Spectator.

Let's win one more for the Gipper and save the only Chicago home of the only president born and bred in Illinois.  To support the cause, you may send tax-deductible contributions to:

Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home 
P.O. Box 3772
Washington, DC 20027-3772 

Thank you for your support.

Sincerely yours,

Mary Claire Kendall
Acting President/CEO
Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home

Mary Claire Kendall in front of the Reagan home at
832 E. 57th Street, Chicago, IL, on Friday, November 30, 2012.
Credit: Matthew A. Rarey