Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Redd Griffin & Reagan's Chicago Home

My friend Redd Griffin of Oak Park, who was my mentor on Hemingway, about whom I'm writing, sent me the article below on October 29, 2012, as he worked to save Reagan's Chicago home. He wanted to know what I thought. Was the article compelling?  Did I think it would encourage people to rally behind the cause?  He had worked tenaciously for over a year to bring attention locally to the impending demolition of Reagan's Chicago home and had reached out to me for help in the effort to save it.  That Reagan was four when he lived there, a most formative time, and formed his first memories and had such character-shaping experiences there, sold me. 

Redd died suddenly of a heart attack on November 20.

On November 30, I was scheduled to go to Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois for what was supposed to be an entirely Hemingway-focused weekend. But, it soon became a Reagan-focused weekend, as well, starting with a visit to Reagan's birthplace in Tampico on December 1, and ending with a visit to Hemingway's birthplace in Oak Park on December 2.  En route back to Midway Airport, I saw a young African-American woman on the L, with rotting teeth, and my heart went out.  Reagan's philosophy, properly understood and reflected, holds such promise for those like that woman who suffer great poverty.  I soon picked up Redd's cause, with that young woman and others like her in mind, founding the national organization, Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home, which we incorporated in the State of Illinois on January 16, 2013, with the idea of establishing a center and museum on the site of his home, celebrating what Reagan stood for, really -- not as it's reflected through a filter of liberal bias.  

The home was demolished on April 4, 2013 by the University of Chicago after the City of Chicago refused to landmark it.  

       - Mary Claire Kendall, President, Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home

Ronald Reagans Chicago Home

By John R. Schmitt
Originally published in Chicago History Today 

Before Barack Obama, only one U.S. President had called Chicago his home.  As a boy Ronald Reagan lived on the first floor of this Hyde Park building.

832 E. 57th St., Chicago, Illinois - Hyde Park -  Reagan's childhood home, age 4, in 1915, 
soon to be razed to make room for the new University of Chicago Medical Center
The Reagans moved into their apartment in January 1915.  They’d come to the city from the western Illinois village of Tampico.  Jack Reagan, the father, got a job selling shoes in the Loop.  His wife Nelle stayed home with the two boys, 6-year-old Neil and little Ron—called “Dutch”—who was going on 4.

The University of Chicago was a few blocks to the east, but the area where the Reagans settled wasn’t fashionable.  Nor was the building—their flat was lighted by a single gas lamp, which operated when a quarter was deposited in a timer.  They probably picked the location for its easy access to the Cottage Grove streetcar line.

After living in tiny Tampico, Chicago was a brave new world for Dutch Reagan.  He was excited to see all the people and activity.  When a horse drawn fire engine clanged by his apartment window, he decided there could be no finer profession than being a Chicago fireman.

Jack, Neil, Dutch, Nelle
All was not pleasant for Dutch.  He came down with bronchial pneumonia and nearly died.  A neighbor brought over a set of lead soldiers for the boy to play with, and they became his favorite toy.

Jack Reagan was a drinker, which didn’t help the family finances...  For entire article click here.

UNKNOWN CHICAGO SOURCES: Reagan, An American Life (1990); Morris, Dutch (1999).