In a twist of irony, Ronald Reagan's famous challenge to "tear down this wall" now applies to another structure: The Gipper's one-time boyhood home in Chicago.
The six-flat building at 832 E. 57th St. in Hyde Park where Reagan lived for 10 months as a four-year-old is vacant, reports the Chicago Sun-Times, which proceeded to describe the home as "locked up, abandoned and forgotten."
Not everyone, however, has forgotten about the the home's brief-but-famous resident. The American Spectator reports several preservationists are trying to halt the demolition scheduled for later this year and perhaps raise enough money for a non-profit group to buy the building from its current owner, the University of Chicago.
The fight looks to be an uphill battle for those seeking to turn the home into a Ronald Reagan Hyde Park museum and public affairs center, according to the Spectator. Preservationists see a landmark, while the U of C sees a landscape: the scheduled demolition will reportedly make way for a grassy strip bordering a new parking lot that will be part of the university's expanded Medical Center.
Preservationists have an especially tough case to make, as the Sauk Vally Daily Gazette reports, the city's Commission on Chicago Landmarks has already turned down a bid to grant the building landmark status saying it doesn't meet the criteria because it holds no architectural significance and is not associated with Reagan's productive years.
Prior to Barack Obama, whose own home sits nearby to Reagan's former stomping grounds, Reagan was the only American President to have lived in Chicago. The Spectator reports U of C is also said to be "actively lobbying for an Obama Presidential Library" in the area.
Southside Preservation Action Fund leader Jack Spicer told The Chicago Maroon, the university's paper, “Regardless of what you think about Ronald Reagan, Reagan and his boyhood home here would deserve some respect. It’s Reagan’s only Chicago residence. Other than Obama’s house in Kenwood, it’s the only residence of any president in Chicago.”
Other boyhood homes around Illinois where Reagan spent significantly more time have been preserved or turned into museums.