Atlantic Cities

Bizarre Preservation Fixation of the Day: Ronald Reagan's Childhood Home

Bizarre Preservation Fixation of the Day: Ronald Reagan's Childhood Home
ChicagoGeek/Flickr

If George Washington had slept here, that would be one thing.

Instead, it was Ronald Reagan and his family who called this 1893 South Side building home from 1914 to 1915, when the future president was between the ages of three and four.

This slice of American history wasn't enough to save the building from demolition by the University of Chicago, which has owned the property since 2004. Despite the efforts of preservationists, Heneghan Wrecking turned their steel-clawed machines on 832 E. 57th St. on Tuesday. The site will become a construction staging area for additions to the University Medical Center, and will feature a plaque commemorating its historical significance.

In his memoirs, quoted by DNAinfo Chicago, Reagan remembers a cramped, gas-lit apartment where the family lived in poverty and young Reagan lay bedridden with a bronchial infection:

“I spent hours standing them up on the bed covers and pushing them back and forth in mock combat. To this day I get a little thrill out of seeing a cabinet full of toy soldiers,” Reagan recalled.

Living in Chicago “introduced me to a congested urban world of gas-lit sidewalks and streets alive with people, carriages, trolley cars, and occasional automobiles,” Reagan said. “Once, while watching a clanging horse-drawn fire engine race past me with a cloud of steam rising behind it, I decided that it was my intention in life to become a fireman.”

Courtesy Flickr/ChicagoGeek.

HT: DNAinfo Chicago.

Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at The Atlantic Cities. He lives in New York. All posts »

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