This is the week that was (if you get that reference you are even older than I)
Monday the weather was nice so our Preservation Planning class did a little bit of a walk downtown to see the vistas of the proposed new demolitionaddition to the Chicago Athletic Association from the park (see picture). Millenium Park is inspiring a lot of positive developments but also a lot of mischievous landmark-slicing-and-dicing. Then we walked west to tell the tale of Block 37, from its 1973 semi-racist anti-urban inspiration through the precociously pro-active preservation community response in 1980, when Landmarks Illinois and the National Trust agreed to let four historic buildings go in order to save four others on the block. Then in 1982 the City guidelines recommended saving three buildings and the developer in 1983 said he would save one and two facades, so the city landmarked the McCarthy Building in 1984 and then the developer flip-flopped and asked the city to de-landmark the building in 1987, which they did and Landmarks Illinois sued to the state Supreme Court and lost and the building and every landmark on the block was demolished in 1989. And then….nothing.
Our class, here in 2007 MORE than 18 years after the demolition, watched the new building rise. In the meantime this block-sized I-told-you-so hosted Skate on State and Gallery 37, which many of my students grew up with. There we were – standing across from the site of the McCarthy Building – where I had been photographed exactly 20 years ago and a full generation had passed and that new generation was standing here listening to me tell the story of landmarks demolished before the were in first grade (at least some of them). And of course the whole thing was a TIF district which means the $60 million land write-down was financed by the increased real estate taxes the site would bring and I don’t know who their accountant is but she has to account for 18 years of no flippin’ taxes at all at all at all.
Monday night John Bryan was there for the SAIC event honoring the new endowed chairs, of which I am fortunate enough to have one with John Bryan’s notable name which is a great name to have because he saved the Farnsworth House and built Millenium Park and has helped the National Trust and is most recently enthusiastic for Edgar Miller. Barbi and Tom Donnelley and Jerry Adelmann and David Bahlman were there bless them all. Later we had a nice dinner with Mr. Bryan and his wife Neville and my mother was there along with Felicity and we gave Mr. Bryan one of the books from our 2006 photo documentation trip to Weishan, China. Meanwhile the painters were at the house.
Tuesday was another class with Andrew Heckencamp from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency listening to our Archival Documentation students presenting their rough-draft National Register nominations, then an Executive Committee meeting at Landmarks Illinois where we discussed all the hot issues like Chicago Athletic Association demolitionaddition, Shedd Aquarium’s demi-addition and Evanston’s Hahn building saved by a skyscraper and then home to get the kids from school and then back downtown for the Partners in Preservation event where the winners of the $1 million were announced and l felt good for places we work with like Unity Temple and South Side Community Arts Center but I felt bad for the Roger Brown Home and Studio and Pleasant Home, two sites where I sit on committees and even though I sat on the big committee I couldn’t get them more money but at least there was an open bar.
Wednesday we met with Bill about the other house and Wednesday afternoon I met with students and showed Bill’s sister Anne, our star faculty member, the plans for the other house and met with prospective students and then finally got some work done on the award application for Paul’s house and dashed home just in time to meet with the mason and spent the night clearing out the basement. Thursday we had another painter at the house and I met with another prospective student and went up to the Apple store because the shift key came off this machine but they were packed out so I came back and Ursula at the Help desk fixed it bless her and then I had a meeting with Exhibition and Events Committee and then home for more basement cleaning and packing and pruning.
Now it is Friday and we met a plumber and an appraiser and I talked to two roofers and then I let Felicity take me shopping even though I suffer severely from male pattern shopping disorder although I did get some shoes and it wasn’t as painful as a root canal maybe because it was Friday and now I am on the train again and it seems that this is the only place I can write or get work done like that piece I want to submit to JSAH about Barry Byrne. The funny thing about packing and going through old boxes of stuff and putting things in new boxes and trying to lighten the load is you get sort of a flashback of your life or various odd bits of it and there are always bits you forgot even if you have a memory like mine and it gives a sense of depth, of time, that is always absent from the immediate everyday, a sense of depth like I tried to convey to my students at Block 37, to see the block not just now but in time and its various incarnations and like now with the PhD and the endowed Chair I am starting to feel that depth in me although when you thumb through the photos and clippings in the basement boxes you see it was there all along and it is not new and I wonder if anything is new but when a lot is happening everything feels new because that is the sensation of new, the sensation of activity and action and energy in the immediate everyday which is a sensation not a real thing or at least not an historic fact until time circles around and reminds you that now matter how much you laugh or cry there will be a next week.