Late Wednesday afternoon a story exploded across the Internet, pitting two historic presidents from opposite ends of the political spectrum against each other in Chicago.
The Daily Mail reported the Illinois boyhood home of Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. president, was being demolished to make way for parking outside the prospective spot for President Obama’s presidential library. Other media outlets soon picked up the story.
Pres Reagan boyhood home set to be demolished to make room for Pres Obama’s parking lot. Sometimes you don’t know what you got til it’s gone
— Erin Burnett (@ErinBurnett) January 30, 2013
But there were a few flaws with this narrative of epic partisan assault.
First, there’s the part about its being Reagan’s boyhood home. While it’s true the iconic Republican president lived there as a young child, he didn’t spend more than a year there. As a child, Reagan lived in six different homes in the Prairie State, according to his A+E biography.
Chicago Home didnt mean squat to my father.Please do supoort his boyhood home I do and so did my father.nps.gov/nr/travel/pres…
— Michael Reagan (@ReaganWorld) January 30, 2013
The only hope for saving the Chicago home would be if the landmarks commission recommended and the city council approved that it be designated a historical site.
But less than a year of Reagan’s young life spent there isn’t enough to make the building a historic landmark, according to Deputy Commissioner of Chicago Housing and Economic Development Peter Strazzabosco. For the commission to even pass it along to the city council for consideration, the president would have had to have lived there during what he called Reagan’s “productive years.”
“His brief residency as a child doesn’t qualify,” Strazzabosco said.
The next problem was the question of President Obama’s involvement.
The vacant building in question is owned by the University of Chicago. University spokesman Jeremy Manier said they do plan to tear it down – but for medical and biological research buildings, not President Obama’s future library.
“The University’s permit request currently is under review by the city,” Manier wrote in an emailed statement. “Recent media reports that have speculated on other potential uses of the property are inaccurate.”
Strazzabosco said those who hope to catch a last glimpse of the “modestly attractive” piece of architecture have at least until the end of March before the university gets its permit.
A 90-day hold was put on demolition permits for that building, thanks to a historic designation made in the ’80s – when Reagan was still in office.