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Dateline Dixon: Reagan's boyhood home in Chicago faces demolition, and that's OK

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 1:44 p.m. CDT

DIXON – Chicago is not in any rush to compete with Dixon when it comes to preserving Ronald Reagan's history.

One of Reagan's little-known boyhood homes in Chicago is facing demolition.

A vacant six-flat building at 832 E. 57th St., where a 4-year-old Reagan lived, could see the wrecking ball as the University of Chicago expands in that area, according to several Chicago media reports.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks told me the building does not meet the criteria for landmark status. It does not have architectural significance and is not associated with Reagan during his productive years. The building is not marked.

Reagan, whose family moved often, lived there only a year. The Reagans also lived in Tampico, Galesburg and Monmouth before moving in 1920 to Dixon, where he lived in a few different homes.

Reagan survived pneumonia in the gas-lit Chicago apartment, and he and his 6-year-old brother, Neil, sold popcorn while living there.

The 40th president and Barack Obama are the only two U.S. presidents to have lived in Chicago.

Of course, Reagan's first Dixon home on Hennepin Avenue was turned into a museum that attracts thousands of tourists to the area.

While some Republican organizations and Lost Chicago, a landmark conservation group, oppose the Chicago demolition, maintaining the building and marking it as a landmark doesn't seem right.

Not everything a famous person touches needs to be preserved. It should depend on the strength of the connection.

Reagan's story is woven into the history of Dixon, where his family finally settled and where resident historians, who met Reagan, can share stories of his life in detail. In a metropolis like Chicago, with so many other stories to tell, the residence could get lost in the shadows, like it has for many years.

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