Saturday, May 26, 2012

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): What makes place historic? Helps if old

It seems Chicago has a new site on the National Register of Historic Places – although my guess is that it won’t be one that comes to most peoples’ minds.

The National Park Service has created the Cermak Road Bridge Historic District fto help influence future development of the blocks around the bridge that crosses over the South branch of the Chicago River.

I DON’T KNOW of anybody who lives in that district, or of any businesses in that area that I patronize on a regular basis. In fact, when I think of the area, all I envision are some warehouses.

Yet that is what federal and state officials (the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency helps administer the historic sites program) are hoping to pay tribute to. Because it seems that all of the buildings within the district date back to the first few years of the 20th Century, and the bridge also was constructed back in the same time period.

In short, it is a place that has changed very little despite the passage of time. It still looks much the same. So it gets the historic designation – even though any events that actually occurred in that area during the past century likely wouldn’t trigger any memories in the minds of the average person.

The desire to preserve the “feel” of Chicago from those old days is what will be behind the historic designation. I’m just wondering how long will it be before some developer tries to come up with ideas for “revitalizing” the area that he complains are being interfered with by these “history zealots” the way that some people rant and rage about environmentalists somehow interfering with business?

YES, I HAVE to admit to getting a kick out of this newest historic site designation. Because I realize that our society has to keep some sense of where we’ve been, if we’re to fully appreciate what direction we ought to be heading in.

It would be easy for one new development to crop up to something of significance and ruin the effect. To me, the best example of that is the National Park that was created out of the blocks immediately surrounding the Abraham Lincoln home in Springfield, Ill.

Federal officials try to make the neighborhood look like it did when the Lincoln family actually lived there in the 1850s. But because officials didn’t get control of all the property in the area until the 1940s, some of the neighborhood houses have advanced beyond the desired time period. It can have a jarring effect.

What else is notable these days about life along the shores of the southwestern portions of Lake Michigan?

NOW WE KNOW WHAT HE WON’T DO:  I got my chuckles from listening to soon-to-be former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who told us he won’t run for political office and won’t become a criminal defense attorney.

He claims not to know what he’s going to do with his life once his “summer break” is complete. It seems he did make a recommendation to Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., as to who he thinks should succeed him. But it seems that Durbin is honoring Fitzgerald’s desire not to publicly name that person at this point.

So we really don’t know at this point what’s going to become of the man, except for one thing.

He’s not planning to go back to his native New York City; he’s come to love living in Chicago. He says he’s staying. Which means on some level, he has some sense!

YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN:  Author Thomas Wolfe could have written the headline for the reports this week about the disappointment felt by Barack Obama for the couple of days he was in town during the NATO Summit held at McCormick Place.

The president publicly said that he couldn’t be at Wrigley Field to watch his fan favorite White Sox beat up on the Cubs because he’s not allowed to have much fun built into his working schedule.

But on a more serious note, he wasn’t even allowed to stop by the family residence in the Hyde Park neighborhood for a quickie visit. Which was something he had hoped to do.

Security was so tight that the roads leading up to his home were shut down for the duration. Even the president got inconvenienced by the NATO-related security.

SOMETHING FOR SOX FANS TO LOOK FORWARD TO?:  Could the big story of Chicago baseball in 2012 turn out to be a battle for who gets to be Comeback Player of the Year?

The annual award to the player who showed the most improvement compared to the prior year is something that could wind up being won by a White Sox – although whether it would be the “Big Donkey” or the man some fans try to call “Joliet Jake” is arguable.

The “Donkey,” of course, is Adam Dunn, who has wisecracked about how he expects to win the award this year because of how awful his 2011 season was.  Going into Friday, Dunn had hit 14 home runs and had a .568 slugging percentage – although the one category he was leading the American League in was strikeouts (68 in 155 at-bats).

But then there is Jake Peavy – the one-time National League Cy Young Award winner who has been truly mediocre pitching in Chicago. Thus far this year, he has a 5-1 won/loss record with a 2.39 earned run average and has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5-1 – which is overpowering.


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