Hettie (hettie_lz) wrote,

Из вчерашней Трибуны...

Как всегда, возможно, не-подписчикам не видно, но я просто тихо пожалуюсь. Вот что бывает, когда дом официально не внесен в списки памятников архитектуры. Этому "рабочему коттеджу" было 130 лет, и он был уникален - крохотное воплощение "американской мечты", дом, куда рабочий мог вернуться после длинного трудового дня и - быть-таки дома. В своей маленькой крепости.

Не вписывается в дорогой, модный район... снесли.

А, уже увидела, что не-подписчикам не видно. Копирую под кат

Through the commotion, even as it was dwarfed by a tall new building next door, the little blue house — 600 square feet, 800 if you counted the basement — lived on.

Until Tuesday.

In the sunny September morning, a giant track hoe shuddered onto the undersized lot. It bit off the back stairs, crushed the old wood floor and chewed up one wall at a time until all that was left were rubble and memory.

Thom Hale, who lived there for a couple of years in the early 2000s with his wife and young daughter, stopped by to snap a photo.

"It was one of the remnants of the old working-class neighborhood that this used to be," he said. "Also of a time when our expectation of space was somewhat different."

The little blue house was a classic worker cottage of the kind that proliferated in the city after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Bob Bruegmann, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, calls the cottages "miracles of social mobility."

"Chicago was the first city that grew up with the railroad," he said, "and because of that it could grow up with lower densities. And because of cheap lumber, it could have single-family houses that few cities in the East or Europe could have."

Nowhere else — not in Philadelphia or New York or Baltimore — could such a sizable portion of the working class own a detached home.

The cottages, said Tim Samuelson, Chicago's cultural historian, satisfied a workers' dream in the big industrial city of coming home after a day of hard work and low pay to a place you could call your own.

The cottages were scattered around the young city, sometimes sitting alone on what was then cheap, open land, as Lincoln Park once was, and they still exist in many neighborhoods. Some are dilapidated. Others, as in Old Town, which has strong landmark protections, have been refurbished with a high gloss.

But in Lincoln Park, most are gone. The little blue house on Armitage was the most conspicuous survivor.

"That's Chicago's epicenter for gentrification and urban renewal," said Bruegmann. "It's ground central for the complete remaking of the landscape. It's the funniest thing, in a way. What attracted people to begin with was that it was a wonderful modest neighborhood, full of worker cottages and bungalows. But one by one, they were either remodeled beyond recognition or torn down for something bigger."

After the little blue house went up for sale almost a decade ago, a neighborhood blogger proposed ways it might be saved.

"Maybe the rich people could donate it as a tax write-off to the Chicago History Museum," she wrote. "Or, maybe it could be a children's center or a garden and a small park. Perhaps a retail shop might like it and extend the Armitage shopping district a bit further east."

Eric Rojas, a real estate agent, was another of the people who fell under its spell. Last fall, he posted about it on his blog — "My partner Bob has half-joked for years that it's the perfect house for him" — and he posted about it again this past Sunday.

"Still hanging on!" he wrote. "Lincoln Park's curious cottage on Armitage yet to be developed."

"Holy cow!" he said when I informed him Tuesday that it was gone. "It's like I lost somebody."

But, in real estate as in the rest of life, love does not guarantee salvation.

"A lot of people loved this little house," said Grey Novak when I stopped by Tuesday morning.

Novak's father, John, who owns a big construction company and lives nearby, bought the house in 2008. Grey and his girlfriend lived there happily with two dogs for six years.

Once, he recalled, a woman dropped by to tell him that the cottage had been called "the love house," in honor of the elderly couple who had lived there until one of them passed away.

But now, he said, it was time to move ahead.

"I don't like the word developed," he said. "It's too raw and cold."

He prefers the word progress.

On the top of a pickup truck, he spread out the plans for the new house he hopes will carry the spirit of the old one. Big windows. Yellow pine floors. At 1,600 square feet, still cozy by neighborhood standards.

Just before the track hoe fired up, we went inside, under the low ceilings, into the tiny kitchen and eating area, on into the 13-foot-wide living room, then, avoiding the moldy basement, up the narrow wooden stairs to the crow's nest.

We stood for a moment with the ghosts of 128 years.

Two hours later, the little blue house — relic of a time when a tiny cottage felt like privilege and when living small was normal — had vanished.

Tags: chicago, history

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