HYDE PARK — Demolition began Tuesday on the Hyde Park apartment building where President Ronald Reagan lived for about two years as a child.
Crews from Heneghan Wrecking Co. were out with cranes fitted with large metal claws to pick apart the building at 832 E. 57th St., where the 40th U.S. president lived with his parents in 1914 and 1915.
The University of Chicago bought the building in 2004 as part of a decade-long effort to buy all residential property immediately north of the hospital.
“The university plans to install a plaque at 832 E. 57th St. to commemorate President Reagan’s connection with that site,” the university said.
Preservationists had tried to save the building, but were unable to persuade city or university officials that the gas-lit apartment where Reagan lived from ages 2 to 3 was historically significant.
Mary Claire Kendall, president of Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home, said her group wrote to university President Robert Zimmer on Jan. 9, but never received a reply, which she attributed to "high-level politics."
"We did, however, reach out to major players with means and influence who could talk with President Zimmer but it is unclear what, if any, contact was made," Kendall said. "I am certain, however, my message was reinforced through back channels — namely that we wanted to work with the university to preserve the home and transform it into a museum and center."
The university said it has no immediate plans to build on the property.
“In the short term, the site will be part of a construction staging area, to be used for the new Center for Care and Discovery Hospital and for construction of a new parking garage for the medical center,” the university said.
Despite rumors, the university has repeatedly stated that the site will not be used for a Barack Obama presidential library.