Monday, July 21, 2008

When History Meets a Resident.

Like old manuscripts historic buildings have special stories to tell. So do the residents of historic buildings. We study and preserve manuscripts, learn the lessons of life and pass the written treasures to new generations. We cherish manuscripts like a jewel of a crown. Do we value architectural structures as much as we do our written heritage?

National Register of Historic Places indicates 84 celebrated buildings in Chicago 83 of which do not have their duplicate anywhere in North America. This means that there are at least 83 stories to tell and pass along.

When nations were being concurred one of the first things to save were books because those would preserve the history of the nation, culture, time and help build the future. In the case of buildings they stand to watch the progress of humanity and remind of the past and values of the previous generations. We try to preserve historic buildings but very often we fail and succumb to tearing those down. But those buildings affect not only the city but individual lives as well.

Linda Hogopian, Global Account Executive of Marriott International, Inc. spends most of her working day in Wrigley Building where her office is now located. “Every time I walk the hallways in this building I truly feel honored since I know history was made here for several companies and of course the one and only Wrigley Company,” says Hagopian.

The Wrigley Building is one of North America’s most famous office buildings. The construction of the building began in 1920s when Michigan Avenue was still called Pine Street. The building was one of the first tenants of what came to be known as “The Magnificent Mile”.

Charles Beersman, chief designer, combined French Renaissance ornaments and an inspiration of Seville Cathedral’s Giralda Tower in Span to give Chicago the luminous white Wrigley Building.

“There is a barbershop on the 3rd floor. Every time I walk by, I smile, I wonder how many important businessmen got there haircut there during the 20's, 30's. I also think of how many heartfelt stories were shared during a haircut especially during the depression,” says Hagopian.

Elizabeth Archer, Regional Leasing and Marketing Manager for Green Village has been living in a historic Fisher Building for the last two years. Archer confesses that living in a building which was once the tallest building in the world she is set back in time. “Building’s terra-cotta carvings of various creatures get me the sense of history,” says Archer. Eagles, dragons and mythical creatures are guarding the fa├žade of the building.

This tall neo-Gothic landmark building in the Chicago Loop Community area was custom-built by paper magnate Lucius Fisher. The original building was completed in 1896 by D. H. Burnham & Company. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Buildings on March 16, 1976.

In 2000 Kenard Corporation restored the exterior terra cotta and wood windows and converted the office space to apartments, while preserving the lobby and hallways.

“I once met an elderly lady in the lobby who used to lease office space back in the 80s who decided to move back this time as a resident once the building was renovated and turned into a residential building.” In how many buildings can this happen?

“I do not see myself living in a modern type construction,” says Archer.

Not all residents of historic buildings enjoy the unique treasures of old historic buildings as much as Hagopian and Archer do.

Wallie Bracket, DePaul University Graduate Student of Journalism gives a different perspective of living in old, historic buildings.

Bracket has been living in East Park Towers since 2005. The building was part of series of hotel apartment buildings in the Hyde Park built between 1918 and 1929. The East Park Tower is a unique U-Shape red brick building with terra cotta trim. William P. Doerr Designed the Georgian style building which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places in Chicago.

According to Bracket you can sometimes hear mysterious cracks. No, the sounds are not associated with ghosts but rather with poorly preserved foundation and flooring. “The elevators are not working well, you get stuck very often. I cannot wait to move into a new building with the state of the art gym and security system,” says Bracket who is terminating his leasing contract in August of this year.

Cracks and modern day amenities can be handled by the management of the building. Costly? Yes, maybe. But worth preserving the history which affects individual lives just like old manuscripts do.

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