The debate in Wrigleyville over a $100 million mixed-used development that would replace eight neighborhood businesses, sweeping away what some call “a cool, hip neighborhood,” is another chapter in a battle between preservation and change that has been waged from Chicago’s earliest days.
Chicago author Richard Lindberg, in his new award-winning book The Gambler King of Clark Street, writes that even in the 1800s there were Chicagoans amid the building frenzy that followed the Chicago Fire who were nostalgic for an earlier, more pastoral time.
Lindberg writes, “They remembered an earlier era when antebellum Chicago seemed to move at a slower, gentler pace; when the spires of churches soared above the roof line of commercial buildings on Lake Street and the town seemed more of a summer holiday resort basking under clean, cloudless skies, buffeted by gentle winds blowing off of Lake Michigan.”
Lindberg also quotes early Chicagoan Abby Farwell from Reminisces of John V. Farwell: “I wish I could picture to you what to me, was a veritable paradise. … Not even New York in the 1870s with her brownstone fronts could equal Chicago’s marble fronts built of white limestone. There was no smoke to discolor them. Around each house was a flower garden and trees also. Oh those marble fronts! How they glistened in the sunshine and in the moonlight shone resplendent in their pale glory.”
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