Feb 26 2007


I don’t consider myself materialistic, but I am proud of my appreciation for good design, historically significant objects, and things that exude craftsmanship and care.

I guess I’m just wondering about a particular feeling I have when driving along Sheridan Road through the North Shore. It’s sadness, mixed with anxiety.

Winding around the curves, passing another lawn where the mature trees are sprayed with big, orange X’s, I feel a twinge of depression. It’s seeing something being destroyed that shouldn’t be, and helplessness to do anything about it.

What is it that makes someone rip down an irreplaceable, historic home?

Most probably just see an outdated relic – a stubborn old woman, not worth coaxing into a modern life. Her small kitchen, too far from the family room. Her basement ceiling, too low for a good home theater. Not enough garage doors. No dramatic stairwell in the foyer. Even that spacious lawn… that’s where the two-story great room ought to be.

So up go the cyclone fences, in comes the backhoe, and down comes the house. It doesn’t matter that it’s superior to that which replaces it. Or that Daniel Burnham or George Maher designed it.

Driving through Glencoe on a foggy afternoon last spring, with Lake Michigan off my left shoulder, I visualized the exquisite ribbon of Sheridan Road estates as a beautiful chain… made up of hand-forged, exquisitely carved links.

Every time I make the trip, three or four more of these iron links are gone – replaced with the plastic variety you’d use to hang potted plants on the patio. Our culture is shifting away from beauty, quality and craftsmanship in exchange for bigger bathrooms and more garage bays. It’s pathetic.

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