Monday, April 7, 2014

Basic Brothers Inc. Rescues, Restores a Piece of Chicago's Archer Ave. History

What started as a heartbreaking loss of history on Archer Avenue is turning into triumph,
thanks to quick thinking by Clear-Ridge Historical Society officials and the generosity and skill of the restoration experts at Basic Brothers Inc.

"The Bartlett Gates are one of the very last reminders of the early history of this area, when developer Frederick H. Bartlett transformed an area of open prairies and small farms from about 1912-20, into the Bartlett Highlands residential development, roughly from Austin Avenue to Harlem Avenue along the Archer Avenue corridor---and that was later renamed Garfield Ridge when it was annexed to the city," said Rob Bitunjac, president of the Clear-Ridge Historical Society. "While the gates themselves are long gone, the gateposts endured for decades--but

one by one, they were damaged and lost. Of the dozens that once stood along Archer, just a few remain, and the Bartlett Gate on the northwest corner of Archer and Melvina has stood as the best preserved example, by far, thanks to Mike and Nancy Fitzpatrick, the owners of Community Cleaners, who have taken such good care of it.

"So when we learned that a young driver had lost control of her car and smashed that gatepost on Saturday night, November 30 , it was a low point, at least for the moment," Bitunjac added.

In the wake of the tragedy, Basic Brothers Inc. (BBI) President Brian Basic learned of the situation and immediately stepped forward with an offer of much needed help.

"Since 1949, Basic Brothers has been building and re-building Chicago, brick by brick,"
Basic said. "We have the experience, the expertise and the commitment to this city to take on this project, with an eye on restoring this important piece of history and, in the end, bringing it back better than it was."

BBI is doing the work entirely pro bono, at no cost to the Clear-Ridge Historical Society.

The city's record cold and snow prevented the broken gatepost from being moved safely, so it was secured in place until March, when a Basic Brothers crew hoisted it onto a truck, transported it to BBI's nearby headquarters and workshop, and started cleaning and restoring it.

BBI re-cast the gatepost's broken base, and completion of the gatepost itself, as well as a formal re-dedication, is anticipated within weeks.

"Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own rich history," Basic added. "But that's something none of us should take for granted. Had this situation occurred in some other areas, the gatepost remnants would have been removed by Streets and Sanitation and ended up lost in a landfill. Fortunately, Garfield Ridge has the Clear-Ridge Historical Society, men and women dedicated to preserving the past as a way of building a better future. Their quick action to inform us about the situation got the ball rolling, and we'll be proud to stand with them at the re-dedication of the Bartlett Gate."

"The Clear-Ridge Historical Society--and really, the entire Garfield Ridge neighborhood and the city itself--all owe a debt of gratitude to Basic Brothers," Bitunjac added. "We are most fortunate to have one of the Chicago area's top masonry restoration companies right here in our back yard--and the fact that they are a multi-generational, family-owned and -operated company with their own proud history and commitment to Chicago, well, that just put it all over the top. We look forward to the day in the near future when we can unveil and re-dedicate this important part of our history."

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  1. Chicago needs more dedicated companies like the Basic Brothers!
    Great guys!

  2. A truly erudite and sensitive commentary in the story by Mr. Basic about the importance of the gate and the neighborhood. Great information, too, from Robert Bitunjac about the origins of those gateposts. I've always wondered about that one's significance on Melvina there, all the way back to when I'd get my flat-top haircuts at Bart's Barber Shop right next door. What happened to Bart's shop? There's some new "rock-star fades" barber shop there now. Guess I won't find any Saturday Evening Posts in the new place. Yes, I am getting too old.