Sunday, June 1, 2014

Tragedy into Triumph: Garfield Ridge Celebrates Gate Restoration on Archer

What started as a heartbreaking loss of history on Archer Avenue has turned 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 in April a BBI crew re-installed the restored gatepost.

On Saturday, May 31, the Bartlett Gate was blessed and re-dedicated by a group of people that included representatives of the Clear-Ridge Historical Society, Basic Brothers Inc., the Garfield Ridge and Clearing business community, Community Cleaners, 23rd Ward Alderman Michael R. Zalewski, 23rd Ward Street and Sanitation Superintendent Al Cacciottolo, the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch (which paid for the commemorative plaque that will be installed), and others.

"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 are proud to stand with them today 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. This entire effort was a victory for the community and shows the value of knowing, caring about and preserving our local history."

# # #

1 comment: