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|George H,. Phillips|
“It is reported,” said the New York Times, ”that in his great corn deal 300 farmers in Iowa and Central Illinois were the backbone of his fight. It was virtually a battle between these 300, led by Phillips, against the recognized forces of the market." Philips shared his profits with the farmers and he himself was said to have cleared anywhere from $150,000 to over a million dollars. The paperwork of the trading was so voluminous that Philips had to merge his company into a larger concern to untangle it.
According to a report in the Uptown Update, Phillips lived in the house until his death in 1916, after which it remained the home of his descendents, the latest of whom are selling to developers who want to cash in on the double-lot property by demolishing the house and replacing it with a six-flat.
There's only one slight problem. The Sheridan Park section of Uptown in which the Phillips house is located was downzoned a while back specifically to stop its historic homes from being bulldozed for maxed-out structures crammed onto the tree-lined streets. After what was reported to be an incredibly acrimonious November meeting on the fate of the Phillips house, area residents in December voted down the upzoning at a community meeting sponsored by 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman.
It's not like there's no interest in saving the property. Although gutted by fire a few decades ago, those who have had a chance to tour the house say it still has many of its original features, including stained glass and ornate woodwork. A realtor has written me that she had found someone interested in purchasing and restoring it, but the owners don't seem to be entertaining alternative offers, even all-cash ones. One participant claims that at one of last month's meetings, the owner declared that the sale price was 525K for the developers, but triple that for anyone else.
The building is rated orange on Landmarks Historic Resources survey. The 90-day demolition delay that comes with that designation has expired, and the Commission has taken no action to save the building. It's now set to be demolished on the 13th.
The owner's supporters trot out the usual argument that anyone should be able to do anything they want with their property to maximize its profitability (nuclear waste dump, anyone?), and if those owners assumed they'd automatically get the upzoning they wanted, its understandable. In Chicago, zoning laws seem most often to exist only for those too poor or uninformed to simply hire one of the city's uber-connected zoning lawyers who can make strictures disappear almost at will.