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Tree Studios: Partial Preservation

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Dear editor,

In response to your article "Success by Design," April 28, a neat little story about an architectural bookshop that has its origin in a preservationists' picket line, but in reality ends with a wrecking ball. Mr. Henderson has left out the most interesting part of Wilbert Hasbrouck's legacy.

Ironically, in recent years Wilbert Hasbrouck, a so-called preservationist, has used his formidable credentials as a hired gun to testify against the preservation of buildings designed by some of Chicago's most preeminent architects.

In February of 1997, I was stunned to observe Mr. Hasbrouck testifying against landmark protection for the three wings that comprise Tree Studios, a proposal originally put forth by the City of Chicago Landmark Commission in 1980. Hasbrouck then spoke in support of a last-minute "substitute ordinance" introduced by Alderman Natarus (who is single-handedly obliterating Chicago's architectural legacy) which protected only 18" of the State Street facade of Tree Studios, eliminating protection for the Ohio Wing, the Ontario Wing, the courtyard, and courtyard facades. I have spent a significant amount of time in the past several years attempting to undo this damage.

In subsequent encounters with Mr. Hasbrouck, he has remarked that his testimony in conjunction with Jack Guthman, a patron of the arts and architecture, and with zoning attorney Shefsky Froelich "saved" the Tree Studios. But if one examines the list of buildings that Hasbrouck has testified against, most are now rubble. A partial list of demolished structures would include: the Troescher Building by Louis Sullivan, the Northwestern train station, the Washington School in River Forest.

As a result Mr. Hasbrouck is now quite controversial in the preservation community. I refer to him as: the Doctor Kevorkian of historic preservation. I am also concerned about the influence he has as a professor in the Historic Preservation Program at the School of the Art Institute. I believe we should stand up and speak for and not against our historic architectural legacy. No more compromises.

The Unpaid Testimony of:

Barton Faist

Tree Studios

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