Monthly Archives: August 2012

Urban Legends

We huddled around the tiny screen of a friend’s smart phone as the buffering circle spun to load the anticipated You Tube video.  Garbled sound and low light came into place to reveal a local reporter dressed like Robert Stack from Unsolved Mysteries, standing in front of the grand three-story Second Italian Renaissance Revival mansion.

I’d heard the legend.  Anyone who knew of the house had.  This was our latest research project.  The reporter quickly made his way through the first floor and into…the BASEMENT!  Scared yet?  Yeah, I wasn’t either.  He moves through the tunnel to the large vault like door…Ahhhh!!!  A wall!!!  A wall covered in flat thin metal sheets, and behind that wall?  Al Capone’s hits, of course.

The homeowner gave us a tour as well.  The non-creepy version.  We walked through the tunnel, which leads to a stairway into the carriage house, through the door and all stood gathered at the famous tunnel’s end.  I had to pipe up.  I lived outside of Chicago for a couple of years.  “There’s a river right over there.  They would have got a brick and some rope and…” Everyone got the picture.

So maybe Al Capone had been in that house.  The original homeowner had ties to Chicago.  He was also a Doctor of “Special Medicine” and Capone could have used his services.  Beyond that, it’s simply an Urban Legend until fully, and I mean fully verified.

There’s the home that claims to be part of the Underground Railroad, the many that claim Jesse James hid here or President Truman played cards there.  We include these legends in the final book, we just blatantly disclaim they are unproven.  Sometimes we can verify a story, which is quite an exciting event giving faith to orally shared history throughout the generations.

As for what is behind the wall at the end of the tunnel?  I don’t know.  The homeowner got behind a small portion of it once only to have several wheel barrels full of garbage and debris to haul out.   If I had to guess of anything spectacular in there I’d pick some bootlegged whisky.  However, that’s my personal guess and the legend is plenty mysterious enough without me adding to it.

Audrey L. Elder

Past to Present Research



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The Why


When I decided to take on the task of writing a blog for our research company, my first thought was that it would be easier to write a book.  There is that much content for this subject.  I’m often described as ambitious, energetic, and enthusiastic – or as I call it…crazy.  Whatever it is, I have my Pilot G-2 0.7 black gel pen and my college ruled notebook ready for the task.  (Did I mention eclectic? Also pointing to the crazy thing.)

So outside of the fact that I have a list of 50 topics just to start with, I decided to begin here…why and how I became a historic preservationist.  Yeah, me: the Realtor that three years ago practically lived in a subdivision model home, selling people on the idea of…sorry guys….new construction.  Hey, let’s be honest here, we don’t hate new construction, when it has its place.  What we hate is destruction of salvageable buildings.  Let me explain.

This  most recent real estate recession has left our country with thousands of vacant foreclosed homes sitting empty.  Many of the homes are COMPLETELY salvageable, and priced at rock bottom prices.  Even the copper free varieties.  Priced so low that the needed repairs still can put the home in an equitable position.  Being vacant, those communities become blighted, lose pride, invite crime – you get the picture.  We have an obligation to the infrastructure we have already put in place.

The proof is in the pudding, these are facts.  No, I’m not an economist, but Dovovan Rypkema of Place Economics is;  Restoring and revitalizing historic downtowns is PROFITABLE! In fact, it puts more money in the local economy than new construction.  And there’s nothing greener than restoration (a topic for a future blog and video).  We’re talking local contractors, materials, and permits.  A revived community that draws increased homeownership and niche businesses.  What happens next?  People walk and shop, adding money to locally owned stores and local tax revenue.

“But it’s expensive.”   I hear that every day.  Sometimes it is (ahem, don’t forget we do have tax credits), however it is one heck of a fine investment.  Here’s why: our young Generation X-ers and the upcoming Generation Y.  This is where they want to live.  The majority of this group wants absolutely nothing to do with mom and dad’s subdivision. They want the village life.  Walkability to all their shopping, worship and recreation.  They want a human connection to the people around them.  They’re already burnt out on cyber communication, it’s more like a tool now to plan and create human interactions. 

I’ll end on the warm and fuzzies.  What we are today is a result of what we were.  It’s our history in the form of brick, stone, mortor, stucco, and frame.  The statistics are resolute.  Protecting history is obvious.  The benefits are astounding. The future of the past is in the stewardship of the present.

Audrey Elder

Past to Present Research

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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Uncategorized