Saturday, December 24, 2011

You may never see what's really here

I'm doing something with this post that I have never done before: I am leaving the most beautiful and exciting photographs out. To see what I saw, you'll have to speak with the man I spoke to, and learn about his quest.

All-new construction, like the great staircase, will blend into original work nearly a century old

Rosario Rosi is not the type of man who gets scared off when he faces 5-figure construction bills, harsh Chicago winters and apathetic city officials. This sculptor found a building worth saving, and he is going to save it, and Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood is going to benefit from his vision.

New supports for the new roof are here, new tile is coming

The building began its life about 100 years ago as a live theater, and it still contains one of the largest performances spaces on the North Side. That space went dormant long ago, though, when the owners sold their property to a car dealership.

The Great Depression was harsh on this dealership; ownership changed a few times, maintenance kept getting pushed back into "someday," and the two factors combined to leave the structure vacant, archaic and decaying. Even the front facade began leaning, until its top protruded 3 feet over the sidewalk.

The new owner will be glad to tell you about the technology that goes into support beams these days

Rosario saw the shame of what was happening here in the summer of 2008, purchased the building and started making things happen. He discovered after making his investment that he even has family history inside the performance space — ask him about it, it's a great story.

We all know what happened in the fall of 2008. Construction loans dried up, and government agencies and non-profit foundations that used to fund projects like this closed their doors. City officials tour the work that he and a group of volunteers are doing, love what they see, encourage the crew to keep going...and leave, having not a penny to share.

My group did exactly the same thing, of course — we were astounded by what we saw, and we did not have anything to offer Rosario.

He doesn't care. He just wants people to know what is happening in Edgewater. He wants people to know that there is new life swirling inside a building that for years looked like it was years past its death.

Give him a call — he will show you everything, and he will ask for nothing but awareness in return.