Quit robbing Rockford of Currier and Ives

Quit robbing Rockford of Currier and Ives

By By Lori Gustafson, Resident and President of Haight Village

After several years of work after high school, I purchased my first home in 1978 at age 21—an 1889 Queen Anne in Lafayette Square, St. Louis, MO. Of course, it was a great buy because it was old and dusty after years of neglect. Within a year, I was able to sell it for a profit and enroll at Washington University. I was always awe-struck that a simple-minded worker-bee like me had the privilege of owning such an elegant home. But then, of course, with layers of dust, its value was hidden and others had passed it by.

Across the country, great cities of old wealth, like Rockford, have an abundance of prominent family homes just waiting for people who can see past the immediate and uncover the beauty that’s been lying in wait. Older neighborhoods with these architectural antiques hold the essence of a time when home, family and neighborhoods were wholesome and filled with good spirit. My husband, Wally Hansen, and I purchased an 1863 Italianate that had been vacant through the years. Although dusty and neglected, from day one it felt like home to me. After a year of cleaning, new paint and new kitchen, it became the favorite holiday celebration home for family and friends. It’s the traditional Currier and Ives feeling everyone gets that makes for happy times.

It’s not only the home, but the whole neighborhood. Last week, one neighbor baked blueberry pies for several of us. Can you believe that? In 2003, good neighborliness is still alive in many of Rockford’s traditional neighborhoods. There’s camaraderie, compassion and appreciation for the richness of diversity that make us feel like one big family. For anyone who doesn’t get that feeling in their neighborhood, I welcome them to come visit me in Haight Village.

It’s a crying shame that the Swede’s Foundation is funding the destruction of the neighborhood to the east of me. It breaks my heart that Rockford will lose a neighborhood because Swede’s is either devious or just thickheaded and cannot see the value in retaining a piece of our heritage.

Haight Village has been lucky to have a group of neighbors stand strong to detrimental threats over the years, but maybe the neighbors to the east were weakened by intimidation tactics of a big Goliath like the Swede’s Foundation. I’ve heard they hired a Realtor to knock on doors convincing residents to sell out. After gaining ownership of the properties, they let them deteriorate until they could be photographed to prove reason for demolition. Does anyone out there know how we can halt their bulldozers urgently and get them to think first before they proceed further? Is there any way to convince them to spend their money enhancing the hospital or neighborhood instead of flattening it?

I would love to redirect the wave of devaluation and destruction and share the benefits of living in an urban traditional neighborhood with more Rockfordians. I’m so glad that my antique home was not thrown away before I had the chance to purchase and polish. I wish I could find more people who can see the long-term value of owning a family home in a traditional neighborhood. Across the country, people in other cities are seeing the light and reaping rewards of restoring older properties. How many people in Rockford. watch HGTV and wish they could do that stuff? It’s possible right here, and there are still great values in purchasing so that you have money for restoration.

Some downtown properties have been creatively redesigned into very unique HGTV-style spaces. Haight Village is presenting a Restoration Fair, Saturday, May 3, at the former YWCA, 220 S. Madison St. Anyone curious about the possibilities can talk to experienced and creative renovators. If you have any questions or want to be a vendor at the fair, don’t hesitate to call 963-0268.

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