Form Over Function

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All the neighbors could do was stand there and watch. They say it was no accident the wreckers picked the Friday before the 4th of July when hardly anybody was around to take down the Parmelee House in Kenilworth, Ill.

This century-old house was demolished to make way for a so-called "Mc Mansion, CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Martha Teichner reports.

With no provision in place for protecting significant historical homes here, developers can pretty much do what they want.

Once a building's gone, it's gone.

Whether we're talking about tear-downs in Kenilworth, the sacrifice of one historic building to save another in St. Louis or, in New York City, the fight over this odd little modernist museum that's not even 50-years-old, we're talking about tough, bruising struggles, right-to- life battles over architecture.

A community, like an individual can determine what it wants to be," Richard Moe, president of the National Trust For Historic Preservation, says.

"Kenilworth, by not having made a choice to protect these structures is now suffering the consequences," Moe adds. "It's too bad. I hope it's not too late."

Forty-five houses have been torn down in Kenilworth since 1993. That may not sound like many, but there are only 820 houses in the whole village.

On Lake Michigan, Kenilworth, is one of Chicago's most desirable suburbs. It was founded in 1889. The houses were built by the cutting edge architects of the day, among them Frank Lloyd Wright.

"It was one of the first planned communities in the country and we're very proud of that," Tolbert Chisum says. Chisum is the president of the Kenilworth village board.

"Candidly, we're probably five years behind," Chisum adds.

For years, Kenilworth talked about coming up with a comprehensive plan, but didn't do it.

"We want to maintain our suburban community the way that it's been for many, many years," Chisum says. "At the same time, you have to deal with the issues of personal property rights.

Tell that to 20-year Kenilworth residents Cameel Halim and his daughter Nefrette.

"They took out very large trees," Nefrette says. Asked how he feels when he looks at the missing trees, Cameel replies bluntly, "Sad and angry."

There is a certain irony about the public service announcement made by the National Trust For Historic Preservation, considering what happened in St. Louis. The group gave its consent to the demolition, yes demolition, of the historic, landmarked Century Building. Why? You guessed it: so a parking garage could be built in its place. As part of a $77 million jigsaw puzzle of a package to save the historic, landmarked old post office across the street.

"I look at buildings as sculpture and it just rips me up to think they would be tearing down that beautiful thing down," artist Alan Brunettin says.

Brunettin and television producer Margie Newman live around the corner from the Century building.

"Every night. Every night I was out there with a still camera and a video camera. Documented the whole thing," Brunettin says.

Newman adds, "It was like watching a murder. It was horrible. It really was horrible. To see and also to know that the ugly politics that had led up to it, and that, in my mind the bad guys had won for all the wrong reasons. It hurt."

That's one side of the story. Here's the other.
  • Sean Alfano

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