Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The "Homeless Shelter" - AKA Lost in Springfield....

We packed up the van and headed down to Springfield, Illinois to spend time with family over the Thanksgiving weekend.  My in-laws have a wonderful home that our children simply love to visit. 

What makes a home?  The people who live in it, of course.  And certainly, the physical structure of a house is important.  Walls, roof, flooring, when put together in the right way, create a structure that provides shelter from the elements.

For me, my home is my anchor.  It is the place where my life is lived, the place where my children are raised.  It is the place we, as a family, learn to love – and live – with each other. 

When in Springfield last week, we drove by a home that has lost its mooring. It is called the Maisenbacher house - and it has recently become a homeless home.  By that, I mean the structure has been uprooted and now sits squarely in the middle of Jackson Street in downtown Springfield.

Check it out:


Through the illusory magic of photography, it looks like my eight-year-old son is holding up the house.  Not so! Springfield is the state capital of Illinois, a government town, a city preparing to celebrate Lincoln's bicentennial in just a couple of months.  And it's a city that wants to keep this house standing no matter what the cost.

In fact, you could say that the house is in the middle of a custody battle that will keep it right in the middle of the road until it is resolved.

The Maisenbacher house was built about 150 years ago, making it a Lincoln-era home.  In the age of Obama, it's a home that has been abandoned for years.  Rooms were filled with garbage.  The neighborhood has been commercialized and recently, the Springfield Clinic eyed the Maisenbacher property as a prime site for its new parking lot.

Inexplicably, people in government got worked up about paving this property to put up a parking lot.  So lots of people had many discussions and decided to dig the house up, move it to another location - and only then did they discover that there was no foundation to place it on.  So it sits today, two weeks after the move, on Jackson Street – literally on the street.

The city originally wanted $822,000 to build a foundation, pay movers, etc. and so on. Today, the Springfield City Council is voting on whether or not the city should put up $280,000.  The owners of the house, Court and Karen Conn, who own a bed and breakfast elsewhere in Springfield, apparently hope to turn the dilapidated structure into a store for products made in Illinois.  Thus, the city feels apparently compelled to shower these business people with money.

All this was discussed in a week when the state of Illinois (different governing body, I realize!) closed down a neighbor of the Maisenbacher house, Frank Lloyd Wright’s exquisite masterpiece, the historic and fully renovated Dana Thomas house.  (http://www.dana-thomas.org/)

I’ve read this article., and this article, and this article,and this article.

And I still have no idea why anyone thought that a run-down and abandoned 150-year-old building should suck up nearly a million dollars in tax revenues.  Or why anyone with even the tiniest bits of brain matter in their head didn't know that you really shouldn't move a house until you've got a foundation to put it on.

So for now, the Maisenbacher house has become a roadblock, a money pit, a Lincoln-era reminder that foundations always need to be built before throwing money at projects.

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