21 November, 2009

A Great Letter

My Dear Anna,

I received this from a couple (now married) who spent their childhoods playing in the ruins. I love getting stuff like this! Incidentally, any letters I put up on the site I keep anonymous. The "JG" is ----- -------- (-------- family) who I suspect was a playmate of K, and they both told me the same story about the lily pond. Muah! ~Todd


How funny! I read J.G's letter and laughed. I'm trying to figure out who that is! (one of my neighbors, obviously!) My dog fell in the lily pond when she was a pup! I, too believed that the whole estate, the "tea house" and the servants' quadrangle, was populated by ghosts and by...horror of horrors, escaped prisoners who were rumored to run down the beach and climb up the stairs through the old elevator beside the pool, which was partially submerged.

I suppose you are aware that at one point, Tempel Smith tried to buy the estate for use as a Lipizzan and Haflinger farm; the idea was nixed by neighbors who were afraid of stable boys, manure and flies. One of my early memories is of a boy nicknamed Buzzy, who lived in the servants' quarters. He was, I believe, a policeman's son. I lived in the house that was the site of Cyrus H. Mc Cormick, Jr.'s greenhouses, directly to the west of the wall that bordered Walden's Fromal Garden. When my parents' house was sold, the front hall floor, made of ceramic tiles salvaged from Walden's exterior, laid smooth side-up, was destroyed and replaced by something that appealed to the new owner.

The disrespect that was shown to these grand old estates astounds me. I have to wonder who declared the main house of Villa Turicum "structurally unsound." I do know of the story that pride caused the destruction of Walden. How un-Waldenllike that thought is! It seems that these wealthy Chicagoans couldn't "get it, " because they couldn't buy it...and I'm not convinced they're doing any better these days. The only reassurance I have (having recently visited for a school reunion) is that the trees have taken over and the once-new homes have finally begun to recede into the landscape. However, there was a span of about twelve years (1956-1968 or thereabouts) when the estate sat undeveloped...a place for the homeless, if there were any, and for all the ghosties we dreamed up. It was also a perfect parking spot for young couples, at least until the police chased them off.

-K. S.


Anonymous said...

Find where Villa Turicum stood and the remains of the water cascade using Google Earth map - http://wikimapia.org/#lat=42.2397021&lon=-87.8605843&z=13&l=0&m=b&show=/6823333/Villa-Turicum-Former

Anonymous said...

Follow this link to a 1939 aerial photo when Villa Turicum was at its prime - http://www.historicaerials.com/?poi=9588 - you can follow the progression through the decades until the estate is no longer.

Anonymous said...

the boy buzzy that was mentioned in the letter was my husbands grandfather who often talked about playing in the ruins.