A handful of activists with a theatrical flare staged a protest in front of the Dawes Mansion today demanding that Northwestern University hand the building over to the Evanston History Center.

Actor Robert Lindsey as General Charles Dawes

The group hired Chicago actor Robert Lindsey to play the role of General Charles Gates Dawes returning from his grave at Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery to reclaim his one-time home from the school.

As Northwestern police officers watched from the building’s steps, local activist Mimi Peterson assailed the university saying of school officials, “Do these people have no shame?”

Peterson argued that the university, which has allowed the history center to use the building rent free for the past half century, should give the building, and an endowment that General Dawes left the school, to the history group.

University officials say the building needs an estimated $4 million in repairs. They say the Dawes endowment, roughly $1.5 million, would be insufficient to pay for immediate repairs, let alone ongoing maintenance needs at the 25-room mansion.

University officials reportedly have been negotiating with leaders of the history center, who did not attend today’s protest, about working out a temporary lease extension that would reopen the basement archives and first floor rooms of the center to limited public use if relatively minor fire-safety improvements were made on those floors.

The university has said it ultimately plans to either sell the property or use it as housing for a university employee.

Because of the building’s single-family residential zoning and location in a local historic district, it would require City Council approval to redevelop the site for any more intensive use.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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33 Comments

  1. General Dawes
    We protesters are not demanding any gift from NU…. we just want them to honor their agreement with General Dawes for the benefit of the history museum and the people of Evanston.

    And while they are at it, maybe they could provide an accounting of what they have done with the annual income from the Dawes endowment.

    The $4 million dollar figure is a fiction. See the campaign library at generaldawesreturns.org.

    1. Dawes endowment
      Could someone clear up the role of Northwestern University in paying for upkeep of this building over the past 50 years.
      The EHC claim the EHC has been paying the bills, and that NU contributed none of its own funds – only money from the Dawes endowment.
      Eugene Sunshine calls it a ‘financial sinkhole’ for the University.

      The General Dawes website says :
      At the time EHS, founded in 1898, was occupying space in the Evanston Public Library. Its collection was small and its budget was approximately $1000 per year with one part time staff person. In 1942 a deal was brokered by the EHS board for Dawes to deed the house and his personal collection to Northwestern University (NU), with EHS holding a lease for use of the house for its
      offices and collection. This deal was thought to be the only way EHS could afford to occupy and manage the house as a museum.”

      What was the role of NU, then? To merely administer the Dawes endowment and use it to maintain the building? Why couldn’t EHS do this? It certainly sounds like EHS did not have the money to keep up the house and maintain the collection back then, so NU had to step in. What else are we to make of the statement “This deal was thought to be the only way EHS could afford to occupy and manage the house as a museum” Did NU provide any of its own funds or services to maintain the building? Did NU provide any services to catalog and maintain the records over the years? If not, why wasn’t EHS able to afford to occupy and manage the house on its own?

      And what would happen if NU did give control to EHS? It sounds like $4 millions is more than twice the amount of the endowment. Even if the endowment is sufficient to cover the repairs, that would leave nothing in the endowment. Is EHS able to raise sufficient funds to cover that lost income to operate the building in the future?
      It certainly sounds like NU is once again being used as a scapegoat . I don’t think that we are getting the whole story here. If some volunteers are able to repair the building and find the funds to operate it in the future, that is fine – but NU cannot be expected to keep subsiding this.

      1. Mr Who –
        Since this is not a City matter – we have no access via Freedom information any documents to tell us what was paid for by NU or the historical society.
        While we could have access to NU tax records – due to their tax status – it would be a very difficult exercise to get the information out of the records. Also the historical society annual reports and tax documents could be looked at since it is a Not for profit. But I doubt anyone has the time.

        There is also another public record the building permits with the city for the house they could be looked at to determine if any real construction items have been done on the house over the past years. This might at least see if anyone spent any money on major items.

        At this point in time we have statements in the press and nothing more – assigning blame – or stating “NU is once again being used as a scapegoat” is far to early in the process.

        It does appear -both sides are talking – so it may be a while before this is done.

        While I did state NU could do with the house what it wants – NU is also smart enough to understand the politicial issues of this may extend beyond Evanston.
        There are far more of those pesky “NIMBYs” you love beyond Evanston that may get involved in this issue even though you think the house lacks significant status.So closing it to the public may not be such a good move from a national PR standpoint for NU.

  2. Save the Dawes Mansion!
    As Northwestern police officers watched from the building’s steps, local activist Mimi Peterson assailed the university saying of school officials, “Do these people have no shame?”
    Peterson argued that the university, which has allowed the history center to use the building rent free for the past half century, should give the building, and an endowment that General Dawes left the school, to the history group

    It sounds like a good business decision by NU.

    It would be interesting to see an accounting of all the finances here, including :
    a. All income from the Dawes endowment since NU took over the mansion.
    b. Any contributions made by NU , using funds not from the Dawes endowment.
    c. All contributions made by EHC to the maintenance of the building.

    I strongly suspect that over the last 50 years, NU has lost a lot of money on that building, and just got tired of paying for it.

    As NU is the owner of the building, it seems like a reasonable risk management step for them to require that it meet all safety codes. I don’t understand why people are concerned that a modern 38-story building with sprinkler systems is a ‘fire hazard’, yet are willing to ignore the major safety problems with the Dawes mansion. What would happen if there were a fire, and people were injured or died in there? There would be an uproar against NU , and NU would be the deep pockets that got sued.

    At the very least, they have a right to demand that EHC provide sufficient insurance.

    The best way to ‘save’ that building – and make it accessible to the public – is to find a way for it to generate revenue to support its maintenance. I’ve never been inside, but maybe it could be a boutique hotel, or a restaurant, or something…

    But I guess that there is a problem:

    Because of the building’s single-family residential zoning and location in a local historic district, it would require City Council approval to redevelop the site for any more intensive use.

    Save the Dawes Mansion! Spot zoning now!

    1. What are your professional qualifications?
      The problem with all the Anonymous posters here – no one knows who they are? But since you seem to understand buildings so well – please tell us your background, education level and knowledge of buildings.

      Do you have any knowledge of building life safety? Any knowledge of building construction? Knowledge of building codes?

      NU can do what it wants with the Dawes Mansion – since they are in ownership – but we don’t need people who clearly have little if any knowledge of the buildings giving their life safety reviews.

      Go read the letter from the fire chief to NU on the web site for the group in support of keeping the Mansion as a Historical center if you want to gain a better understanding of the issue.

      By the way -since you have never been inside – I suggest if it ever reopens go visit it – or go to the Evanston Historical society web site – the inside is significant Architectural.

      1. Qualifications
        Hi Junad,
        While I would be delighted if those commenting on such things offered links to their resumes, I don’t think it’s practical to expect that most people will do so.

        I also notice that you didn’t ask that Mimi Peterson or any of the other Dawes House protesters demonstrate their qualifications as experts on building code requirements. Could it be that you only doubt the credentials of those who disagree with you?

        As with all community issues, we’re all entitled to have an opinion, and others are entitled to give our opinions any weight they wish.

        Bill

        1. Bill on qualifications
          Bill – those that post here without names – clearly are afraid, The value of their comments are less – like it or not – I know you want to generate more use of the site so I am OK with the fact they can post.

          You ask why I am not questioning Mimi – given she posts her name – I know who she is. Her background is well know in the community. She has run for public office and she is not afraid to stand up for issues she believes in. ( posters who do not use their names clearly are no where as involved in the community)
          Bill – one other point Mimi did not post any comments to the article here you posted so why would I be questioning her?

          The poster whose qualifications I question could be a 15 year high school student for all we know.

          Bottomline – you state -“As with all community issues, we’re all entitled to have an opinion, and others are entitled to give our opinions any weight they wish.”

          I give a poster with NO name – very little weight – you have made a interest point – this is community – community members should not be afraid to state who they are ( I have no problem with city workers posting without names but others should not) For that matter these no name posters could be all the same person –

          1. So let it go
            Hi Junad,
            You are free to give any weight to anyone’s comment as you wish — and I think it is fine for you to give less weight to comments of those who choose to post anonymously if you choose.

            But I think that responding to someone’s comment with a call for them to document their qualifications to speak on the subject is inappropriate. It is, in effect, an (admittedly mild form of) personal attack.

            State your own views. Provide documented evidence to support those views if you can.

            Don’t clutter up the site with demands for others to present their credentials.

            Bill

          2. Bill – how can a attack be personal on a anonymous poster?
            Bill how can an attack be personal on a anonymous poster? The person is choosing to not give their name? It is rather hard to give much value to these posters – since they do not want to give out their names. Also Bill if you are so concerned about clutter – these posters seem to be calling anyone and ever one who disagrees with them NIMBYS. Do you feel this name calling is not a personal attack?

            Bill as we all know credentials are important – so those that speak who do not want to give out who they are clearly have less weight.

          3. Not robots
            Hi Junad,
            The people who choose to post anonymously are not machines, they are individual human beings just like you. Therefore to hector one of them demanding that he/she reveal his/her professional expertise to justify his/her comments is a personal attack upon that person and the person’s choice to post anonymously.

            I notice that elsewhere in the comments related to the history center you declined to disclose your professional expertise. That is entirely your right, but it casts an odd light on your insistence that others should disclose theirs.

            By contrast, to assert that a class of people who hold a particular view are NIMBYs — or to assert that a class of people who like tall buildings are ignorant pawns of developers — is something different.

            Assertions like that may not be constructive, but as long as they are an assertion about a group of people, rather than an individual, it is not an individualized, personal attack of the type to which I object.

            If you want to discuss this further, I’d prefer that you contact me privately.

            — Bill

      2. Save the Dawes Mansion!
        Hi Junad –
        I can’t speak for the other Anonymous posters, but I ( Mr. Who Knows) cannot reveal my identity to you. Since I am always fighting the Special Interests, like Batman and Deep Throat I must remain anonymous.
        Qualifications? Sorry, that would aid you in determining my identity, and then you would betray me to the Special Interests. Can’t do it. Anyway, you have shown a willingness to discuss everything from finance to elm trees to prostate cancer to parking garages. What makes you so knowledgeable? Also, it is clear that qualifications do not mean much. I have seen some rather silly statements from lawyers, an ‘executive MBA ‘ (woo woo!) from U of C, a professor at Loyola, and a guy who carries a little stuffed pig to Council meetings. Let us judge arguments by their intellectual soundness, not by the background of the person who makes them.
        You say about the so-called “Dawes” house that “- the inside is significant Architectural.” Well, that is your opinion. Here is what others have written on Wikipedia :
        “It is a site significant for its owner more than its Queen Anne architecture.”
        . In fact, if you follow the link at Wikipedia, you will see that when this site was nominated to be on the National Registry of Historic Places, the reason cited [Section 8 on p 3] was ‘Politics/Government’, while ‘Architecture’ was left blank. What evidence do you have that it is ‘significant Architectural’? You need to go find someone who is knowledgeable about architecture!

        Now I did look at the letter from Chief Berkowsky. Chief Berkowsky limits the content of his letter to application of the relevant fire safety codes, as he should.
        The discussion of the fire code is hardly a ringing endorsement of the Dawes mansion. It states that while the building is not up to current code, regulations do permit looser enforcement in cases of historic buildings where it is not practical to enforce the current code. Even then, he places some rather heavy restrictions on usage of the building: only 5 people permitted in the basement, public not permitted on upper floors, etc.
        Chief Berkowsky properly confines his comments to issues of the fire code. He did not address – rightly so – issues of management of the building, how much NU has paid, how much it will cost to keep up the building. As you say, Junad, it is NU’s building, and they have a right to take it back. The Special Interests who currently occupy it, like the Special Interests who rent in 708 Church, are trying to prevent the owner from controlling his own property.
        I was not able to attend the ‘return of Gen. Dawes’ event on Thursday. Like most people, I work during the day .The NIMBY’s, who tend to be retired or wealthy or living off of government largesse, do not have this problem. However, as this other honorable Anonymous poster has pointed out, very few Evanston residents actually benefit from this so-called “Dawes” house, only certain Special Interests do. Perhaps Evanston should have a new history center. As you know, Junad, our current Civic Center is in a state of disrepair and it is not cost effective to repair it. Soon we will need to construct a new Civic Center. Maybe when we do that , we can include room for a new history center. Nothing grandiose, of course. We don’t need this ‘costume museum’ and other things that only benefit the Special Interests, just some displays chronicling the great events in Evanston History: Construction of the State Bank Tower (1969), Construction of the new 708 Church Tower (2009?), Construction of the New Civic Center (2010?).

        Mr. Who Knows

        1. Mr. Who Knows what? ( another 15 year old kld?)
          Mr. Who Knows what ever? – you will need to tell me WHO you are if you wish me to tell you my qualifications. ” Let us judge arguments by their intellectual soundness, not by the background of the person who makes them.” Many of those who decide to not leave their names are not posting such sound statements. You down grade qualifications – yet telling us what educational backgorund you have would not tell us anything about who you are. I do not go around telling people my qualifications or experience – when I speak – but I know enough about what I speak on – as well as the fields of knowledge.

          The building clearly would been significant by its occupant – I also think the building is significant Architectural – like the other poster maybe you have not been inside the building?

          You appear to misinterpet the chief statements – he did not place such heavy restrictions as you suggest. It appears to me the building can still function as a museum with very minor upgrades. You better reread the letter.By the way I know alot more about this than has been posted – or printed as to the city staff position – lets just say they agree with what I have stated.

          I was invited to the event – but like you are work for a living.

          Also you mention the Civic center here again you stating it is not cost effective to repair it – so why don’t you tell us where the city plans to get the millions to rebuild a new one? It appears the council is giving up on a new one – since they realize they don’t have the funds –

          Finally you mentioned the creation of the “Construction of the State Bank Tower (1969),” as a great event – aren’t we taxpayers now paying for ramp replacement to correct the Urban space issues of this wonderful 1969 project ? ( I recall our pulbic official just approved this?)

          1. Mr Who knows what ? follow up
            Mr Who – I went to the national park service site – it appears the Dawes house is not some minor building as you would like to state. Only 2,500 buildings in the entire county have its status. Also interestingly enough it stated the following “There are no threats to the landmark at this time. The NHL is in excellent condition.” That is the building was not in such bad condition as you and others state.

          2. Chase Building
            Finally you mentioned the creation of the “Construction of the State Bank Tower (1969),” as a great event – aren’t we taxpayers now paying for ramp replacement to correct the Urban space issues of this wonderful 1969 project ? ( I recall our pulbic official just approved this?)

            The tax revenue generated by the Chase building over the past 30 years far exceed the amount that the City of Evanston is contributing to this. I don’t know all the details of the ramp project and if that is worthwhile, but to argue that the Chase building has been bad for Evanston’s finances is ridiculous. Maybe this ramp work will result in more tax revenue..I don’t know. But it is small change compared to all the benefits that we have received from the Chase Building.
            While I do support the tower, I think that a new shiny office tower would be preferable to condominiums on the 708 Church site. It is unfortunate that the ECRD busybodies chose to attack the general idea of development , and the skyscraper in particular, instead of trying to convince the developers to build a shiny office tower instead of condos.

            Mr. Who Knows

  3. Evanston History Center
    What will Evanston really be losing if this “history center” closes? Has it been relevant to our community? Does it acknowledge, and include the history of the rich cultural diversity that Evanston can claim both in the past and currently? I think not.
    It’s a lovely mansion but Evanston deserves a real history center.

  4. Protesters demand mansion gift from NU
    Dear Bill,

    It was nice to see you at the rally the other day. I wanted to take a few moments to respond to a few things mentioned in your article (above).

    First of all, I don’t think anyone is demanding an outright gift of the mansion from NU. Perhaps if the University doesn’t want to live up the promises (and intent) of the donor maybe they should give it to the City or the Evanston History Center (I still like the word Society – too bad they changed it).

    I do believe that many would like to see the University preserve one of the few historic homes that is open to the public whose interior is straight out of the Dawes era – a rarity in this day and age.

    In his bequest to the University, Charles Gates Dawes provided a generous endowment to preserve the building and grounds so it could be enjoyed by all the people of Evanston. It doesn’t seem like that is being honored, especially when one considers how many years of neglect has precipitated the (alleged) huge repair costs.

    Also mentioned in your article was the absence of the leaders of the history center… Please paste the link below into your browser to see my photos from the rally and march. The attractive woman in the pink coat is one of the EHC’s leaders (I believe her name is Eden).

    I would imagine that out of respect for their employers who wish negotiate in good faith with the University they kept a polite distance from the “rallyista’s” but they were there none-the-less.

    Photos:
    http://picasaweb.google.com/bbecharas/DawesRally?authkey=u8kjM0VAvbc

    I consider myself a qualified building renovator with more than 25 years experience. The last historic building I renovated was in Lake Geneva – the second oldest building in Walworth Co. It was an 1840’s Greek revival home 1 block from the lake – I believe that I am qualified to assert that the $4 Mil bid was to bring th building up to new construction & code standards. It completely discounts the generous allowances for very expensive items (like sprinklers) that are “grandfathered in” for historic buildings. I would tend to believe the lesser figure offered by EHC.

    It is my opinion that the EHC could fully resume operations for a few thousand dollars… while creating a plan to repair/replace or upgrade those items that require it. Why I’d be glad to assemble volunteers to do work there that would help EHC in their quest to re-open.

    I feel strongly that Northwestern and its leadership are in a position to preserve history… it seems like they have other plans that in my humble opinion violates the trust and bequest from Mr. Dawes (and the citizens of the community we share). After all, what does mean when one of the financial “trustees” of the university calls the grand mansion a “financial sink hole”? Then I must ask, on whose watch?

    Respectfully submitted, Brian Becharas

    1. What the protesters demanded
      Hi Brian,
      The prepared statement from Mimi Peterson at the rally (copy here on the protest website) includes a paragraph in which she urges the children of Evanston to “demand President Bienen fix the history center with the endowment funds left by Dawes and turn it over free and clear.”

      I heard her say those words and they sure sound like a demand for an outright gift to me. How would you read them?

      The director of the history center, Eden Pearlman, and other staff members still work in the building, so I’m not surprised to hear that she was seen there. I was referring particularly to Marge Wold, the board chair, who’s been leading the negotiations with the university.

      My understanding is that the history center’s board did not endorse the protest, but perhaps we can clarify where they stand on that next week.

      So, as with the Civic Center, we have a dispute over the cost of renovating an old building. I don’t claim and did not claim in the story to have personal knowledge of the cost of the job.

      But to claim that the entire building could be safely reopened to the public after spending just a few thousand dollars is clearly at variance with the fire chief’s letter of April 16. It that letter he suggests a set of steps that could permit limited use of the basement and first floor while awaiting far more extensive renovations to the building as a whole.

      Options for bringing about that temporary, partial reopening are what the history center’s board and university officials apparently have been talking about recently.

      They might appreciate your offer of volunteer help in getting that repair work underway. Best of luck to you with that.

      Bill

      1. NU Should Honor Its Committments
        Bill –
        Why would you deliberately use a title that is so far from the truth of what transpired? Why do you misrepresent the words of Charles Gates Dawes? How is that you can ignore his intention for the gift that he bestowed on the University with explicit instructions and purposes? Rather than do the honorable thing, and respect a dead man’s wishes, Northwestern is trying to use the property for their own use, which was not ever the idea behind the former Vice President’s gift to NU.

        Actually, the idea was born out of the historical society’s concern that it would not be able to afford the gift to their institution, and thus, to act as a trustee and guardian, the university was asked to serve as a go between by the historical society. But surely, you can read and have read the actual letters and documentation regarding this issue. So again, why the deliberate deception? To act as if the university is doing the history center some sort of favor by “allowing them to be there rent-free” again, distorts the actual circumstances and the truth of the situation. Why do you seek to misinform people?

        Because the endowment funds left by Dawes were intended to care for the building, I am not clear why you have said that our demands are unreasonable. Again, the wishes of the donor have not been honored. How you can construe that as a request for a “gift” is beyond me. It is a demand for the deceased’s intentions to be honored. Charles Dawes wanted his house to be a history museum for the people of Evanston and he left plenty of money to care for the building for the historical society, not for the university’s institutional use or gain…that much is crystal clear.

        The Chief’s letter of April 16 is an interesting little ditty. As far as I am aware the letter has not been given via FOIA requests to anyone who has requested it. The letter was obtained by GDR, from interested parties who seek the truth. Were it not for our efforts to expose the letter, it might still be under the cloak of darkness. Ah, sunlight is always good.

        As Brian points out, the letter from the Chief does not indicate $4 million dollars in repairs are necessary. Moreover, it seems to indicate that with some simple modifications, the building would be suitable to continue on in the fashion it has been. If anyone bothers to read the April 17 edition of the Evanston Review (the Review had not obtained the letter either), one might see some discrepancy between what the letter says and what others interviewed for the story said. Go figure.

        With regard to EHC board members, many discussions have been had between the president, Marge Wold, and GDR. The board has been fully aware and informed of our ideas and activities from their inception. We have agreed that the mission of the Evanston History Center is important for the children of Evanston – the future of Evanston history. They as a board, have a different role to play and want to continue to negotiate with NU. Separately, as citizen members and members of the EHC, we want to support the mission of the Evanston History Center and see it remain in the Dawes House fulfilling Dawes’ wishes, as it has for the last sixty years, and for the next sixty years. We can co-exist with mutual respect. We have different roles to play and that will likely continue to be the case.

        As ever, undaunted by the spinmeisters, I proudly sign my name,

        Mimi Peterson
        http://www.generaldawesreturns.org

        1. Documentation
          Mimi wrote:
          Actually, the idea was born out of the historical society’s concern that it would not be able to afford the gift to their institution, and thus, to act as a trustee and guardian, the university was asked to serve as a go between by the historical society. But surely, you can read and have read the actual letters and documentation regarding this issue.

          1. I don’t understand how the historical society was concerned that “it would not be able to afford the gift”. How can they not afford a gift, unless that gift comes with other maintenance costs ( i.e., a white elephant) ? What was the role of the University as trustee, then? It certainly sounds like NU was performing some services.
          2. Where are these letters and documentation? I don’t see them under ‘Fact sheets and supporting documentation’ at the GDR website.
          3. The GDR website says “It has abruptly closed the facility to the public and ruined the mission of the History Center”. Abruptly? Hasn’t EHC been occupying the place without a lease for several months now?

          Some statements on the so-called FACT SHEET raise questions, too.

          “It appears that plans for remediating these issues using the Dawes fund or other resources available to NU through fundraising efforts or national funding sources for landmark preservation were never considered by NU,”

          4. Other fundraising efforts? This is important. This isn’t about using the Dawes endowment to take care of the mansion – that endownment is clearly not sufficient. The GDR campaign expects NU to find addition moneys to support the building.

          Also from the so-called FACT SHEET

          The EHC would then be required to vacate the Dawes House.
          The property would then be put up for sale at fair market value. NU would use the funds raised from the sale to care for the Dawes collection. NU stated that it would only provide financial support for EHCs move to a new location if EHC would agree to care for the Dawes collection that is currently housed in the Dawes House.

          5. GDR has been portraying this as a ‘land grab’ by Northwestern. But even the GDR FACT SHEET suggests otherwise. It certainly appears that NU wants to use the Dawes assets to take care of the ‘Dawes collection’, not its own purposes.
          The so-called FACT SHEET says that NU wanted EHC to agree to care for the Dawes collection. Why is that so outrageous? And who has been paying to care for the Dawes collection all this time?

          It certainly appears, based on the information provided by the GDR campaign, that NU has been providing funds or services- beyond those generated by the Dawes endowment – to either maintain the building or the Dawes collection. It also appears that there are currently not sufficient amounts in the endowment to both cover repairs of the building and maintain the collection in the future, and that the GDR campaign is trying to get NU to provide – as a gift – the mansion, after NU spends its own money to repair it.

          NU is reasonable in trying to unload this white elephant on the EHC. The GDR ‘s effort to portray this as a ‘land grab’ appear to be contradicted by the GDR’s other statements .

          Suppose that NU decided to give the mansion and all of the Dawes endowment and Dawes archives and collection to the EHC today? Would that be acceptable to the GDR people? Let EHC use the fabulously large Dawes endowment to make the necessary repairs, operate the building, and maintain the collection.

          1. Mr Who you are very short on any facts
            You are assuming alot – such as past repair cost and maintenance etc.
            You have no numbers as to anything – but alot of speculation.
            How much do you think the Dawes Mansion is worth? If NU were to sell it – would they give all the funds to the Historical society? Can you account for were the funds from the endownment have gone all these years? Have you seen NU engineering report?

            Your statement ” This isn’t about using the Dawes endowment to take care of the mansion – that endownment is clearly not sufficient.” how do you know that since you do not know and of the costs?

            You make ALOT of statements with NO facts and attack Mimi – claiming she made statements without facts.

            This issue will play itself out between the Historical society and NU. When it is done the public will react – either positively or negatively depending on the out come. The Activists you dislike – are basically telling NU – the out come they want – I doubt many Evanston Residents want to see the building sold – and the historical society moved. NU I think knows this – so I think – they are moving slowly.

            It is my view if we had any council or community leadership – ( beyond a 90 year old mayor and council members who can only provide excessive tax increases) they would get a mediator involved to try to work this out as a win – win situation for both parties and the community.

        2. The facts of the matter
          Hi Mimi,

          1. The headline is accurate.
          2. I misrepresented nothing.
          3. I did not in the article call your demands unreasonable.

          Bill

  5. Do these people have no shame?
    I just took a look at the speech that Mimi gave during the ‘General Dawes Returns’ publicity stunt. I will have more to say about that later. That is not the point of this message.
    Bill has included a link to Mimi’s prepared text at the event in his message titled “What the protesters demanded”. I suggest that everyone take a look at that link.
    Her speech concludes with the following paragraph:
    We ask all Evanston citizens to protest loudly and strongly, to unite with us to insist Northwestern honor its commitments. We will take our fight directly to Henry Bienen – to his office, to his home, to his
    next board meeting, to graduation
    . Are you with us? Are you with us? Let’s march!! ”

    No, Mimi, I am not with you. I don’t agree with your cause, and I don’t like the way you blame Northwestern for everything. More importantly, I think that your call to take this cause to Henry Bienen’s home is out of line. I also think that it is malicious to threaten to spoil the commencement ceremony – which is mainly for students and their parents – just because you disagree with Northwestern’s policy.

    This conflict between the EHC and Northwestern is a rent dispute. It is not a great moral issue, it is a petty dispute over real estate and finances. For Mimi to exaggerate it, and ask “Do these people have no shame?” , indicates a lack of perspective.

    The same could be said of the tower dispute. While I often use hyperbolic language to ridicule the NIMBY’s , I recognize that this is about zoning and economics, and nothing more. Often this is just because getting the NIMBY’s all riled up is fun.
    [ Note to Junad : The Civic Center needs to be replaced! It’s too expensive to fix it! ]

    Many have complained about anonymous posts by me and others. As I have stated before, I believe that there are good reasons to remain anonymous, and Mimi has demonstrated this. I think that many of the ‘activists’ in Evanston are annoying and hypocritical – I make no secret of that – but would never think of bothering anyone at home, or even at work. To make sure that you do not bother me at home, I am declining to give you my name.

    I suggest more anonymous postings. Are you with me? Let’s march!

    Mr. Who Knows
    Address: None of your business

    1. Why not blame Northwestern?
      Dawes offered the property to the Historical Society first. They didn’t feel they could handle it so they suggested he give it to Northwestern and they could rent space there. Now NU stabs them in the back by kicking them into the street. Typical selfish Northwestern behavior.

    2. Bill – are the anonymous posters allowed to attack people?
      Bill – Mr Who knows – is using Mimi name in this reply then he states ” I think that many of the ‘activists’ in Evanston are annoying and hypocritical ” So he is allowed to call MImi – annoying and hypocritical? If this is not a personal attack I do not know what is? Clearly Bill you are setting a double standard?

      He also “Note to Junad : The Civic Center needs to be replaced! It’s too expensive to fix it!” Has he read the reports? Or is just his opininon which Bill you seem to value – I do not value opinions of those with NO Knowledge in the field of Architecture and construction stating reports writen for political purposes are the truth. If he bother to read the report he would have noted they missed the parking – in the new building downtown- at a very high cost. Also if Mr Who had any knowledge of renovation, architectural programing or construction he might get it.

      Stating some anonymous poster – has no knowldege – does not compare to that poster calling someone who bothers to post their name “annoying and hypocritical”!

      And by the way I have no interest in going to visit Mr Who at his home – If his comments are nonsense on here – I will reply. ( for the record I was not at the protest for the Dawes house nor I have gone to any of the tower meetings)

      Finally I took your survey – I am OK with the anonymous posters – but since they do not want to tell you who they are – their comments have a lot less value.
      One developer who posted on here -used his name and I have had discussions with him when I see him about town – while we may not agree 100% he had quite a few good insights into issues.

      1. Civic Center is a giant sinkhole of taxpayer money
        Hi Junad –

        While I did say that NIMBY’s are annoying and hypocritical, I meant that as a general comment about the class of NIMBY’s. I was not discussing any one specific NIMBY when I wrote that.
        I don’t think any of my comments about Mimi can be called personal. I object to her threat to bother Henry Bienen at his home, and I think that it is out of line. I also think that she, like many activists, uses Northwestern as a scapegoat. These are not personal attacks, these are criticism of her actions and policies.
        [ I also object to the way she is dragging children into this dispute. ]
        As for the “Note to Junad : The Civic Center needs to be replaced! It’s too expensive to fix it!” – did you notice that it came immediately after a sentence where I said it is fun to use hyperbolic language to get the NIMBY’s all riled up?
        Yet you still took the bait?

        I really think that the activists in Evanston have had it too easy, kind of like the American carmakers back in the 1970’s. For too long, they have been able to attack the aldermen, developers, Northwestern, and new residents. They have been able to make various mushy, illogical, and contradictory statements. None of the targets have been able to attack back in kind – certainly an alderman isn’t going to insult voters, and NU and developers try to be diplomatic. So now, the activists are having their policies questioned, and their statements dissected , and their inconsistencies thrown in their face – and they don’t like it.
        Again, this demonstrates the value of anonymous posts. In order to prevent all personal attacks, I suggest that everyone use a nickname and refrain from any personal identification, and just stick to the issues.

        Mr. Who Knows

        1. While I did say that NIMBY’s are annoying and hypocritical
          Mr Who – you were attacking MImi – lets not try to get out of that – you used her name repeatly in the article –

          Your statement “So now, the activists are having their policies questioned, and their statements dissected , and their inconsistencies thrown in their face – and they don’t like it.” since you can not come to the council and speak you are not really doing the above. Also none of the written press will allow you to have a letter without a name. You can always come a voice your views against any NIMBY statement or group – I don’t think anyone is going to go over to your house and protest.

          By the way council members will tell you what the think both in public and private –

          I suspect you have never been to a council meeting – or really looked into anything in any depth – Many of the people you are labeling – have put alot of time and effort into issues – here – that is why they are effective – maybe not always – winning what they want but at least they have the courage to speak in poublic or post their name/

    3. Shame is relative
      Dear Mr. Who Knows,

      You make a few good points about Mr. Bienen’s personal space and boundaries… I can’t speak for Mimi but I am relatively sure it is just harmless rally rhetoric. I admire Mimi for publicly taking a position and identifying herself… Too bad some bloggers choose not to… it is harder to take them seriously.

      Since you have assumed the nom de plume of “Mr. Who Knows” – if you did know all the facts on some of the things you cite in your “shaming” of someone who at least is willing to put her “guts on the table” publicly… Also, while you were scolding Junad, that leads me to the conclusion that you are not aware of the March 2007 BCA bid to completely renovate the Civic Center for less than $20 Mil.

      Maybe you are a shill for the consulting group of Carol Ross Barney and their (Council centric) bid that somehow wants Evanston taxpayers to pony up $30 Mil MORE (totaling more than $50 Mil). If you’d like a copy of BCA’s qualified bid… I’ll be glad to e-mail you a copy…. oh darn, I can’t… we don’t know, He Who Knows.

      Please drop me a line if/when you are willing to step out of the shadows and into the light… Let me quote Socrates “Courage is knowledge of what is not to be feared!”

      Mr. Who Knows… We all have a lot to learn from each other. It is just a bit easier if there is a name and a face.

      Your fellow concerned citizen, Brian G. Becharas
      619 Oakton St. Evanston, IL 60202
      tel. 847.475.0319 bbecharas@aol.com

      1. Socratic method
        Brian Becharas –

        Mr. Who Knows does not claim to be one who knows. The appellation was bestowed upon him by the professor from Loyola, who called him Mr. Who Knows? , as in ‘who knows who you are?’.
        Like Socrates, whom you quote, I make no claim of knowledge – I merely question those who pretend to be knowledgeable. As you know, Socrates offended many of the honorable NIMBY’s of Athens by questioning their traditional beliefs and assumptions, and as a result, they voted to sentence him to death. Therefore I hope you understand why Mr. Who Knows prefers to remain anonymous, and also why Mr. Who Knows does not trust the referendum process. When the majority behaves in an intolerant manner, whether by restricting freedom of inquiry or restricting property rights, then democracy leads to tyranny.
        I am happy to see that you agree that Mr. Bienen’s personal space should be left alone. I wonder why you are the alone in acknowledging that this crosses the line. Perhaps the other readers of the site are on vacation today. I hope that they will join you. Perhaps it was ‘harmless rally rhetoric’, as you say – but again, this emphasizes why I distrust these ‘activist groups’, who come to Council meetings with the buttons and signs and make noise. Instead of being pressured by groups of emotional activists, the Council members should be guided by impartial, professional analysis ( these would be the ‘consultants’, who receive much abuse for providing unbiased reports) and a calm discussion of all the tradeoffs involved.
        The same is true for the Civic Center. As I have said before, if it really can be repaired for less than the cost of building a new one, that is what the Council should do. I have no objection to the current building.. I do object to the emotional ‘Friends of the Civic Center’ campaign, along with all the other shrill and messianic ‘Save Evanston’ campaigns past (Kendall), present (Tower) and future (General Dawes) . I have no emotional attachment to this building, and I would have no problem if a developer buys the land and puts up townhouses on the site. [Same for Kendall]
        There are certain members of the ‘Friends of the Civic Center’ who have advocated bad money management when it comes to the 708 Church building. They say, “Even though the tower will generate money in the long run, we will lose money in the short term, and we need the money now.” Regardless of how one feels about development, this is just a bad financial argument – and when I see that some of the people making this argument are also passionately defending the current Civic Center building, I certainly get suspicious.
        There are certain people in Evanston – we can call them NIMBYS – or perhaps more accurately CAVE’s ( Citizens Against Virtually Everything) – who do not want any new buildings to be constructed or any old buildings to be torn down. Whenever a project comes along, they come out with their homemade ‘studies’ showing that their preferred course of action (save the old building) is the most economically feasible, and dismiss any outside consultant who doesn’t agree with their predetermined conclusion.
        The Civic Center and 708 Church are just old buildings. Let us not glamorize them. If we can house the city government less expensively, we should do so. The Dawes house is, most likely, a financial sinkhole. There is a reason that so many of those giant houses are now museums or abandoned – they just cost too much to maintain. [ Civic Center?] If EHC can use the money from the Dawes endowment and their own funds to keep the building afloat, that is fine – but they have no right to expect Northwestern to support them from NU funds.

        1. Socratic Irony
          Dear “Mr. Who Knows” (who you are, that is)
          Thank you for the expansive response… to my Saturday reply to your original missive. I am a little hurt that you didn’t say “Dear Brian Becharas”…

          Thank you for precipitating my taking a closer look at one of an ancestral brethren… Since you mention the Socratic method… let’s consider Socratic irony:

          From Wikipedia… “Situational irony is the disparity of intention and result: when the result of an action is contrary to the desired or expected effect. Likewise, cosmic irony is disparity between human desires and the harsh realities of the outside world (or the whims of the gods)…”

          (Staying on Focus here) The intention of Gen. Dawes was to preserve his home for posterity – whether as an architectural gem or as a Historical Society (need-less-to-say, only for those among us who are interested). He entrusted Northwestern University to be its caretaker and even left a generous endowment with sufficient money to ensure its future. It is pretty clear to me that this whole situation is (situationally and cosmically) ironic!

          (Moving away from Focus) Going back to the Civic Center… Aren’t you a little ticked off that after 10 years and as many “consultant studies”, having spent about $2 Mil. We are still in suspended animation and I applaud Liz Tisdahl for giving traction to a sensible notion – to (shut up) and fix the darn roof…instead of wasting +$150,000? Just think how $2 Mil of yours and my tax dollars could have been spent to get the ball rolling there. This conjures up a whole separate discussion on Evanston’s current form of government.

          You constantly refer to NIMBY’s… and several groups’ opposition to lots of things. The way I look at things in a town I have lived in almost all my 53 years, where the “ancient covenant of the tax-free University”, its many property acquisitions and lack of contributing monies to the Community Chest while removing more and more from our “cash-flow” – unlike other mature Universities who, over time, have recognized that their +150 year old “deals” are no longer valid.

          So, I look at things carefully on the several tax bills I pay, not as “NIMBY” but more as “Whopping Tax-Flation” (interestingly, the useful acronym: WTF)… Evanston’s financial problems are now – not in 20 years after the TIFF’s expire!

          In the end, no one is asking the citizens of Evanston to pay for anything at the Dawes house… We are asking NU to live up to Gen. Dawes bequest. I would suggest it might not be too difficult to find a donor who will assume their responsibility since it is too much of a “sinkhole” for them (and the $7 Bil they are protecting).

          Lastly, IMHO, mixing the, Dawes House, Friends of the Civic Center with the Tower, the Kendal (debacle) and other “CAVE” issues dilutes your arguments: People in this community are passionate about many things important to them… Including, your right to be anonymous and argue you points! The focus here is the Dawes House.

          Respectfully submitted, Brian Becharas.

          1. Socrates and the CAVEs
            Dear Brian Becharas –

            I will try to keep focus in this letter, and keep the topics to a minimum. All three of these topics have a Dawes theme, somewhat.

            1. General Dawes
            If the Dawes family left enough money to maintain the house and the collection, then of course NU should use it for that purpose. However, it certainly appears that the endowment was not sufficient to do that in perpetuity. NU has no responsibility to subsidize that building forever. Some have pointed out that NU has a large endowment and can therefore ‘afford it’. This logic is faulty. While one can argue that universities should spend more of their endowments, I would say that scholarships or medical research should have priority over what is essentially just a big old house. If this house is special to the residents of Evanston, then they should pay for it.
            I do not get sentimental over big houses. I have seen many of them : Cantigny, Pabst Mansion, Casa Loma, Stan Hywet, etc. Some of them have great architectural and historical value (Mt. Vernon, Monticello, Graceland, Versailles) – but most of the time, if you’ve seen one big old house you’ve seen them all. No – they don’t help teach history either – but I’ll try to stay on message. If you want to keep them around, let someone live in them or work in them.
            I would like to see the GRD people clear up all the questions that they haven’t answered. I say – let EHC have the Dawes endowment, and the house – as is – and let NU’s responsiblity end there. If there is a will or contract the NU has violated, let’s see it.

            2. NU and taxes : See the article by Mr. Fischl in the NU paper,
            “City Voices: Evanston should embrace NU’. ( There is currently a link under Evanston News Elsewhere). Why is it that Palo Alto, Berkeley, and Cambridge – and even Big 10 places like Madison and Columbus – benefit from their universities, while we allegedly do not? I was just thinking – Hewlett Packard and many other high-tech companies started in garages, right? Is operating a business in a garage permitted in an R1 district in Evanston? Why don’t many more Kellogg people start companies in Evanston? Are we chasing them out with our intolerant and insular behavior?

            Instead of admiring the past – the Dawes House, the 80 year old building at 708 Church, we should look towards the future. Perhaps a big and shiny tower would help.

            3. Civic Center : As I have said many times, if it really can be repaired for less than the cost of a new one, let’s do it. But why is it that the aldermen have repeatedly come to the same conclusion – that it is just too expensive to repair it? You say that you have estimates – I wouldn’t know how to evaluate them, I don’t pretend to be an expert in contracting – but I do know even from getting contractor estimates on my little condo that if you get three estimates, and one is extremely low, then something but not be right there.
            Like Bill pointed out, the same disparity in estimated cost occured with the Dawes Mansion. If you can put together a group to fix the Dawes place tres cheap, that’s great. Let’s see it. And if that goes well, you will have proven your point and we can let you fix the Civic Center, and that would be great.

            Respectfully submitted,
            Mr. Who Knows

        2. Mr Who – do you understand how to use a consultant?
          Your statement shows you really do not KNOW -“Instead of being pressured by groups of emotional activists, the Council members should be guided by impartial, professional analysis ( these would be the ‘consultants’, who receive much abuse for providing unbiased reports) and a calm discussion of all the tradeoffs involved.”

          Only some one very foolish would believe the consultants who have been hired by the city to analysis these issues are IMPARTIAL!

          Who do you think these consultants are working for? The staff members directs them and they write these reports – why do you think we continue to hire the same consultants over and over? The consultants are providing answer the staff wants to hear. They continue to reward them with more work.

          I have not been involved in the tower issue – but explain to me – what height should the consultants tell the city be place in the tower downtown?
          20,30, 40 , 50 ,100 ? Where is there any impartial height to develop here?

          By the why a few years back I suggested at a several meetings the community foundation held- on Evanston future – they take a “Urban Design” approach to development – some people in the room did not understand that –
          A few years later the City attempted to use an Urban Design approach.
          further more after going to the a few meetings on central street I knew the consultants were not acting in any matter that was impartial – some one – most likely staff was directing them.

          By the way I have not been involved in the plan for down town – I have seen a few posted sketches – what I would really would like to see is a final built out model of the downtown – placing the higher building and the shorter building – working out a layout that would work as an effect Urban space – that is a massing model that is what Urban design is all about.

          Bottom line Mr Who – if we had anyone on the council that knew how to direct development we would be alot better off. The council members are totally worthless – in this regards.( ofcourse I am still trying figure out what they can actually do well ) They need to be directing the process – not staff and not the consultants.

          1. bottom line
            Junad wrote :

            Bottom line Mr Who – if we had anyone on the council that knew how to direct development we would be alot better off. The council members are totally worthless – in this regards.( ofcourse I am still trying figure out what they can actually do well ) They need to be directing the process – not staff and not the consultants.

            I don’t agree with everything that the Council does – but really, being an alderman doesn’t sound like a desirable job. Attending all these meetings and being insulted by various activists and busybodies who want everything but want to pay for nothing. And then we complain because they are getting meals and health insurance? So what?

            I would not want to be an alderman – even with the supposedly high pay.

            Junad – if you think you can do better, why don’t you run?

  6. Brilliant!
    Dear Everyone,

    This debate has not only be informative, but delightful to read and hilarious!

    by the way…I have no credentials to submit..

    Truly,
    Anonymous

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