Wily Wille

The embattled Chicago Children’s Museum introduced its secret weapon today: Lois Wille.

Is that all you’ve got, Hill & Knowlton? I’m sure Save Grant Park is shaking.

Wille is a former Tribune editorial page editor and author of Forever Open, Clear and Free: The Struggle For Chicago’s Lakefront. I guess the message is that if Lois Wille thinks it’s okay to build a children’s museum in Grant Park, you should too.

I don’t have a full transcript of what Wille said this morning at a press conference called by museum officials, but her quote in the Tribune is rather ambiguous: “Any change to Grant Park must treat it with great respect; it is, after all, the city’s original lakefront park,” Wille said. “It has never belonged to one ward or one group of residents; it does belong to all the people of Chicago equally.”

Yes. Which side are you on again?

Meanwhile, Yellow Dog Democrat sends along some excerpts from Wille’s book:

* “But the real impact of what [Montgomery] Ward had done, and why, wasn’t fully understood in 1913; and perhaps it is not yet fully understood today. Plans for buildings in parks, wider roads in parks, more concrete in parks – they are as prevalent today as in 1890.” (P. 81)

* “The result is one of the finest museum complexes in the world. He was grateful, Stanley Field said years afterward, that Montgomery Ward had fought so hard to block the original site [for the Field Museum] in Grant Park.” (P. 81)

Back to you, Lois!

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4 responses to “Wily Wille

  1. Gee, maybe the children’s museum should roll out Burt Natarus next; he was certainly a 30 year advocate of downtown development.

  2. Pingback: Free Wille! « Division Street

  3. There is an old saying that people who lie down in the kennel with dogs get up the next morning with fleas.

    It is sad to see Wille give such a fleabitten performance as she has given in support of placing a huge building in the middle of Grant Park.

    To accuse Hill & Knowlton of cynical deception, the spread of half-truth, and predatory opportunism is almost to compliment them. So I won’t bother.

    But Wille’s display of cynical equivocation as she tries to convince us that this building in the middle of Grant Park is not excrement, but Shinola, is painful to watch. She ought to be ashamed of herself for letting her name be used, her reputation be tarnished, and her park be disfigured.

    But it’s also our park, Ms. Wille. You’ve got a hundred years of history, legal opinion, and wisdom against you. Right now, you look like a fool, standing on the wrong side of the fence, scratching.

  4. WilyWille plus Wille Nilly indeed.
    When her famous book was published, the Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago, then a vigorous defender of “Open Free and Clear” in many ways (though silent today), went all-out to help publicize it. I was then on the MPC PR Committee and on its Board of Governors, met with her and helped in the effort to publicize her work. Seeing her this past week, I got the impression that maybe she has early Alzheimer’s. The Wille of today may have changed her spots but what she advocated then is as valid today as it ever was. Maybe she forgot but we MUST not.
    Walter Reed, Wilmette IL

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