|By Tony Puryear (National Portrait Gallery)|
Hillary Clinton will be the first president of the United States born in Chicago.
It says something about the conflicted, tentative view that people in her hometown have toward her that this will be news to many. The city has not exactly been welling with pride over the prospect of its daughter ascending to the White House. Maybe the Cubs' march to World Series victory has monopolized our sense of hopeful self-esteem.
But Hillary Diane Rodham was born Oct. 26, 1947, at Edgewater Hospital, a blond brick building at the corner of Ashland and Hollywood. The building still stands, shuttered since the late 1990s.
That makes her something of a double rarity: only four previous presidents have been born in hospitals: Jimmy Carter, the first, followed by George W. Bush, her husband Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, who also shares another exclusive club with Clinton — presidents born in cities.
Through most of American history, our commanders-in-chief tended to come from farms and small towns. Only four hailed from cities: William Howard Taft, born in Cincinnati, Teddy Roosevelt, born in New York, Obama, born in Honolulu — deal with it — and now Clinton.
Her father Hugh, a crusty-bordering-on-abusive man, manufactured drapes. Her mother Dorothy was the daughter of the broken home of a Chicago firefighter. For the first three years of Hillary's life, the new family — she was their first child — lived at a small apartment building at 5722 N. Winthrop (the building no longer stands). Then her father put down $35,000 in cash for 235 Wisner, a handsome faux Georgian brick home in Park Ridge, the town where she spent her youth until graduating from Maine Township High School South and going off to college at Wellesley.
It's a quiet neighborhood a few blocks north of Touhy. At midday the streets are deserted, except for a few dog walkers such as Clay Baum, 44, a software account manager, who lives 10 houses north of Clinton's girlhood home. He was walking his poodle, Knight.
"I support her," he said, a few days before the election. "It's great for the community of course."
He said he didn't know who lived in the house, and that the rumor around the neighborhood is that no one does. Yet the neatly tended grounds are obviously being cared for by somebody.
There is no plaque, only an honorary street sign on a nearby light pole reading "Rodham Corner," located a hard-to-see 15 feet off the ground, the result of it being frequently stolen by souvenir hunters despite using special vandal-proof fasteners when it was first put up a decade ago.
Efforts by Park Ridge to honor Clinton have been sidetracked by politics; in 1992, a proposal to hang her portrait at the local library proved so controversial the idea was scuttled.
It is a coolness sometimes reflected when quizzing the locals about their most famous daughter, a popular media pastime for decades — in 1996, a reporter from the Los Angeles Times collared an area resident, a "patrician-looking woman in her 70s" who wouldn't give her name, but managed to damn Clinton both for keeping her last name and for changing it, in the same breath.
"When she got married she wouldn't take his name. That was really a bit much for us," she sniffed. "And then, of course, when it came time for an election and her husband needed her to do it, she took his name. It's not something I really approved of."
Clinton biographies are filled with stories of her toughening her persona in Park Ridge. The loss to the high school football captain when she ran for class president. Her shift away from Goldwater Republicanism.
But the Park Ridge story that seems most apt to tell about the woman who endured a year of the worst that Donald Trump could dish out, with class and dignity, harkens back to when she was four years old.
In the frequently told family story, it was in Park Ridge that newly arrived Hillary, 4, was beaten up by the neighborhood bully girl, Suzy. Running home in tears, the future first lady, senator, secretary of state and now president-elect was told by her mother, "There's no room in this house for cowards. You're going to have to stand up to her. The next time she hits you, I want you to hit her back."
Which is exactly what happened.
"I can play with the boys now!" Hillary said in triumph.