Hawthorne House had been the home of the Cyrus Hawthornes. Built in 1881 by the Chicago architectural firm Treat and Foltz, it had been ahead of its time in conveniences modern plumbing and steam heat even if a bit excessive in design.
The Hawthornes lived at Hawthorne House through two and a half generations, until Frederick Hawthorne lost his fortune in the crash of 1929, and moved out of the house forever in 1931. A white elephant as a family home, it became a finishing school for young ladies in 1933, after lying empty for two years. Its nearness to the University of Chicago helped its recruiting efforts. Hawthorne House housed thirty young ladies at a time and graduated fifteen of them each year after a two-year course. They learned deportment, penmanship, sewing, how to speak properly, how to set a table properly, and how to entertain with grace. But by 1960 young ladies did not want to be "finished." They wanted to be educated in a profession. Hawthorne House struggled along as a collection of offices. Several doctors practiced there, a few lawyers, and on the third floor were the editorial offices of a small but highly regarded academic press that turned out well-regarded but rarely read books.
Hawthorne House had not succeeded as offices. It was too far from the business district of the Hyde Park area of Chicago. When Dr. Schermerhorn saw it in 1968, only seven of a possible twenty office suites were occupied.
He knew the instant he laid eyes on it that it was perfect for his residential treatment center. Big enough for two dozen patient bedrooms, plus offices and schoolrooms, it was massive and therefore conveyed the solidity and respectability he wanted to express. The woodwork inside was elegant, despite some vandalism done by driving doors through several interior walls to produce office suites. There had been cheap remodeling performed on the beautiful ballroom to subdivide it into small office cubicles.
Hawthorne House would become Hawthorne House School, Residential Treatment for Autistic Children.
Wundershoen, Schermerhorn thought as he looked at the building now, twenty-seven years later. Those tall, stately windows. The assertive roof treatment. And that muscular brick, a wonderful masculine color as rich as aged mahogany. A building in charge of itself.
There would be reporters here within an hour, an hour and a half at most. Time enough to get to his room and change into the new Brioni suit. His publisher had said Susan Somebody from Time Magazine would be here. And early yesterday his office had received calls from "Dateline NBC."
Good. Let them come. And confusion to my enemies.
From Death of a Thousand Cuts by Barbara D'Amato. Copyright Barbara D'Amato 2004. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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