Built into the raised divider that separates S. Lake Park Ave. from the Metra, the Hyde Park Historical Society itself is a testament to the bygone. Originally a waiting room for cable cars, the small redbrick building is furnished with dark wood paneling and enough black and white photographs, cloth-bound books, prints, and colorful old clippings to make any hipster’s mouth water. The ban on incandescent bulbs has yet to reach the Historical Society, and probably never will.
This Saturday, about thirty Hyde Parkers, with a mean age of around sixty-five, squeezed in among the bookshelves and glass cases filled with local artifacts to see a slide-show and presentation on stonework given by Simon Leverett, a Scottish stonemason and owner of Petra Historic Masonry.
Leverett is a sturdy man in his late forties, with dark curly hair that’s become gray at the temples. He has a distinct Scottish accent and the facial hair you’d expect of a guy with the title “journeyman.”
Showing a picture of the Hampton Court Palace, he recalled sneaking over the boundary during a field trip and climbing up on the roof to get a better look at the chimneys. “Chimneys are just as interesting up close as they are from the ground. You might not expect that, though.” As the focus shifted to Hyde Park, the audience, unfailingly, recognized the local buildings. When Leverett pointed out the extensive corrosion and misguided restoration efforts on a nearby redbrick church, everyone clucked in disapproval and regret. “You see, they come in and put in new mortar,” he said, “but the new stuff is a lot harder, and the softer stone doesn’t have room to breathe.” He motioned to an old man in the back, who clicked the mouse to pull up the next slide of a doorway on 57th Street. “Now here,” Leverett said, “is some beautiful stone and brick-work. Great condition.” He paused, troubled. “Real shame about the aluminum frame, though.”