Engine Company 42 - Chicago Fire Department
[Engine Company 42 (1887) Chicago Fire Department /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
It's not hard to figure out what original purpose this building served since the name and date are still inscribed on the facade. It is truly amazing that the structure has survived as long as it has, virtually intact.
[Engine Company 42, 228 W. Illinois Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
Located in an area of Chicago now known as River North, in 1887 when the firehouse was constructed, the area was smaller scaled and contained a mixture of working class residential structures tucked in among a variety of manufacturing and industrial properties. The Chicago Fire Department was expanding at the time, keeping up with the demands of a city population that was growing at a rate faster than any other place on the planet. This state-of-the-art structure provided housing for 13 firemen, housing for 1500 feet of 2 1/2" hose, 1 hosecart, a cutting-edge Ahrens 1st Class Steamer, and 5 horses. Hoof-drawn fire equipment survived in the city until 1923, when the last horses were retired after a February 5th fire.
[Former Engine Company 42, Chicago Fire Department /Image & Artwork: designslinger]
The firehouse was put into retirement and mothballed in the early 1960s when the Department consolidated five companies and moved them out of old, antiquated structures and into a new, larger, much more modern facility nearby. This Illinois Street building stood empty for a few years before being taken over by the city's Department of Streets and Sanitation, which used the structure as a warehouse and garage until the late 80s. The building had a revival of sorts in the late 90s as a featured character in the Chicago based television series Early Edition, where the old firehouse served as the location of McGinty's bar. Today it's empty and available for lease.
And what of the other four consolidated 19th century engine company firehouses? Well beside this building, only one other survives. And of these two, only our landmarked former fire station still looks almost exactly like it did 124 years ago.