Archive ID: 2018-074-112

Elevator Fire, Chicago

Date Created: 1908-10-13

Donor: Raymond Mulac

Media Type: Postcard

Language: English


This image is from a grain elevator fire along the South Branch of the Chicago River near 16th Street. The fire was discovered in the dock house of the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad and was believed to have been caused by some employee throwing a lighted cigarette among a quantity of chemicals stored there. The fire destroyed two grain elevators, then burned up fifty freight cars, a freight house and many smaller buildings. It then leaped the river and spread to the other side. Although this fire did not occur on the Southeast Side, it was typical of several fires over the years in the grain elevators of the Calumet River. These fires were often spectacular in scope and very dangerous. There was a large fire at the malthouse of the National Malting Company at 104th and Indianapolis Boulevard in 1912. On March 19, 1921 the Armour grain elevator at 122nd and the Calumet River exploded resulting in six deaths and multiple injuries. Losses were estimated at $3 million. The most spectacular Southeast Side fire involving grain elevators occurred on May 11, 1939 on a slip near 102nd and the Calumet River. The next major grain elevator fire occurred on January 21, 1957 at the Continental Grain elevator at 93rd and the Calumet River. On January 10, 1966, a partially demolished grain elevator at 106th and the Calumet River burned in a huge blaze fought by snorkels, fireboats and several pieces of equipment. On October 12, 1971, an explosion ripped through a grain elevator, the Rialto Elevator at the General Mills plant, resulting in four deaths. The fire was put out in a couple of hours. The incident was described as a “dust explosion.” On August 4, 1977, lightning struck the Garvey Grain elevator at 93rd and the Calumet River. It exploded two of the silos and set fire to 6 of the 150 foot silos at the site. Two were killed and two more were critically injured in the incident. This fire smoldered for months.

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