Sunday, May 29, 2016
May 29, 1906 – A fire breaks out in Armour Elevator “D,” located on a slip on the west side of the Chicago River at approximately Twenty-Second Street and Morgan, smoldering undetected until it blows out the north and south ends of the elevator and lights the night sky enough to be seen from Ravenswood to South Chicago. Sixty-two fire engines, some of them from as far north as Lakeview, and three fireboats are called to fight the fire in a massive structure containing a million bushels of wheat, corn and oats. The first firemen on the scene have to haul their equipment down a bank to the slip to get close enough to the fire. There are no nearby fire hydrants, so all of the water has either to be pulled from the slip or else come from fireboats. The massive Commonwealth Electric company plant northwest of the elevator is repeatedly ignited by burning embers, so the fire department’s efforts are devoted chiefly to saving it as well as lumber yards that lie to the west. Acting Fire Chief McDonough states, “It was impossible to save the elevators, and all the efforts of the department were directed to saving the millions of dollars’ worth of property in the vicinity. The recent rains soaked the lumber in the adjacent yards and probably did considerable toward stopping the spread of the flames.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 30, 1906] The photo above shows the elevator as it appeared before the fire, which must have been a spectacular conflagration.