Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20, 1942 -- Huge Fire at South Side War Plant

November 20, 1942 – Fire Commissioner Michael J. Corrigan blames the lack of water hydrants for complicating the extinguishing of a massive fire at the 82-acre Chrysler B-29 engine plant under construction on a site bordered by Cicero Avenue and Pulaski Road on the east and west and Seventy-First and Seventy-Seventh Streets on the north and south.  The power plant for the facility is destroyed before the flames can be brought under control in a 3-11 alarm fire that forces fire fighters to run hose lines for more than a mile along Cicero Avenue.  Ground was broken for the massive plant in June of 1942 with construction following designs by architect Albert Khan, plans that used half the steel that conventional plants of similar types had used.  By March of 1943, despite the fire, “16 buildings at the complex had come on line.  The complex ultimately used 4.3 million bricks, housed over 6,000 machine tools, had 23 cafeterias for thousands of employees, was able to handle 10 million gallons of water a day . . . Over 16,000 were employed in building the plant; and 1,200 Chrysler personnel were involved in planning and layout of the manufacturing.”  [] Today as you pass by the headquarters for Tootsie Roll Industries and the Ford City shopping mall on Cicero Avenue, you are looking at a site that once turned out 18,413 engines for 3,628 B-29 airplanes.

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