Landmark designation sought for former Jeff Park Firehouse
By BRIAN NADIG
The Northwest Chicago Historical Society is seeking city landmark status for the former Jefferson Park firehouse at the southeast corner of Ainslie Street and Lipps Avenue.
In recent years, the two-story structure at 4835 N. Lipps Ave. was home to the 45th Ward Sanitation Office, but last year the office was moved to the Mayfair Sanitation facility, 4639 N. Lamon Ave. Several ward sanitation offices have closed due to the implementation of a grid garbage collection system.
The city Department of Fleet and Facility Management is reviewing whether another city agency can use the 107-year-old building, and if none is found, the building will be put up for sale, Alderman John Arena’s chief of staff Own Brugh said. Arena has said that he would like the building to be preserved and be retrofitted for a new use that would become a focal point of the redevelopment of the area.
“This neighborhood has had a history of buildings being torn down and being made into a parking lot,” historical society researcher Frank Suerth said of the firehouse site. “I’d hate to see that happen here. I’m in the process of soliciting letters of support for landmark status.”
Landmark status would make the property eligible for preservation grants that the new owner could use to pay for improvements to the building, Suerth said.
A wooden firehouse, which was staffed by volunteers, was built on the property in the mid-1870s, and in 1906 a new brick firehouse housing Engine Company 108 opened there. The new building featured “quick-response” brass fire poles and a spiral staircase, and it contained some ceramic-covered bricks which made it easier to clean up after the horses which were housed there, according to the historical society.
Because of nearby angled streets such as Milwaukee Avenue, Northwest Highway and Higgins Avenue, the firehouse became the main firehouse for the Northwest Side. Suerth said that because of its location, the Ainslie Street bridge was built over the Kennedy Expressway even though construction of bridges normally is reserved for arterial streets.
The Chicago Fire Department vacated the building on Nov. 16, 1981, when Engine 108, Truck 23, Ambulance 47, and Battalion 22 moved to their current location at 4625 N. Milwaukee Ave.