Photograph tells story of Irving Park firehouse
by BRIAN NADIG
A 1907 photograph recently obtained by the Northwest Chicago Historical Society shows horse-drawn firefighting equipment coming out of the Irving Park Engine Company 69 firehouse at 4017 N. Tripp Ave.
The two-story frame firehouse was constructed in 1891 and was demolished in 1936 to make way for the existing brick fire station on the site. The horse-drawn equipment was used until it was replaced in1922 by a Bulldog Mack truck.
Historical society researcher Frank Suerth said that the letters written in 1983 by former Chicago Fire Department historian and senior fire dispatcher Ken Little described the photograph. Little, who died at the age of 84 in 2017, co-founded the Fire Museum of Greater Chicago, 5218 S. Western Ave.
"The horse-drawn equipment, while shown from the front, is quite revealing of Fire Dept. life at that time. In those days, platoons consisted of 10 men, and all the men were on duty, except for one day off every seven days. Firemen did not cook in the station in those days, but ate one or two at a time at a local restaurant, boardinghouse or home," Little wrote in one of the letters.
The letter continues, "Note the captain (with two bugles on his cap) sitting on the right on the horse wagon – the position he took when responding to alarms of fire. The lieutenant is sitting on the right on the steamer. Note that four horses were used to pull the hose wagon and steamer, indicating heavy first-line equipment."
The firehouse on Tripp (previously named "Selwyn Avenue") was originally Hose Company 8, consisting of a hose wagon that was pulled by a single horse.
The company had a roster of four men. It became Engine 69 in 1892, when the horse-drawn steam fire engine was located there.
Additional photographs of the firehouse were featured in the historical society’s July newsletter.
It is believed that Little wrote the letters about Engine 69 in response to an inquiry from a local organization, Suerth said.
(Photo by the Northwest Chicago Historical Society)