Saturday was a crisp, gray, wet day in Chicago. It was also a great day to go on a guided tour, hosted by the Chicago Genealogical Society (CGS), the subject of our tour was the Chicago Fire. This is not the first time that CGS has offered this tour, but it was the first time I was able to participate. Our tour guide for the day was CGS board member, Craig Pfannkuche. Craig is a retired school teacher, and the amount of information that he stores in his head is nothing short of amazing.
We started the tour at the Chicago Fire Museum, which is truly a special place to visit. Though they are located in a small, old firehouse they house many items of historical significance to Chicago.
From there we went to a garage top that overlooks the city to get a good look at the area that was burned due to the fire. It was amazing to look at the city with a historical view in mind. To see the area that the fire started and the area that was devastated by it. Truly amazing.
Our next stop was the Chicago Fire Acadamy (Do you watch the NBC show Chicago Fire? When Dawson ran up the stairs last week and found her engagement ring, that was the back side of the academy). We walked around the building to see the actual spot were the O’Leary barn stood and was the place the fire started.
After a quick lunch, we were back on the bus to see a few more sights. We stopped at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, which was completed two years before the fire, devastated in the fire and rebuilt. The Church is absolutely beautiful.
We moved on to see one of the four houses that were built before the fire and survived. This was probably the best part of the trip for many. As the group of 50 of us stood on the sidewalks and street looking at the house, a woman got out of her car and asked what was going on, that this was her block. Mr. Pfannkuche explained to her that the house we were looking at survived the fire. She had lived there for four years and had no clue. To be honest, the house stands out on the street. You can see that there is something special about this home.
Walking down the block, we stepped into the alley. Now usually, there really is nothing significant about Chicago alleys. They exist, most of us put our garbage cans out there and it is where our utility lines go. But this alley was special, it was paved with wood. If you get down and look at it, you can see the rings in the bricks that were created from the trees. To be honest, if someone had not pointed it out. I never would have noticed it.
A heartfelt thanks to Mr. Pfannkuche for treating CGS to this great tour and for sharing his knowledge of the fire department and the Chicago Fire with the participants. I look forward to next years tour, because we must continue these great tours of Chicago History with the public.
Enjoy this short video that I created specific to the Chicago Fire.