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Fire Guts Historic Oak Street Building, Causes $800,000 Estimated Damage

The three-alarm fire destroyed a building next to the Margarita European Inn.

Fire crews from Evanston and surrounding communities battled a three-alarm fire late Tuesday night that gutted a historic building at Oak Avenue and Grove Street next to .

Nobody was injured in the blaze, and the fire department said the damage is estimated at $800,000.

The fire started around 11:00 p.m. on the second floor of the building, said Evanston Fire Department Division Chief Thomas Janetske. About 80 firefighters from as far away as Glencoe and Northfield responded to the fire.

Nobody was in the building at the time, as it was undergoing renovations. There were about 30 people staying next door at the historic Margarita European Inn, according to the hotel manager.

“We fell asleep at 11 and woke up thinking the noise outside was just construction,” said Bob Eisenstein, a visitor from Massachusetts who checked into the hotel Tuesday night. “Then there were people banging on our door, and there were firemen in the lobby.”

Meg Furlong, a visitor from Iowa City, said her family evacuated their room so quickly she left her wedding ring behind. Her husband and 11-year-old son left the room without pants.

“I literally could see the flames licking out the window,” Furlong said.

A plume of heavy smoke hovered in the area, prompting the fire department to check in on residents at a neighboring retirement community. Heavy ash from the fire coated cars parked along Oak Avenue, and firemen checked rooftops nearby for burning embers.

Janetske said that since the building was empty the main concern with the fire was preventing it from spreading to other buildings, and noted that some light smoke had gotten into the Margarita European Inn. At one point flames approached the side of the hotel, but firefighters quickly put them out.

The building, 1560 Oak Street, was the future home of a clock museum. In 2009 the Evanston Planning and Development Committee granted a special permit to the building owner to open a museum of time and glass at the site, but the museum had never opened prior to the fire.

The cause of the fire is not yet known and the fire department will begin an investigation Wednesday morning.

Jessica Rudis March 17, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Tim, Wow- thanks for sharing that video!
Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith March 17, 2011 at 03:35 PM
This beautiful 'Painted Lady Victorian was destroyed in a fire on March 15. As one of my fav. buildings with such historical charm that I have admired for decades, I biked over to see its remains the next day. After staring in disbelief, I was interviewed by Chicago Tribune Photographer, JOSE OSORIO, who was on the scene. My interview and photo (still shot) was seen on WGNTV.com that evening - on Wed. Night @ 9:49 PM. My quote dealt with how the community of Evanston is charming because of homes like this and what a loss it will be for the community. I am happy to hear that the building will be reconstructed, as a Clock & Glass Museum will be(come) its new residents. Posted by: ASK: Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith Screenwriter - Author - Eventologist Chicago - IL USA askoopersmith(at)hotmail(dot)com 3-17-2011 - 10:21 AM CST
Sari March 18, 2011 at 02:33 AM
And last night around 10:15 they razed the whole thing. At night. With giant spotlights on it. (they couldn't wait til morning?) What a (bad) trip for the people staying at the Margarita Inn.
Tim March 18, 2011 at 04:53 PM
Let alone the people that live next door. It was nice to have that clean up crew start pumping out water onto our garage deck this morning.
Jessica Rudis March 18, 2011 at 06:26 PM
Sari, Here's an answer to why they didn't wait until morning to demolish it: http://patch.com/A-fS24 Basically, the fire chief said the structure was very unstable and leaving it would have been risky since it could have damaged surrounding buildings.

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