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.