Steel Men and Wooden Ladders

From Chapter VII: 1898

The fire department was just starting to become a more well equipped force even as they were to experience another large fire in 1898. On October 27th the village club house was destroyed. An illustration from the Chicago Daily Tribune shows what the structure looked like, a large frame building with grand porches and a large turret. The club house, located in the 100 block of sixth avenue between Burlington and Harris, was owned by the Music Hall Association and rented by the club. The building had been erected in 1890 at a cost of $14,500.00 ($416,600 in 2016), but improvements had increased the value to $19,000 with contents valued at $6,000. The fire consumed virtually everything, the total loss was estimated at $25,000 ($718,000).  

The Tribune  article gives a detailed description of the event: “All La Grange – men, women, and children – joined the volunteer fire department yesterday afternoon to save the La Grange clubhouse and its costly furnishings from ruin by flames, but without avail. In one hour after the big puff of smoke came and announced the blaze to the townspeople the beautiful building had been reduced to ashes, and nothing but a few pieces of bedrabbled and some pictures and some bric-a-brac remained.” The article provides more detail of the alarm and response “Miss Shordiche Gives the Alarm – Miss George Shordiche, who lives just opposite the site of the clubhouse in Sixth avenue, saw the puff of smoke and flames issuing from the roof at 1:30 p. m. and at once gave the alarm by telephone to the janitor, Henry Evans, who, with his wife and child, occupied four rooms on the third floor. He had seen the flames and was engaged in carrying out some of the club furniture. The blaze had assumed alarming proportions when the villagers turned out en masse to fight the flames. Under the direction of Fire Marshal A. B. French six lines of hose were turned on the building, and E. B. Bushnell and Justice E. R. McClellan formed bands of thirty men apiece to carry buckets of water. At 1:55 the roof of the auditorium at the rear of the building fell in, and half an hour later the entire roof fell in."

The Fires They Fought