Friday, November 22, 2019

Fire/(Rosenbaum+C&O and Norris) Grain Elevators on Calumet River

(Satellite, these silos were north of the slip and occupied the land that is now covered with petcoke in the saved image below)

In 1901, Rossenbaum was Calumet Elevator and Norris was Peavey Grain.

The first of five photos of the 1939 fire

John W. Barriger III Flickr
Bob Lalich commented:  Calumet Elevator, later Norris, later ADM - 102nd St. and Calumet River. This elevator replaced a bunch of older elevators that burned in 1939. Note C&WI RS-1 powering the train.

Nick Fry shared
Bob Lalich This elevator was demolished in the early 1980s.

I saved the satellite image because the petcoke piles are now gone. The silos were in the lower-left corner of this excerpt.

The Chicago Board of Underwriters of Chicago
 [Multiple elevators were consumed by this fire. The coroner's report ruled "Accidental, caused by spontaneous combustion." I believe accidental, but Chicagology agrees that was a dust explosion. “It was no use,” said Fire Commissioner Michael J. Corrigan. “The heat was so intense at the height of the fire that the water streams were turned Into steam before they even reached the walls.”]
Pat Judge Harvey My parents used to talk about the smell several months later when the grain began to ferment. 
I recently found pictures of this fire in a family album.
Neal Ciciora Those grain elevators by Fallstaff and the ones along the river south of 95th street used to explode and have fires quite often. Usually nobody was hurt in them but sometimes there was a tragedy.
William Bork Didn’t grain elevators at 106th and the river burn also? Mid to late 60’s?
Gloria Scherer Lang William Bork yes it did. During a cold snap. I remember the firemen with ice on them from water spray. Don’t remember the year.
Craig Holmberg Louis Dreyfus (Rock Island) Was just south of 106th st and the river, became some of the Wisconsin Steel property.

Marty Gatton also shared this link
The most spectacular fire involving grain elevators occurred on May 11, 1939 on a slip near 102 nd and the Calumet River. An explosion occurred at the Rosenbaum Elevator A near Commercial Avenue and then spread to Elevators B and C progressing toward the river. The fire then jumped the 100 foot wide slip to the south and ignited the Norris elevators 1 and 2. By the time the fire ended 5 elevators were destroyed and 9 individuals were killed. 20 freight cars were also burned in the 4 million dollar blaze. The Chicago Fire Department had two fireboats at the scene which helped put the fire out relatively quickly. Crowds estimated at 25,000 watched firemen battle the blaze. Fires at the site continued to break out sporadically and the remains of the fire gave off a stench for several months. [SECHS Newsleter referenced by a Rod Sellers comment on a post
Steve Redick posted
From what I can tell this was a large format copy negative of a classic old shows to be from the Clarence Woodward collection and was shared with us through the courtesy of Bill Friedrich. you should be able to see some great detail..lotsa rigs drafting from the Calumet River....
Here is a link to some relevant info including some newsreel footage

Marty Gatton shared
Michael Mora commented on Marty's share
I recently stumbled upon some interesting vintage photos of Movietone newsreel cameramen filming this massive grain elevator fire. Here's one and link to rest .

This aerial photo was taken the year before the fire.
1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
The following aerial photo excerpts are from the next frame on the film roll. The exposure is a little better.
Dennis DeBruler commented on Nick Fry's share
It appears these concrete silos existed in 1938 and that they were the only thing to survive the fire. The danger of wood grain elevators burning is exactly why the industry learned how to build concrete silos. I include 100th Street along the top and the Chicago Shipbuilding drydocks in the upper-right corner to help correlate this image with today's satellite images.

Dennis DeBruler commented on Nick Fry's share
A closeup of the concrete silos. They do look like what I saw in a 1973 aerial photo. The silos were gone in a 1983 aerial. The 1939 fire explains why all of the other buildings look different.

Also Rod Sellers comment on a post
For additional information about this and other local grain elevator fires see the article "Grain Elevators" from the July 2019 SECHS Newsletter in the files section of this page. Attached diagram illustrates how fire started in Rosenbaum A, burned east toward the Calumet River destroying Rosenbaum B and C then jumping over Slip No. 2 and burning Norris Elevators 1 and 2.

Bob  Lalich commented on Nick Fry's share
Here is a Life magazine photo of the elevator taken in 1951.

Dennis DeBruler replied to Bob's comment
This photo shows the many tracks north of the elevator in this 1977 topo was used for storage. Are those iron ore cars? They look rather short.
Bob Lalich Dennis DeBruler - the hoppers are coal for Rail To Water.

eBook, p1748, 1920 (Chicago starts at page 1706, Result 3 of the query "calumet river rail to water"

Michael Mora posted
"Repairing a Lake Carrier after a collision," late June/ early July 1905 at dock of then Chicago Ship Building Company, 101st and Calumet River. Detroit Publishing Co. photo, from Maritime History of the Great Lakes,
[Bob Lalich identified the grain elevator in the background as one of the Rosenbaum elevators. Since this photo was taken in 1905, this would have been before the fire.]

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