The Chicago Firehouse is located on the corner of 14th Street and Michigan Avenue at 1401 South Michigan Avenue. The building was erected in 1905 by a famous architect by the name of Charles Harmann. The firehouse was built to serve the Prairie Avenue Community and its surroundings.
Residents of Prairie Avenue consisted of many of the first families of Chicago, such as the Marshall Fields, the McCormicks, the Palmers and the Glessners. Prairie Avenue from 17th to 20th Street was filled with the many socialites of the day who had built homes following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
It is believed that this unique firehouse, which is constructed of yellow brick and limestone (different from the standard red brick), had special attention placed on it in order to stay in keeping with the neighborhood and especially its residents.
The building stands in much of its same splendor today. However, some interesting changes have occurred. The stables, which used to house the horses for the wagons, have now been replaced with a courtyard. The upstairs, which once had a large room to store the hay for the stables, later transformed to a handball court and now has been transformed to a banquet kitchen. The remaining part of the upstairs contained the living quarters for the firemen; where the movie Backdraft was filmed now serves as our banquet space. Reminiscent of the old spiral staircase, which in the wintertime prevented horses from climbing upstairs to the living area where the heat existed, has now been relocated to our courtyard.
Mainstay made great efforts to preserve as much as possible, but yet still allow the operation to be functional as a restaurant. The tin ceiling, the glazed tile walls, the two fire poles located in the bar, and the chief’s wall passed when entering the bar, are all original.
Since opening as a restaurant in 2000, The Chicago Firehouse Engine Company 104 still serves the neighborhood today, but in a slightly different capacity, with its American Classic menu.