During conversation with a client over the Holiday Weekend, the topic of Old Chicago Firehouses came up. And not for the first time. In the past, a handful of buyer clients have mentioned their dream of snapping up a historic old property such as an Old Chicago Firehouse to lovingly renovate and turn into their dream two-story loft.
Often with a fire pole. Your Guide does not understand the fascination with fire poles. At my age, I am more fascinated with elevators (or firemen.) There only so many years of stair climbing left in my knees.
In the past, in the course of trying to burst these dreams as gently as possible, I have done some preliminary research on Chicago Firehouses. Generally, they have not been as prevalent as my clients would like. The City of Chicago is not frequently motivated to dispose of real estate. In Chicago’s past, fire protection duties were provided by private contractors. Upon the call of “Fire!” competing fire companies would all race to the scene of a disaster and the first company on scene was in charge of putting out the fire.
But those days are long gone. Most of the private fire protection companies were taken over by the City of Chicago before the middle of the last century. Overlapping firehouses were sold off many decades ago. Though many firehouses in Chicago are in desperate need of a renovation, the City usually keeps the fire house in the same location.
This makes the fabled Old Chicago Fire House a bit of a legend. Even when one of these old Fire Houses was found, it often commanded the value of the land PLUS a generous premium because of the novel nature of the property. In years past, the best price we could find was $350,000, and could easily command much more.
This example in Ravenswood, along Ravenswood Street, was listed for $1,275,000 back in 2006. Already renovated, the building features a wine cellar, two bedrooms, two baths, and of course an amazing first floor perfect for entertaining with wide-open vistas.
More typical, this example on the border between Old Town and Lincoln Park featured 7 rooms, 3 beds and 2 baths. A rooftop family room, wide open space on the first floor and a roof deck made this firehouse a great place for entertaining. Not quite as traditional in style (a bit ugly?) the building sold for $552,000 in 2005.
But most surprisingly, when rummaging through the local MLS data today, I found the Old Chicago Fire House deal of the decade: $90,000 for this building located at 3700 West Huron on Chicago’s West Side. Not converted into a home, this building was used as a church for the past 37 years. The first floor is still open raw space. Upstairs, a 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment is cobbled together, but not in any sort of livable condition.
So for you buyers out there that are still chasing the dream, and your Unicorn isn’t in your stable yet, give Your Guide a call! We might be able to make one of those dreams come true.