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5218 S. Western Avenue  
(Fire Museum of Greater Chicago)

Christopher Columbus in the Fire Museum


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Painted statue, made for the 1893 Columbian Exposition World’s Fair.

Information Sign

Christopher Columbus

This statue of Christopher Columbus was presented to Chicago Fire Departmen Battallion Chief Joseph Kenyon of the 12th Battalion by mr. W.H. Mullins at the close of the world's Columbian Exposition of 1893. It was erected in front of Engine Co. 51's quarters at 6345 S. Wentworth Avenue in memory of four C.F.D. and eight Columbian Exposition firemen who lost their lives at the Cold Storage Warehouse fire on July 10, 1893. A memorial resolution signed by the chiefs of all the departments at the fair was also presented.

Engine 51's house was probably selected for the statue because it was battalion headquarters and chief Kenyon had fought the Cold Storage fire. The Columbus statue was repaninted in gold and a new flag pole erected and rededicated on July 4, 1924. Chief Kenyon who presided over the rededication ceremonies, commemorating the erection of the memorial statue thirty years before, was still active as chief of the 12th battalion.

After Engine 51's quarters were closed, the statue was placed in storage at the fire department shops. The statue was refurbished and repainted and put on display at City Hall in October of 1993. It was later moved to the lobby of the 9-1-1 center on Madison Street and in October of 2001 was relocated to the Fire Museum of Greater Chicago.


Alan Gornik wrote me about this:
Your reference to 'Fire Station 51' led me to do more digging, with interesting results. There was another statue that did end up in front of this fire station in Chicago. Here’s the story: In July 1893 there was a tragic fire at the Cold Storage Building at the Fair. Seventeen firefighters and other workers were killed. At the east entrance to the building was a metal statue of Columbus, that survived the blaze. The owner of the statue then donated it to the City of Chicago to be used as a memorial to the dead men. It ended up in front of the station for Fire Company 51 located at 6345 Wentworth Avenue in Chicago. From Tribune articles, it was there from at least 1901 (from which I have the earliest picture I can find) to 1956. The station was torn down between then and 1961, and the statue was relocated to the new station at 6017 S. State Street. That station was apparently also torn down, so the statue was put into storage.

A few years ago an effort began in Chicago to develop a Fire Department museum in an abandoned fire station on S. Western Avenue in Chicago. They had an open house on May 1 this year. I went, and what did I discover but the statue! I took the attached pictures including a photo of the information sign. (In my exuberance over finding the statue, I neglected to get a good photo of the photos they had in front of the statue, but I extracted a shot and I looks like the front of the old station.) This was a rewarding expedition, prompted by you!

Exhibited at Chicago World's Fair Columbian Expo of 1892; then donated to honor firemen who died putting out a fire at the Expo.
The photo is the Columbus statue at the North Entrance of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.

David E. Nye, president of the Christopher Columbus Philatelic Society, did not locate this monument. "Fire Station 51" does not exist.

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Location (N 41°47'55" - W 87°41'4")

Item Code: usil11; Added: 7 November 2004  / Updated: 25 September 2010

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