Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Best Museum You've Never Heard Of

Opinion by John T. "Red" Ryan

IN OUR FAIR city, we are fortunate in having some really great, world class museums. One only need to invoke their names in resurrecting great memories of days well spent viewing the great exhibits  of widely divergent subject matter. We have Museum of Science & Industry, Field Museum of Natural History, Adler Planetarium & Astronomical Museum and the Shedd Aquarium. All of these major league institutions decorate the picturesque Lakefront. But there are many minor and lesser known museums; each of which has a specialty in subject matter and are worthwhile investing one's time. 

ONE SUCH PRIVATELY owned and operated institutions is THE FIRE MUSEUM OF GREATER CHICAGO. It is the labor of love of a group of "regular fellers", most of whom are retirees from the Chicago Fire department. As with most such 'amateur' endeavor, the results are outstanding and highly "professional." (Remember that the dictionary origin of the word amateur is one who pursues an activity for the love of it.)

THE MUSEUM, WHICH has been establishes for about 20 years, has been at its present site for about 7 years. This location is the former Fire Station home of Engine Company 123 and its being there is due in large part to the efforts of 14th Ward Alderman Edward M. Burke. Ed is himself, a great Historian, especially when it comes to Chicago History. As such, he has penned two books on our City's History: INSIDE THE WIGWAM: Chicago Presidential Conventions (1996) and END OF WATCH: Chicago Police Killed In The Line Of Duty (2006).   

THOSE OF US in the Southwest Side communities will find the museum most easily accessible; not having to travel but a few minutes to its location. And that address would be in the former Firehouse of Engine Company 123, 5218 S. Western. Parking is plentiful and neither the restored firehouse nor the antique fire vehicles nor the historical artifacts displayed within will disappoint. Displays dedicated to great historical events (such as the Chicago Fire) are presented along with uniforms and firefighting gear from bygone days. of particular interest is the original Squad # 10 Fire Truck. Being a 1928 vintage vehicle, it is restored to it original pristine appearance and looks ready to respond to the next alarm!

THE MUSEUM RUNS an open house on the 4th Saturday of every month (excluding December). It is available for special tours by arrangement with the volunteer staff. There is no admission; but all contributions to the museum are greatly appreciated. 

SO, THE NEXT time you're seeking something to do with the family (and it's a 4th Saturday), come on over. The hours of operation are 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Their next open house will be held on Saturday, July 28.

Website is: http://www.firemuseumofgreaterchicago.org/visit-us/calendar.html
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John T. “Red” Ryan is a retired Chicago police officer and Garfield Ridge resident. 

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