Fire Destroys Music Center

Fire Destroys Music Center

Ravinia Park, III., nationally-known music center, was the scene of a $150,000 blaze on May 14, 1949, when fire destroyed the music shrine’s main pavilion and band shell.

The eighteen acre park is located in southern Highland Park, Ill., a fashionable suburb north of Chicago, Ill.

Destroyed pavilion was a 45-year-old two-story wood structure whose stage accommodated 90 musicians. Its roof extended over 1,420 seats. Six wings provided space for 900 more persons and benches at the rear seated 1,000. Dressing rooms occupied the second floor.

First notification of fire was received by telephone at 9:54 p.m. by the Highland Park Fire Department. Two 750-gallon pumpers responded with William Henning, Highland Park Fire Chief, in charge.

Subsequent alarms were sent in immediately by police and fire department two-way radio according to previously organized mutual aid agreements. Villages of Winnetka, Glencoe, Highwood, Lake Forest, and Fort Sheridan responded with pumpers.

Band shell and pavilion were completely involved when first apparatus arrived. Initial fire-fighting efforts consisted of stretching hose lines. No rescue operations were necessary because the building was empty.

Later arriving pumpers were employed to aid in extinguishing the fire and protecting exposures, which included an office building, refreshment stand, and a storehouse for stage properties.

Hydrants were plentiful and no long hose lays were necessary.

Flames were brought under control about 1:30 a.m., more than 3 1/2 hours after the first alarm. Last engine picked up by 2:00 a.m.

Chief Henning estimated damage at $150,000 and said the blaze was of undetermined origin. John Laurie, park manager, estimated replacement cost at $200,000 to $250,000.

Percy B. Echardt, chairman of the Ravinia Festival Association, said eight or 10 workmen were preparing the park for the concert season, which was scheduled to open June 28, when he left the grounds the day of the fire.

Ravinia originally was an amusement park and won later fame as a center for classical music. Ravinia Festival Association, a non-profit organization, has been operating the park as a music center since 1936.

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