Fourth on Fire — Chicago’s Old Post Office Can’t Get a Break

Fire at the Old Post Office (by Jeff Carlson/@car_jaq —

Fire at the Old Post Office (by Jeff Carlson/@car_jaq

Abandoned.  Beleaguered.  Troubled.  Distressed.  And now you can add another adjective to the list describing Chicago’s Old Main Post Office at 433 West Van Buren Street: Burned.

On Independence Day, smoke in the West Loop air wasn’t from fireworks, it was from an actual fire on the top floor of the three million square foot behemoth.  Chicago’s finest had the flames out in a matter of minutes, but there was quite a lot of smoke. According to the Chicago Fire Department, it was “just some pallets and rubbish burning CFD put it out with hand pumps.”  According to the Googles, “hand pumps” is “fire extinguisher” to you and me.

This isn’t the first time there’s been a fire at the Old Post Office since it was abandoned almost two decades ago.  Occasionally it’s been things like movie shoots getting out of hand.  But more often than not, it’s been vagrants trying to keep warm, and “urban explorers” from the suburbs looking for a thrill.

You’ll remember that earlier this year, New York developer The 601W Companies bought the building, and has grand plans for transforming it into offices.  It’s not the first developer to try to turn this ship around, but hopefully 601W has a strong rudder (read: deep pockets), so the old Post Office won’t see a 20th year of neglect.

Rendering of the latest plans for Chicago's Old Post Office building.

Rendering of the latest plans for Chicago’s Old Post Office building.

Location: 433 West Van Buren Street, West Loop

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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