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Century-old Gately’s People’s building in Roseland destroyed by fire

Former patrons of Gately’s People’s Store fondly recalled the iconic Far South Side department store after flames consumed the structure early Friday.

In the wake of a fire last year that destroyed the former Gately’s department store, City Hall is looking at creative ways to improve “The Avenue” in Roseland. In the wake of a fire last year that destroyed the former Gately’s department store, City Hall is looking at creative ways to improve “The Avenue” in Roseland.
Chicago firefighters work at the scene after a three-alarm fire broke out about 3:30 a.m. and destroyed the mostly vacant, 3-story Gatelys People’s department store at 112th Street and Edbrooke Avenue, June 7, 2019.
John L. Alexander/For the Sun-Times

A massive blaze early Friday has claimed a vacant — but formerly beloved — piece of Roseland neighborhood history.

The century-old building at 112th Street and Michigan Avenue once housed Gately’s People’s Store, which proudly claimed it sold “Everything For the Home” on it’s long, brick facade.

What sparked the blaze is unknown, the Chicago Fire Department said Friday. The building’s roof collapsed after flames shot through it. Concerns over the stability of the rest of the burned-out structure prevented investigators from entering.

Demolition began Friday evening.

Firefighters respond to a blaze at the old Gatelys People’s Store building at 112th Street and Edbrooke Avenue in Roseland, June 7, 2019.
Chicago Fire Department responds to a blaze about 3:30 a.m. at the old Gatelys People’s Store building at 112th Street and Edbrooke Avenue in Roseland, June 7, 2019.
Chicago Fire Department

Gately’s People’s Store, which opened in 1917, was where the Far South Siders shopped for everything from school uniforms to Christmas presents until the department store closed in 1981.

In a op-ed published in December 1987 in the Sun-Times, customer Noreen Briggs recalled “a nose-squashing viewing session at Gately’s Christmas window, our hearts pumping wildly as we stared enthralled at the electric train slowly wending its way among the toys.”

Briggs said later she had met “the real Santa Claus” on the department store’s second floor.

It’s former patrons took to social media after news of the fire spread as quickly as the flames that destroyed it, including one who remembered her family buying the clothes she wore for school pictures there.

Crews were called to the engulfed three-story building about 3:36 a.m., fire officials said.

“It’s very tough to get in there,” Fire Chief Jack Nagle said at a press conference at the scene, noting that firefighters were unable to enter the building because of safety concerns. “Luckily most of the building is vacant.”

A beauty supply shop, a clothing store and a jewelry store were located in the same building.

CFD spokesman Larry Merritt said the fire was struck out in about seven hours.

No injuries were reported, the fire department said.