Firehouse Art Studio Coming Soon to Old Roosevelt Road Firehouse

By Chloe Riley on February 12, 2013 7:33am 

UNIVERSITY VILLAGE — Very soon, the only fire at the old Roosevelt Road firehouse will be the one used to light up kilns in community art classes. 

Work is progressing on the Firehouse Art Studio, a new community arts building in the space. Co-owner Jay Nowak said he expects the studio to be up and running by late spring or early summer.

The studio will offer a variety of art classes — including glass blowing and pottery — for both adults and children in the surrounding neighborhoods. 

The firehouse at 1123 W. Roosevelt Road is Chicago’s oldest, built in 1873. It used to house Engine 18, which moved south to 1360 S. Blue Island Ave. in 2008.

Nowak, along with business partner Jessica Beauchemin, bought the building from the city in 2010 for $320,000.

Inside the old firehouse, the heat may be off and paint may be peeling on a few walls, but Nowak said it’s nothing like when they first walked into the space in 2010. 

“It was just an absolute mess,” Nowak said.

The mess ended up being the right kind of mess. Since the station had been virtually untouched over its 140 years, Nowak said the restoration — and keeping as much of the original detail as possible — has been easier than he first thought.

They’ve kept the original staircase, metal fire poles, and — Nowak’s favorite — the “hose room,” a small area toward the back of the station where the fire hoses would have been stored.

“It wasn’t eerie,” he said of first walking into the rooms, some with beds still made. “It was very peaceful. Those guys took a lot of care.”

Nowak and Beauchemin also run Rainforest Learning Center, an arts preschool on 1325 S. State St.

Nowak stressed the new art center is not going to be another preschool.

With the art center’s close proximity to Little Italy, Pilsen and the Habla community homes, Nowak said the center’s focus would be on providing accessible and affordable arts programs to all in the area.

To keep an eye on the progress, visit the art studio’s Facebook page.

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