WEST ROGERS PARK — The Indian Boundary Park field house, damaged by a fire nearly a year ago, should reopen by the end of 2013, officials said.
"I just want to teach in there, I just want to start classes," said Phil Martini, the field house's supervisor, who has moved classes to nearby Warren Park since the fire.
The field house was heavily damaged on May 20, when a flames tore through the building's attic, collapsing the ceiling above the auditorium.
The cause of the fire is thought to be electrical, but authorities haven't said for certain, Chicago Park District architect Stephen Grant said.
Martini and Grant were both on the scene as the fire took hold.
"The day was really vivid," Grant said. "It was shock."
Martini had been working in his office when someone outside the building called the Fire Department, he said.
He couldn't see the flames shooting out of the roof.
But when he saw the fire trucks arrive outside, he noticed a haze hanging in the air.
So he made for the exits.
The fire was under control within a couple of hours, but it drew a large crowd, Martini said.
"There were tears," Martini said of the neighbors who gathered. Many have vowed support for the building's restoration.
Since the fire, all of the debris from the building has been removed and sorted for historical material, Grant said.
"We were so lucky it was caught so quickly," he said.
Now the Park District is looking for a general contractor to begin a careful restoration of the Chicago landmark.
Grant said the repairs should be covered by insurance, but didn't yet know how much they would cost.
Martini said most of the historical items inside the field house, like the auditorium's three chandeliers and a grand piano, were saved.
"I played it last week," he said of the instrument, now in storage.
Grant said one of the chandeliers was still lit, covered in rubble, when the firefighters gave the all-clear.
The field house, at 2500 W. Lunt Ave., was built in 1929 and designed by Clarence Hatzfield. The building received landmark designation in 2005.
Martini said he first set foot in the building in 1965 as Cub Scout. In 1985 he was hired as a dance instructor. He hasn't left since.
"I think this is one of the coolest buildings in the Park District," Martini said outside the field house on a cold spring morning.
He had been checking for squirrels inside.
"Phil loves this building," said Judith Molloy, a Park District spokeswoman who had worked in the field house.