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This Massive Above-Ground Gas Tank Used To Tower Over Six Corners

By Alex Nitkin | April 20, 2017 5:41am
 Peoples Gas still operates a facility at 3955 N. Kilpatrick Ave., shown here.
Peoples Gas still operates a facility at 3955 N. Kilpatrick Ave., shown here.
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Northwest Chicago Historical Society

PORTAGE PARK — The gas that heats our homes didn't always used to be as out of sight and out of mind as it is today, as this week's #ThrowbackThursday photo shows.

Taken sometime in the early 1950s — as indicated by the mid-century-era streetcar skating past — the image shows one of the many tower-sized superstructures that were used by the utility company Peoples Gas to store fuel before it was distributed.

This particular tank stood at 3955 N. Kilpatrick Ave., just east of the Six Corners Shopping District. The address is still home to a Peoples Gas facility today, but the above-ground tank has long since disappeared.

"It was like this giant balloon that would raise up and down depending on how much gas was inside it, and it would make these loud hissing and whooshing sounds whenever they took anything out," said Northwest Chicago Historical Society board member Frank Suerth, recalling the above-ground tanks from his childhood. "Even then it seemed like a disaster waiting to happen, but I don't think there was ever an incident."

A spokesman for Peoples Gas described in an email Thursday how the "couple dozen" gas holders were used throughout the city, and what led to their demise:

Peoples Gas used gas holders to store manufactured gas that was produced by coal. These holders were a common site around Chicago, since Peoples Gas had a couple dozen holders scattered around the city. Two developments led to the disappearance of the gas holders; the first was in the 1950s, when natural gas began replacing manufactured gas and was pumped and transported from the Gulf Coast, Texas-Oklahoma areas and Canada through interstate pipelines. The second was the use of underground storage facilities, which are large areas below the surface where natural gas is stored in rock formations miles below the surface. By the early 1980s, the last of the gas holders were taken out of service and the era of these large aboveground storage facilities went by the wayside.

The Six Corners structure was dismantled in 1971, the spokesman said.

The tank is seen behind this home at 3912 N. Kenneth Ave. [Northwest Chicago Historical Society]

The site of the People Gas facility today, 3955 W. Irving Park Road [DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin]

DNAinfo is partnering with the Northwest Chicago Historical Society for a new history post each week. All photos are the property of Northwest Chicago Historical Society unless otherwise indicated.

For more photos and information, visit the Northwest Chicago Historical Society's Facebook page.