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The Fiery 1968 Demise of a Western Springs Landmark

On the afternoon of June 3, 1968, motorists on Willow Springs Road noticed a fire across the street from Community Memorial Hospital in La Grange. And, by 5:30 p.m., little would remain of the historic Dierks Farm.

In 1858, 20-year-old Dietrich Dierks came to America from Germany. By 1869, after working at several jobs in La Grange and Western Springs, he purchased 40 acres of farm land, eventually expanding it to 329 acres. The farmhouse and barns were located on South Willow Springs Road, directly across the street from today’s La Grange Memorial Hospital.  See second photo.

In 1919, Dietrich died and the farm was passed on to his children who, in 1953, began selling off acreage for the new Springdale subdivision. However, the house and barns remained well into the 1960’s, a constant reminder of how rural the area had once been. In fact, the farm became a favorite spot for local artists to gather, capturing the area landmark on canvas. That is, until the afternoon of June 3, 1968. 

At 12:27 p.m., the Western Springs Fire Department was notified that the barn complex was on fire. A box alarm was activated, with La Grange and Pleasantview fire departments also responding. However, by the time the first firemen arrived, the corrugated metal roof on the large barn had already collapsed.  See third photo.

The fire also engulfed a smaller farm building to the south.  See fourth photo.

Firemen remained on the scene until 5:30 p.m. While the buildings had not been in farm use for some time, two local area men had rented the barn to store an extensive inventory of rare auto parts and five antique cars, some dating back to 1916. All of the contents were uninsured and were destroyed in the fire, which was of undetermined origin.

So ended an important chapter in Western Springs’ history. Soon after the fire, the farm house was razed and the property was incorporated into Springdale.

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Terese January 30, 2013 at 05:46 PM
I remember this. I lived around the corner, and was home from school for lunch when this happened. Very scary.
Darren McRoy January 30, 2013 at 10:05 PM
I can't imagine seeing this happen. Whoa.

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