Ceremony at Evanston Plaza commemorates fatal 1905 fire.
RoundTable photos
Ceremony at Evanston Plaza commemorates fatal 1905 fire. RoundTable photos

On Dec. 13, 1905, a fire broke out at the Clayton Mark Foundry, 1900 Dempster St., the present location of Evanston Plaza. Two Evanston firefighters, William Craig and George Stiles, died in the fire, having been trapped when one of the walls collapsed.

On Dec. 13 of this year, members of the Evanston Fire Department, their friends and families – and great-grandchildren of George Stiles, attended a ceremony commemorating the sacrifice of the two firefighters.

“Today we gather to honor the memory of two great firefighters who lost their lives protecting this great City,” said Fire Chief Brian Scott. “Their deaths must remind us of why we do the mob we do. … Their spirit remains in this site, and their spirit will remain with us.”

Seventh Ward Alderman Eleanor Revelle, serving as Mayor pro tem, said “This memorial service is a reminder of what firefighters face every day. … It will serve as a reminder of the bravery and the ongoing service of the firefighters today.”

Firefighter/paramedic Tim Gobat, who began the tradition of honoring the fallen firefighters, recounted the details of the fire, the collapsed wall and the deaths of the two firefighters.

Chaplain David Jones blessed the memorial stones in the parking lot green space, honoring Mr. Craig and Mr. Stiles.

“Most people who drive to Dempster/Dodge don’t know the meaning of these stones,” said Mr. Jones. “They don’t know that when they come into this space where you and I are standing right now that this is holy ground because of what these two men have done. … And so it becomes your job and mine to make sure their story is told.”

After the tolling of the bell that commemorated the deaths of Mr. Craig and Mr. Stiles, the Chicago Fire Department Pipes and Drums and the Evanston Fire Department and Evanston Police Department Honor Guards, who opened ceremony, brought it to a conclusion.