CHICAGO — After fire gutted the old Gately’s Peoples Store in Roseland last week, Ald. Anthony A. Beale (9th) said he’s working with members of the Gately family to save the store’s historic neon sign.
“The sign deserves a place in a museum where it can tell our community’s story to present and future generations, and help inspire everyone to work together to make Roseland the thriving and bustling destination it once was,” the neighborhood’s alderman said Monday.
Beale said he went to the fire Friday and saw Gately family members at the scene. He was already planning to preserve the sign, he said, adding that Gately family members said they would help raise the money to make sure the sign is taken down, preserved and put up at a later date.
The sign was not damaged in the fire, but the blaze damaged the century-old building at 11201 S. Michigan Ave. so bad, demolition crews began to take it down Friday night.
The building was bought by James Gately in 1917 and became the first of Gately’s department stores, which sold everything from clothing to kitchen appliances. The stores closed in 1994.
The Roseland building has sat vacant ever since, its sign standing watch over South Michigan Avenue.
The building caught fire at 3:30 a.m. Friday and burned for hours. No one was hurt. The cause hasn’t been released.
The sign remains on the building but will come down in the coming days. Beale said it will go into storage for a while and eventually go on display — but he didn’t reveal specific plans in mind to display it.
The alderman said he used to shop at the “iconic” store as a kid. It was a one-stop shop, he fondly recalled, calling it an anchor on the Far South Side.
“It’s the history,” Beale said. “We’re preserving history. It’s unfortunate that we had a fire, but we have to make lemonade out of the lemons that we were dealt.”
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