Skip to contents
Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Flashback Friday: In 1937, A Manhole Cover Exploded Off And Crashed Through Hollander Building, Killing The Elevator Operator

One of the freakiest freak accidents in Chicago's history happened in Logan Square.

(from left) A 1937 article on the freak accident. The Hollander building circa 1916.
Logan Square Preservation
  • Credibility:

LOGAN SQUARE — For Flashback Friday, here’s some little-known history about Logan Square’s Hollander building, which is slated to be redeveloped soon.

In 1937, an explosion sent a 150-pound manhole five stories into the air and into the Hollander building at 2418 N. Milwaukee Ave., where it hurtled down an elevator shaft, killing elevator operator A.C. Day. Two other people in the elevator managed to escape injury.

The manhole that killed A.C. Day was one of 17 manholes tossed in the air along Milwaukee Avenue between Kedzie and Western in the massive explosion.

Authorities at the time believed nearby business owners who illegally dumped cleaning solutions into the sewers were to blame for the explosion, according to WTTW. They said the cleaning solutions turned into gas that ignited.

The Hollander building was built in 1912 for the Hollander Storage & Moving company. The Hollanders decided to sell the building in 2017.

Here’s more Hollander building history from Logan Square Preservation’s Andrew Schneider:

The Hollander “B” Warehouse was the company’s second on Milwaukee Avenue (“A” being located in Wicker Park and now part of the Robey Hotel). 

The building’s size and distinctive Hollander company signage has been a familiar site to generations of riders of the Logan Square branch of the Elevated train. The one-story building directly north, which will be demolished if the currently proposed development moves forward, was for many years an auto maintenance garage, part of the Automobile Row that once ran on Milwaukee from Fullerton to Sawyer. 

The strangest event in the history of the building, perhaps even the area, occurred in 1937 when a manhole cover on Fullerton blew off in a freak accident, fell through the elevator on the roof of the Hollander building more than 75 feet in the air and killed a person inside.

Credit: Logan Square Preservation
The Hollander building at 2418 N. Milwaukee Ave. circa 1916.

This Throwback Thursday/Flashback Friday feature was produced by Block Club Chicago and Logan Square Preservation. The newsroom and Logan Square-based group are reviving a partnership that started at DNAinfo which aims to share photos from Logan Square’s Preservation’s archives. When possible, we’ll work together to share photos that are topical and relevant to the news of the week.

Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.