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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

After Burst Pipes Flooded Logan Square’s Comfort Station, Community Leaders Raising Money For Repairs

Comfort Station's pipes burst in February, destroying supplies and its piano. Leaders teamed up with Logan Square Preservation to recoup money spent on the repairs and support other community initiatives.

Comfort Station's pipes burst in February, causing a flood.
Courtesy of Kate Paris
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LOGAN SQUARE — Community leaders are fundraising to recoup thousands of dollars they spent fixing flood damage at Comfort Station, money they diverted from other programs to ensure the community arts space could open for an exhibition earlier this month.

Comfort Station and Logan Square Preservation launched a GoFundMe to raise $5,000 for the costs of the repairs. The groups have raised about $1,800 as of Wednesday morning.

Comfort Station operates out of a 100-year-old city warming station at 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave. The arts organization hosts 150-200 events and gatherings each year, from art exhibits and concerts to puppet shows and Sacred Harp singing group meetups.

Comfort Station’s pipes burst during a cold snap in February. A neighbor noticed a steady stream of water coming out of the old building and alerted the Comfort Station crew, Executive Director Jordan Martins said.

Water was “splashing and soaking the plaster walls,” Martins said. Supplies stored near the pipes were destroyed. Comfort Station’s “player piano,” used by many musicians over the years, was also damaged beyond repair.

No one was in the building at the time of the flood because Comfort Station takes a break from programs in the winter, Martins said.

“In one sense, the timing was very fortunate, but the fact that we weren’t in there regularly, we didn’t notice that our heater wasn’t working. If we had been in the space, we would’ve caught that,” he said.

Credit: Comfort Station
People gathered outside Comfort Station in Logan Square.

Martins said the flood left them “scrambling” to pay for repairs. Comfort Station is a small nonprofit with a mostly volunteer staff funded through donations and grants. Like many arts spaces, the nonprofit struggled to survive the pandemic.

That’s when Logan Square Preservation, Comfort Station’s partner, stepped up to help.

The neighborhood group, which fought for the preservation of the old city building years ago and holds the lease on the property, agreed to split the cost of the restoration work with Comfort Station. Each organization spent $2,500 to fix the building’s walls, floors and plumbing system.

Martins said they moved quickly to get the space back up in time for Comfort Station’s first solo exhibition in early April. But each organization dipped into money earmarked for programs and other expenses — a “major setback,” he said.

With the fundraiser, the organizations hope to “replenish those budget lines” and keep Comfort Station going strong so the art gallery and performance venue serves the neighborhood for years to come, Martins said.

Any money raised beyond the $5,000 goal will go toward longer-term upgrades. Though the city renovated the century-old building about 12 years ago, it still needs extensive work, including tuck pointing, Martins said.

Comfort Station “is a public space in the truest sense of that word,” Martins said. “It’s owned by the city, it’s activated by members of the public, all of our programming is free and most, if not all, of our programming is done by members of the community. We see this as a part of the community in this really literal sense.

“This is a public utility that we’re trying to get turned back on to its fullest extent. Any donations [neighbors] can give … will literally translate into us doing more programming.”

On top of the GoFundMe, Martins said they plan to host a piano fundraiser to replace the water-logged piano, which was donated to them about a decade ago. For this event, a group of musicians will play the piano — “as-is, altering it somehow and using microphones to capture sounds” — before they fully destroy it, he said.

Credit: Comfort Station
An event at Comfort Station in Logan Square.

The piano fundraiser is one of many events planned for Comfort Station this year. For the first time since the pandemic began, Comfort Station is going back to hosting indoor events, Martins said. Masks will be required.

The Tudor-style Comfort Station is one of two warming stations that remain in Chicago, said Kate Paris with Logan Square Preservation. The old West Chicago Parks Commission built the Logan Square structure in the early 1920s, along with several others across the city, as a public restroom and warming center for people using the boulevards.

“This is one way for people to preserve an important part of our history,” Paris said.

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