WIN: Rogers Park Firehouse reopens as Chicago Filmmakers’ new home

Chicago Filmmakers, Ridge Firehouse Window Detail, 5720 N. Ridge Avenue, Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

After extensive renovations, has converted the historic Ridge Firehouse dating from 1928 into their beautiful new headquarters. The non-profit Chicago Filmmakers is confident that it will prove to be a dynamic and vibrant cultural addition to the Edgewater community.

In 2008, the building became a Designated Chicago Landmark. The firehouse was decommissioned by the Chicago Fire Department and the City of Chicago requested proposals for nonprofits interested in purchasing, restoring, and occupying the historic building located at 5720 N. Ridge. In 2016, Chicago Filmmakers was awarded the privilege and responsibility to renovate this beautiful historic building. They purchased the building in March, 2016 for $36,000 and spent approximately $1 million for the comprehensive renovation.

The two-story building features an elegant facade with red brick and white terra-cotta quoins, ornate window headers, and projecting cornice. A public garden and patio has been built on the building’s north side. The old sleeping quarters upstairs have been repurposed as a classroom and offices. Many of the building’s architectural accents have been preserved and repurposed, including a front desk made out of limestone from the old fireman’s showers. The old fire truck bay is now a 75 seat screening theater.

The building now has an elevator, exit stairs, new plumbing, electrical, HVAC, sewer and water lines. Chicago Filmmakers worked with the architectural firm “Bureau of Architecture and Design” and Finnegan Development.

Founded in 1973, Chicago Filmmakers is one of the country’s oldest and most programmatically diverse not-for-profit media arts organizations. Chicago Filmmakers nurtures the development of aspiring filmmakers of all ages by offering college level classes and workshops for adults, as well as summer camps and weekend classes for youth; empowers local artists to create new work through production funding, equipment access, fiscal sponsorship, and other services and resources for filmmakers; and encourages the professional development of media artists through seminars, panel discussions, lectures, learning circles, networking events and other opportunities for artistic exchange and collaboration.

Chicago Filmmakers develops diverse audiences through its year-round film and video exhibition programs and its two annual film festivals, Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival and The Onion City Experimental Film + Video Festival.

A celebration was held on Saturday, April 28 and began with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony with 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman; Christine Dudley, Director of the Illinois Film Office; Rich Moskal, Director of the Chicago Film Office; Dr. Eric Freedman, Dean of the School of Media Arts at Columbia College Chicago; actor Chris “Mouch” Stolte, one of the stars of NBC’s Chicago Fire; and other film industry and community leaders.

Preservation Chicago congratulates Chicago Filmmakers on their outstanding achievement and wishes to recognize all of the incredibly hard work it took to make it happen including the fund-raising campaign and overseeing the construction work, all while continuing to fulfill the mission of the organization!

We also applaud 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman who was committed to seeing this building repurposed for a community use and “leveled the playing field” allowed a non-profit to compete with for-profit developers.

According to Chicago Filmmakers’ executive director Brenda Webb, “Sometimes these firehouses get sold to individuals who make them into homes, but Alderman Osterman really wanted to see the building be reused for cultural or community purposes. Through his efforts, the city issued a request for proposals, and we submitted one.” (Sachs, Chicago Reader, 9/13/2018)

Preservation Chicago believes that historic buildings and Chicago arts and cultural organizations are a natural fit and encourages the City of Chicago and Aldermen to continue to work to advance these initiatives.

Additional Reading

Chicago Filmmakers Officially Open Their New Home in Edgewater, Daniel Zagotta, EdgevilleBuzz, April 30, 2018  

Chicago Filmmakers invites public to celebrate new space, Chicago Filmmakers, Press Release April 28, 2018

Chicago Filmmakers to cut ribbon on new home, Windy City Times, Liz Baudler, April 25, 2018

Chicago Filmmakers and the Ridge Firehouse: A match made in heaven, Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, September 13, 2017

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