Coast Guard Station Chicago History

Reports indicate a lifeboat detachment at least as early as 1878. There had previously been an annex to the new station at Jackson Park. Some reports mention the station still being a detachment in 1894, however. The Coast Guard eventually acquired the land by transfer from the War Department in 1900. It was located in Chicago Harbor.

By June 1932, renovation and improvement costs reached $98,382. There are, however, reports about the advanced state of building a new station in Chicago Harbor in 1902/3. it is unclear whether this refers to the completion of Old Chicago Station after the transfer of the land or whether a new station had been built.

In 1906, a service boat was installed in the boathouse of the Farragut Yacht Club at the foot of 33rd Street, Chicago, in order to provide better and more complete coverage.

A day that went down in the annals of the Coast Guard on Lake Michigan was May 18, 1894, when a heavy snow storm hit the area with gusts over 65 milers per hour. Particularly tragic was the eventual sinking of the schooner MYRTLE after a struggle that lasted for hours. All six men of the crew were lost within sight of the shore because the breakers were too high to reach the ship. Allegations about the unfit state of the station and Surfman Frank Fountain were brought up immediately by the leading Chicago newspapers. The reputation of the Life Saving Service suffered severely.

The new station was erected and commissioned on October 20, 1903. By June 30, 1935 the station had answered 8,454 calls for assistance. The most spectacular marine disaster within the scope of operations of Station Chicago was the capsizing of the steamer EASTLAND on July 24, 1915, with 2,400 passengers onboard. 280 were rescued by the Old Chicago crew and 400 bodies were recovered. it is estimated that this station has been instrumental in saving at least 6,000 lives through June 1935.