Elgin condemns historic Tower Building

Significant damage from a fire inside the historic Elgin Tower Building last weekend forced city officials to condemn the structure Tuesday.

Because the art deco building is unfit for occupancy, its three remaining tenants have to collect their things and move elsewhere until further notice.

The blaze was deliberately set Sunday in one of the building's manual elevators, resulting in extensive damage to the lobby and both of its elevators, Elgin Fire Chief John Fahy said.

"It has no elevator service and the lobby is unsafe," Fahy said Wednesday. "It was my recommendation to the community development director that we don't have anyone in the building."

Tuesday's action came a day after Fahy, the community development department and the Illinois State Fire Marshal inspected the building that has dominated Elgin's skyline since 1929.

The notice for condemnation came from Community Development Director Marc Mylott in the form of a three-page letter addressed to Neal Pitcher, the building's manager. In order to reopen, the lobby and the elevators must undergo repairs and pass an inspection.

According to Mylott's letter just one stairway is usable. Officials spent part of Tuesday red-tagging the building and blocking off the elevators and floors with caution tape, Fahy said.

The condemnation represents another low point for the 15-story building that once housed 32 tenants.

The city of Elgin last year filed a lawsuit in Kane County regarding safety violations at the building, which has long-standing issues with its sprinkler system and elevator.

City officials last month set a deadline of June 30 for the building owners to resolve safety issues. Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said.

"They've been on notice for a long time with those," Kaptain said. "They need to do all kinds of remodeling on the inside and that's pretty costly. We'll see what happens."

Pitcher, meanwhile, has said it makes no sense to do any work by June 30 because of a pending contract to sell the building to Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co.

The building was constructed to house the Home National Bank and Home National Savings and Trust, according to its website. It has occupied a spot in the National Register of Historic Places since 2002.

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  The city condemned the historic Elgin Tower Building Tuesday following an elevator fire Sunday. An official said the fire was set on purpose. Rick West/
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