Brewster Building curse: Water tank fell on same day as tragic accident in 1895

July 31, 2013 5:00:54 PM PDT
After a water tank fell Wednesday from a landmark North Side building, the ABC7 I-Team started looking into the background of the building and found a recent problem, as well as some astounding history.

The Brewster Building is a stop on some of Chicago's ghost tours because of something that happened there more than one hundred years ago- what some say is the curse of the Brewster Building.

But the I-Team begins with that water storage tank atop the old building. Not an uncommon feature, and one that city inspectors frequently keep an eye on.

The 15-foot-tall 5,000-gallon tank that fell attracted a lot of attention Wednesday. It received a citation from the City of Chicago Building Department three and a half years ago after failing an inspection. And in 2010, the building was cited by the Department of Buildings for a problem with that 100-year-old rooftop water tank. The city ordered a structural engineering report and relocation of steel bands to their original positions on the water tank.

A few months later, the building passed a follow-up inspection.

This well-kept structure is a designated Chicago landmark, but in its history, the I-Team has learned, Wednesday's accident wasn't the first involving the rooftop.

The historic building where a water tank fell from the rooftop has been a popular stopping point for Chicago ghost tours over the years, and what happened Wednesday will only add to a century-old mystery surrounding the 9-story building, originally known as the Lincoln Park Palace.

In 1895, builder Bjoerne Edwards, a prominent Chicago publisher, was on the rooftop supervising final construction of what he called the "world's finest apartment house". Edwards was directing work crews when he fell from scaffolding to his death. His lifelong dream ended when he plunged through the open courtyard and into the lobby.

His death from the same rooftop where Wednesday's accident began occurred 118 years ago. Exactly 118 years ago, on July 31, 1895.

When operators of Chicago ghost tours stop at the Brewster, they speak of the feeling that some people get when they walk through the upper floors of the building, a feeling that falling is imminent. That is a story that goes back to the owner's tragic fall to his death, a story that now has a calendar coincidence with what happened on July 31, 2013.

Additional information:
Full City of Chicago inspection history of building
2010 citation for failing water storage tank inspection


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