Chicago police investigating Swift Mansion fire as arson; CFD battles hotspots

Monday, December 4, 2023
CPD investigating Swift Mansion fire as arson; CFD battles hotspots
Chicago police are conducting an arson investigation after a fire in the Swift Mansion in Bronzeville Sunday morning.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Crews sifted through the extensive damage from a suspicious fire that swept through Bronzeville's historic Swift Mansion on Sunday.

The grand greystone at the corner of 45th and Michigan has been a staple in the community since the 1890s. It was once the home of the Chicago Urban League.

"It was a big deal. It was a beacon in the community," said Chicago Urban League President and CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson.

Officials said the fire broke out in a rear stairwell around 11:30 a.m. and rekindled three times.

Witnesses told ABC7 that plans were in the works to renovate the building, but several tenants were staying there.

Built back in 1892, the original owners were connected to Chicago's meatpacking industry. It later served as a funeral home. Most recently, it was the site of the Inner City Youth and Adult Foundation, which helped people coming out of state prison to find jobs.

"We do need facilities like this around to help these young guys, and maybe create more jobs and stop them from doing all this nonsense that they're doing," said Bronzeville resident Andante McGee.

The mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and the building is now undergoing rehab work.

"Every time something like this happens, a fire or some other disaster occurs, we lose a bit of our history. Certainly, the knowledge of the history remains, but the actual history is lost," Freeman-Wilson said.

Freeman-Wilson said it's possible that the building will need to be partially demolished as a safety precaution. In the meantime, police are officially calling this an arson investigation, and at this point, no one is in custody.