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Cause of Sunday-morning fire on Ridge Road remains under investigation

Historic site of Dr. J. L. Van Drunen practice sustains further damage

LANSING, Ill. (July 24, 2023) – Crews from the Lansing Fire Department and five surrounding communities responded to a blaze early Sunday morning at a long-vacant commercial building in the village’s Ridge Road downtown district.

The report of the fire at a two-story brick building at 3251 Ridge Road was called in at 2:28 a.m. Sunday and crews were on site at 2:30, according to Lansing Fire Department Deputy Chief John Grady.

Lansing resident Jack Luck could see the glow of the fire from his home in Schultz Park and arrived at the scene to take photos from a safe distance. (Photo: Jack Luck)

Lansing sent an engine, a truck, and an ambulance to the scene, Grady said. Engines also were sent by Glenwood, Thornton, South Holland, Calumet City, and Dolton.

Lansing sent an engine, a truck, and an ambulance to the scene, as well as receiving assistance from surrounding communities. (Photo: Jack Luck)

“[Upon arrival] crew(s) found heavy smoke coming from the eaves and fire through the roof,” the Lansing Fire Department said in a Facebook post that includes photos taken by Jack Luck, a resident on the scene at the time, as well as others. “Crews began defensive operations, transitioning into an interior attack once conditions allowed.”

Shortly before this blaze, Lansing crews had assisted the Munster Fire Department with another structure fire in that town, the post said.

Grady said crews had cleared the scene by 4 a.m., and there were no injuries to civilians or fire personnel.

Under investigation

Yellow tape and a fire engine helped keep the area clear for initial investigative work on Sunday. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

The cause of the blaze remained under investigation on Monday afternoon, Grady said, and yellow fire-scene tape continued to circle the building.

All first-floor windows and doors had been previously boarded up due to vandalism at the site. Some second-floor windows on the east side of the building, next to the Lansing Sports Shop, appeared to be broken out as a result of the fire.

First-floor windows of the old building had already been boarded up before the July 23 fire. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma, July 17, 2023)
Second-floor windows on the east side of the building appeared to be broken out as a result of the Sunday-morning fire. Vandals had left graffiti on the black board in the lower left corner last Sunday or early Monday, and it had been power washed away just a day or two later. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma, July 23, 2023)

Proposed rehabilitation

The Lansing Journal reported last October on a proposal by Lansing resident Jonetta Smith to acquire the building from the Village and rehabilitate it. (See Levees, live entertainment, and a potential new Ridge Road business – Village Board highlights, October 5, 2022.)

According to the Journal reporting, Smith owns 203k Loans and Renovations, a real-estate development company.

“Her current plan is to use part of the ground floor as a showroom for her business’ services, alongside offices,” the Journal reported in 2022. “The back part of the property, Smith said, would be used by her daughter to run a facial spa. Two apartments would be rehabbed on the top floor, one of which would be used by Smith’s daughter, Smith said.”

At this time, however, the building is still under the ownership of the Village. Village Administrator Dan Podgorski said they are awaiting an insurance assessment in order to determine whether the building can be salvaged or needs to be torn down.

The building’s last active use is believed to be the medical practice and home of Dr. J. L. Van Drunen, who was there until at least 1957, according to a listing in the 1957-1958 Chamber of Commerce Business Directory.


Mike Clark
Mike Clark
Mike Clark is a veteran journalist who has been covering sports in the Chicago area and beyond, from preps to pros, for more than four decades.


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