The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 made clear the importance of a highly dedicated and professional fire service as the city rebuilt from ashes. The rebuilding effort attracted renowned architects whose outstanding structures helped make Chicago a world travel destination and host of the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Coming of age as the nation's transportation hub, meatpacker, cultural and commercial center during this period, the city and its fire department faced continuous challenges, such as the Iroquois Theater fire, the Eastland ship disaster and devastating conflagrations in the Stockyards and elsewhere.
The Fire Museum of Greater Chicago is currently housed in what used to be Engine 123's quarters. The firehouse was built in 1916 as a two story structure with one apparatus bay on the first floor. This building was not used by the Chicago Fire Department after January 17, 1974. The kitchen and poles have been removed in order to create space for exhibits. The second floor is being renovated in order to house the Ken Little library. The library will be open for research and will house the museum's collection of books, photographs, and other one of a kind artifacts.