Chicagos McCormick Place in a photo provided by the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau

NFPA Journal Recounts McCormick Place's Fiery History

The Chicago lakefront showplace will host NFPA's Conference & Expo next month. This photo was provided by the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau.

Safety professionals and millions of other people are familiar with McCormick Place, the convention complex located on Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago. It is a regular stop for the annual National Safety Congress, and the facility will host the National Fire Protection Association's Conference & Expo June 8-11, with 300 exhibitors participating.

There were 1,250 exhibitor booths set up inside McCormick Place when a fire began in one of the booths at 2 a.m. on Jan. 16, 1967, hours before a National Housewares Manufacturers Association show was to open. The fire gutted the facility, upsetting then-Mayor Richard J. Daley and prompting the immediate vow to rebuild McCormick bigger and better than before that typifies Chicago leaders' response to tragedies.

Why the original McCormick Place was vulnerable to fire, how the facility was indeed rebuilt with 40,000 sprinklers installed and reopened in 1971, and how principals in NFPA, Underwriters Laboratories, and Rolf Jensen Associates were involved in the recovery effort are recounted by architect Edward Keegan in an article published in the May/June 2009 issue of the NFPA Journal®. The article includes photos from the fire.

Sessions scheduled to be presented during the NFPA conference include "McCormick Place Fire Protection: Then and Now" (Tuesday, June 9, 8-9 a.m.) by Randolph Tucker of The Rolf Jensen Associates Group, Inc. and a "Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the Fire Protection and Detection Systems at McCormick Place" (June 9, 9:30-10:30 a.m.) offered by Daniel Cozzi, assistant director of fire safety for the organization that owns McCormick Place.

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