The Great Kewanee Fire


Early in the morning of April 13, 1942 a fire broke out in the Kewanee Dry Goods Store and before the burning was ended most of three blocks in the heart of downtown had been destroyed.

Kewanee Dry Goods, which for most of its existence had been Lyman and Lay Department Store and then Lay and Lyman, was located on the west side of the 100 block of North Tremont, where Union Federal drive-through is now located.

The fire destroyed 20 buildings, including most of the 100 block of Tremont (both sides) and all of the south side of the 200 block of West Second.

The courageous work of firefighters from throughout the area brought the blaze under control just before it could spread to the Parkside Hotel, which still stands today as Parkside Apartments.

The former Lay and Lyman building, which had been the “anchor” store of the business district since 1885, was not rebuilt; but as Mayor Saunders declared, the rest of the burned out area was rebuilt.

For more information and pictures visit the other side of this wall, the Kewanee Historical Society.

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