Pillar of Fire, 1961
Robert J. Quinn Fire Academy
558 West De Koven Street
As legend goes, on the evening of Sunday, October 8, 1871, a cow kicked over a lamp in the barn of Mrs. Catherine O’Leary home at 137 DeKoven Street, starting the event known as the Great Chicago Fire. Due to dry conditions and high winds, the fire burned into early Tuesday, October 10, 1871. Approximately 3.3 square miles were destroyed, more than 300 people perished and one-third of the city's population was left homeless. It was one of the largest U.S. disasters of the 19th century.
Egon Weiner (1906 –1987) Chicago sculptor and professor at the Art Institute of Chicago (1945–1971) created this 33-foot-tall abstract bronze sculpture for the grounds of the Robert J. Quinn Fire Academy, where Chicago’s firefighters now train. The sculpture was designed for the site of the origin of the fire and in 1971, one hundred years after, it was designated a Chicago Landmark.
After the great fire, Catherine O'Leary spent the rest of her life in the public eye and was constantly hounded and blamed for the start of the disaster. One hundred years after her death, Chicago attorney and amateur historian Richard Bales gathered information about the events of that fateful night and published an article in the Illinois Historical Journal that included enough evidence to convince the Chicago City Council to exonerate O'Leary of all guilt in 1997.
Weiner’s other local works include “The Brotherhood Monument” at Diversey Parkway and Sheridan Road, and the bust of Frank Lloyd Wright at the entrance to Austin Gardens in Oak Park.