Willow Springs and the entire Chicagoland area lost an iconic landmark Friday, as the massive Willowbrook Ballroom at 8900 Archer Avenue, burned down.
At approximately 2 p.m. a roof fire was reported at the Willowbrook Ballroom. Upon arrival initial fire companies found the structure to be vacated with smoke showing from the roof of the structure. Fire companies verified that the building was completely evacuated and initial fire operations were begun, said Tri-State Fire Protection District Fire Chief Daniel P. Niemeyer.
Within a few minutes fire broke through the roof of the structure above the main ballroom. The building’s outdated bowstring truss construction prevented any interior operations. Bowstring truss construction is no longer an accepted method of construction.
Fire extinguishing efforts required a constant water supply to douse the fire in multiple directions. Firefighters used three separate water sources due to the size of the structure and the danger to a neighboring residence and restaurant.
Greco’s Restaurant would have been lost but for the exceptional efforts of firefighters who kept the fire from spreading by directing water at all four corners of the Willowbrook and on Greco’s itself, Fire Chief Niemeyer said.
The 30,000-square foot structure required a response of 20 fire apparatus, 12 water tankers and seven chiefs who coordinated water supply and safety operations for more than six hours. Fuel trucks were called in to refuel the fire apparatus. Assistance came from departments from as far Troy, IL.
The loss of this historical building is a loss to the community. A thorough investigation of the cause of this fire has begun and will be ongoing. The original ballroom was built in 1921, 95 years ago. It was destroyed by fire in 1930 and rebuilt. The building that burned today was built to replace it.