An extra alarm fire gutted the former Catholic Woman’s Club building at 1560 Oak Ave. in Evanston overnight.

Fire Division Chief Tom Janetske says the fire was reported about 11 p.m., and fire units were still on the scene at 8 a.m. this morning cleaning up after the blaze.

He says Engine Company 21, the first unit to arrive, found heavy flames coming from the rear of the second floor of the building. Extra units were called in from neighboring communities to help with the fire, which was extinguished around midnight.

The building was unoccupied and under permitted construction at the time of the fire. Damage was estimated at about $800,000. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

An addition was being built at the rear of the building where the fire reportedly started.

No one was injured in the fire, but guests were forced to evacuate the five-story building next door that houses the Margarita European Inn, a bed and breakfast, and the Pensiero Ristorante. They were able to return about 1 a.m.

A resident of the YMCA, located about a block away, said he looked out his window Tuesday night and saw flames shooting high into the air.

Construction workers gathered in the alley behind the building this morning, wondering whether the fire will cost them their jobs.

The building’s owner, Cameel Halim, a real estate investor who owns the Carlson Building and other properties in Evanston, was in the midst of renovating the structure to house his extensive collection of antique time pieces and art glass.

A summertime view of the former Catholic Woman’s Club building from a few years ago.

Related story

Time museum not standing still (Nov. 2008)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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