New details have been revealed for the future of the Damen Silos at 2900 S Damen Avenue in McKinley Park. Located on the Chicago River just north of the exit from the Stevenson Expressway, in a historically industrial area south of Pilsen. The state officially announced the sale of the long abandoned structures which they have owned since 1928 but closed after an explosion in 1977. The sale will consist mainly of a bidding period in which potential buyers will submit their offers for the site.
Built in 1906, the tallest structure reaches 15 stories tall and used to be served by a massive network of interlocking grain elevators, all combined the silos had a capacity of 400,000 bushels of grain. They were originally constructed by the Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, which was founded in 1859 and was headquartered in Chicago. It eventually grew into one of the largest railroad companies in the nation before being merged with Burlington Northern in 1995 to form the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway, or BNSF as it is more commonly known.
The silos were littered with small fires and explosions in their long history, but a large grain dust explosion in 1977 caused significant damage to the elevators and they were finally abandoned. Since then they have fallen into disrepair, but also a new canvas for hundreds of graffiti artists who have been tagging the 24-acre campus since before the 1990s. Urban explorers have also given the site a popular following amongst their community as a way to experience the cavernous concrete tubes.
Although proposals have been pitched in the past, with the most recent failing roughly eight years ago according to Block Club, the state expects that this time will be different with a lower cost. The buyer could face the challenges of restoring them with millions of dollars of repairs and asbestos removal, or demolition. The bidding minimum currently is set at $3.25 million and bids are due on October 19th, with many locals hoping the structures are preserved.