We go in search of Dawson, Casey, and the gang from Chicago Fire on the streets of Chicago…
Ok, so after an extensive cross-country, two-lane adventure, we took a few days of much needed R&R in one of our all-time favorite cities: Chicago. One particular morning, we were feeling extra-touristy and decided to check out the real-life “Firehouse 51” and the “Molly’s Bar” from the NBC hit show Chicago Fire.
Please don’t judge us.
Getting to the firehouse is an easy drive or Uber from downtown, but keep in mind there’s not a whole lot else to do out there. Maybe convince your driver to wait just a few minutes while you snap some pictures.
The backstory of CFD Engine 18, housed at Fire Station 51, is one filled with real-life heroics in the engine’s 100+ years of service. In fact, Engine 18 was the first Chicago Fire Department company organized after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and it’s been operating ever since.
When we arrived, several firefighters were outside chatting, and thankfully, they were incredibly friendly when we asked the dumb question everyone asks, “Is this the firehouse from Chicago Fire?”
Apparently, the firehouse has become quite the tourist destination as the show has gained more and more followers. The firefighters don’t seem to mind the attention, and we’re told the show even uses real firefighters as extras whenever possible.
And just like on the show… When our “shift” was over at Firehouse 51, we headed over to Molly’s for a drink with the crew. Yes, there is a real-life Molly’s…
Lottie’s in Bucktown seems to be having fun with their role as the firefighter-owned bar in the show, but Lottie’s, like Engine 18, has a past all its own, just not as upstanding…
Like so many places from Chicago’s prohibition days, Lottie’s has a story full of gambling and illegal booze… Lottie Zagorski took a local neighborhood grocery store and gave it a reputation for the alleged speakeasy below. Lottie’s rathskeller would become a hotbed for gambling and as the favorite hangout of everyone from politicians to mobster Andy “The Greek” Lochious.
Lottie was finally busted in 1966 and arrested for possession of gambling paraphernalia. She would pass away of natural causes after her grand jury testimony. Twenty years later, new owners rename the upstairs pub “Lottie’s Pub,” a nod to the outlaw woman who gave the place life.
Of course, Lottie may have had one more secret she took with her to the grave… In 2004, while renovating the basement, the owners found a collection of bones. Speculation ran wild after the discovery- just one more hint of Lottie’s Pub’s role in the gangster days of Chicago.
Today, Lottie’s is a fun, good ol’ American pub with great food and plenty of cold beer. Their neighborhood bar vibe made them an easy choice for producers of Chicago Fire for the fictional “Molly’s”. (By the way, we’re told the show now films on a set recreation of Lottie’s/Molly’s, whatever you want to call it.)
Address for Engine 18:
1360 Blue Island
Chicago, Illinois 60608
Address for Lottie’s Pub:
1925 W Cortland St.
Chicago, Illinois 60622
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