Fire destroys family-owned Lincoln Square Lanes: ‘I just don't believe it'

CHICAGO (STMW) - A family-owned, nearly 100-year-old bowling alley was “gutted” by an extra-alarm fire early Monday in the Lincoln Square neighborhood on the North Side.

“I’m in shock, I just don’t believe it,” said Richard Drehobl, 79, a co-owner of Lincoln Square Lanes, at 4974 N. Lincoln Ave., for 30 years.

Firefighters called to the blaze shortly before 1 a.m. saw the heavy fire coming through the roof and immediately elevated the alarm, said Chicago Fire Department Deputy Fire Commissioner Anthony Vasquez.

One firefighter was reported missing while battling the blaze and a mayday alarm was called, which elevated the alarm again and brought six ambulances to the scene, Vasquez said. But the firefighter was found safe a short time later and the mayday was canceled.

“He got into a bit of a jam, but got out right away,” Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said, adding that the firefighter refused to be taken to the hospital.

No one was injured in the blaze, which was extinguished by about 4 a.m., Langford said, adding that the fire may have originated in the grill.

Drehobl, who didn’t know how the blaze started, said he woke up to a phone call from Chicago Police telling him that his bowling alley was on fire. One of his three sons, another co-owner, got pulled over while racing to the scene.

Lincoln Square Lanes was opened on the building’s second floor in 1918 and was “the oldest operating bowling alley in Chicago,” according to its website. The first floor housed Matty K’s Hardware Store.

Drehobl said his family renovated the bowling alley in 2012.

“All the work we did—that’s my son’s baby. We put about a million bucks into it,” he said. “Now I don’t know what we’re going to do. We put all these antiques in there and made it real nice.”