Historic Building in Downtown Platteville Destroyed Showcases the Importance....

Historic Building in Downtown Platteville Destroyed - Showcases the Importance of Installing Fire Protection in Older Buildings

A multi-use building housing apartments and a popular restaurant, Chicago's Best, was destroyed after a fire ignited.

Fire destroys popular restaurant, apartments in downtown Platteville

By Nick Heynen, Wisconsin State Journal

A popular downtown Platteville restaurant was destroyed and 14 people were left homeless when a fire broke out Saturday in a three-story mixed-use building.

Platteville Fire Chief Dave Izzard said black smoke was billowing out of a second-floor window when fire crews arrived just after 10 a.m.

The building, at 95 N. Second St., housed the Chicago's Best restaurant and nine apartment units.

Izzard said the construction of the brick building, which he estimated to be 100 years old, made work difficult. "They would tear down a ceiling and find another ceiling behind it," he said.

Eventually, firefighters had to make an emergency exit from the building as the roof started to collapse. They battled the fire from the outside from then on, but the fate of the building was sealed, Izzard said.

Platteville, WI fire

Firefighters knocked down the fire around 7 p.m. after a nine-hour battle. Hot spots rekindled around 10 p.m., but firefighters were home by midnight, he said.

The American Red Cross is providing shelter and support to four or five displaced residents, said Tom Mooney, CEO of the Red Cross Badger Chapter.

Mooney said the building housed mostly students from UW-Platteville, many of whom were not there when the fire broke out. He added that getting in touch with the residents has been challenging because the building's rental records were in the landlord's first-floor room and were destroyed by the fire.

The cause of the blaze is unknown, though investigators know it started in a second-floor apartment. The building is likely a total loss and is dangerous to enter, which will complicate the investigation, Izzard said. He did not have a damage estimate.

Platteville lost more than just a prominent downtown building.

Izzard said he and many of the firefighters counted the Chicago's Best restaurant among their favorite gathering places. He called it "kind of a townie bar" that was popular with many of the permanent residents of this university city.

It's the city's loss as well because the building was a "cornerstone" of Second Street, which is a key part of the city's night life, Izzard said. The street was recently reconstructed, and there were events planned in the near future to highlight the street and its businesses.

According to the Chicago's Best website, the building is one of the oldest in Platteville. In 1878, it was known as the Stage Coach Inn Hotel and was across the street from the Platteville stage coach stop. The building continued to be used as a hotel until 1980, when it was renovated for apartments, according to the restaurant's website.