Historic Chicago Center Destroyed in Fire

by Bob Johnson 0

“We lost Chicago’s oldest bowling alley early this morning.”

That’s how Bowlers Journal “Time Capsule” columnist and resident historian Dr. Jake Schmidt began his post on Facebook this morning. It sounded like an obituary and, given the center’s history, it probably should be treated as such.

“Lincoln Square Recreation opened in 1918 on the second floor above a hardware store,” Schmidt noted. “It had eight lanes, and a balcony.

“A few years ago, new ownership renovated the place to move into the modern era. Now, that's gone.

“In 1960, Chicago had over 100 bowling alleys within the city limits. With Lincoln Square gone, now there are only about 10.”

Television station WLS reported that flames were shooting through the roof of the building at 12:40 a.m. when firefighters arrived at the scene. At that point, getting inside to fight the fire was impossible because the building had become unstable, so water was sprayed only from the outside.

Lincoln Square had been owned by the Drehobl family for the past 30 years, and closed briefly in 2012 while undergoing a $1 million renovation. While the business carried insurance, the family said it was too early to know whether it would be rebuilt.

But even if it is, Lincoln Square Lanes as it had been known is gone. And so is another piece of Chicago bowling history.

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.

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