Facts About The Great Chicago Fire Of 1871

The Great Fire of Chicago was one of the most devastating fires of the 19th century. It left 100,000 people homeless and changed the destiny of the Chicago city. Here are some unbelievable facts about the great Chicago fire of 1871.

Chicago was a settlement with many wooden structures

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Chicago was a settlement on the shores of Lake Michigan with large warehouses made of wood. The city had more than 300,000 inhabitants who all lived in wooden houses with wooden doors, windows and floors. Many roads were built with wood too.

Massive usage of wood was one of the major reasons of the widespread fire.

The disputed source of the fire

The fire began in the barn belonging to the O’Leary family with no determined cause. Some people claimed that a cow knocked over a lantern, which led to widespread fire.

In the 1871, gambling was a very popular game in Chicago. A man named Louis M.Cohn confessed to have started the fire by accidently knocking over a lantern while he was gambling with other boys. He was 18 years old in 1871 and died rich at the age of 89 leaving a generous donation for the city of Chicago.

Chicago was facing a drought at that time

What caused the Chicago fire to spread so fast?

Dry land and leaves due to lack of rain was a major reason why the Chicago fire spread out so fast. Adding to this were the strong winds from the south that blew the flames towards the center of the city.

The deadly convection spirals

The north blowing wind caused the flames to fan high in the sky causing convection spirals or “fire devils” causing the fire to spread in more buildings.

The fire lasted for 3 days

The great Chicago Fire of 1871 started in October 8, 1871 and continued till October 10, 1871. The fire had started to burn itself out, but was further opposed due to rain on October 9, 1871.

Big numbers of destruction

The Great Fire of Chicago left 300 people dead and more than 100,000 homeless. More than 17,000 structures were destroyed and losses were estimated at $ 200 million at that time. It burned down an area of 2,112 acres (8.55 km2).

Rising from the ashes

As soon as the fire extinguished, committees were formed and plans were made to rebuild the city of Chicago. Laws were passed that enforced usage of material that didn’t catch fire. This time, the construction was carried out with brick, stone, marble and limestone. By October 1872, buildings worth 50 million dollars had been erected in the city.

When Chicago became the most fireproof city of the USA

With precautions came the use of terra-cotta in constructing buildings.

Buildings that remained intact in the Chicago fire

St. Ignatius College Prep

St. Michael’s Church, Old Town

Chicago Water Tower

Chicago Avenue Pumping Station

An opportunity for the architects

Many architects moved to the Chicago School to rebuild the city. They introduced a new feature in buildings – skyscrapers. Chicago became a global icon of the modern architecture.

In fact, the great Chicago Fire became famous more for the innovations that it led to rather than the fire itself.

References:

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/news/chicago-fire-1871-and-great-rebuilding/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Chicago_Fire#Origin
https://history.howstuffworks.com/history-vs-myth/chicago-fire-cow1.htm

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