It was a warm Sunday night in October 1871. Chicago was in the midst of one of the longest draughts in its recorded history; only one inch of rain fell between July and October. And though its origins are uncertain, the fire that ripped through Chicago is legendary.
Did you know... In just thirty hours the Chicago fire destroyed a portion of the city measuring four miles long and nearly a mile wide.
Of course you did.
This isn't big news around these parts. Everybody's heard about the Chicago fire. In fact, Chicago's history seems to be divided into two sections: before the fire and after the fire.
On every tour I've taken since we moved here (and let's be honest... that's a lot of tours) the guide has made reference to the fire of 1871. Now that I've read a little bit about it, I understand why.
According to Donald Miller, author of City of the Century,
The post office, the Chamber of Commerce Building, the major banks and train stations, the city's most impressive stone churches, all of its newspaper offices, and most of its theaters, music halls, and hotels were annihilated, most of them in less than five minutes.This fire was no s'mores making, Kumbaya singing, boy scout fire. It was murderous. This fire melted iron and steel. It crossed a river - twice. It left 100,000 people homeless and destroyed $190 million worth of property - in 1871.
Suddenly the city's obsession with fireproof architecture is beginning to make a lot more sense.
What legends/stories/facts have you heard about the great Chicago fire of 1871?