Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Great Chicago Fire

            Something that is rarely mentioned in discussions or papers about the 1893 Worlds Fair is the Great Chicago Fire. Although the Fair’s mainly celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s “discovery” of America, demonstrating American exceptionalism, Chicago was also showing the world that it had recovered from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. A fire from 20 years previous may seem trivial when compared to a 600 acre Worlds Fair, but in reality Chicago was still recovering from this disaster. The fire burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871. 3.3 square miles, encompassing 2,000 acres. 300 people perished. The fire holds so much significance for Chicago that it is represented second star on the Chicago flag. Some say that without the fire, Chicago would not be the great city that it is today. This is due to the extensive rebuilding that occurred.
            The fire started in a small barn, possible by the famous story of a cow kicking over a lantern. However, a reported admitted in 1893 that he had made it up. The reason that the fire spread so quickly was that the city used wood in most all of their buildings. There was also a drought and strong winds. When the fire began most people were unconcerned, as there had been another fire the day before. The firefighters fought the second fire all day, and were exhausted by the time the fire eventually spread to a nearby neighborhood. Then, the fire began to burn out of control, even crossing a river with the help of elevated wood-plank roads, as all that was in its path was made of dried wood. After two days a rainstorm finally put out the remains of the fire, which left 100,000 people homeless, almost a third of the cities population. The fire also destroyed 17,500 buildings and $222 million in property.
            Although this disaster ruined the lives of many people and the city, a great amount of effort and money was put into completely rebuilding the entire city. People all over the country donated materials and money to Chicago. Soon, buildings with beautiful architectural designs, sculptures, and other art decorated every area of Chicago. In just 22 years, Chicago rebuilt itself into one of the most spectacular cities of the midwest.

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