It is impossible to think about Chicago without thinking about the great fire that once destroyed the city. Walking down the streets of Chicago and looking at all the buildings and sky scrapers, and people, it is even harder to imagine anything, even a fire, being so strong that it could nearly destroy the city, yet that is exactly what happened. Before the fire Chicago was one of the most important cities in the world. Not only was it the home to 300,000 people, but its location made it one of the world’s most important shipping hubs.
No one expected the city to burn. After all it was a big city with several fire departments that were not only well-equipped with the latest firefighting technology, but that were also fully staffed. Plus it was a successful city, and people tended to think that it was indestructible, a thought that was assisted by the fact that it was not in an area that was prone to any natural disasters. The worse thing that anyone thought could happen to Chicago was a snow storm which could shut the city down for a couple of days. No one could have ever anticipated a situation where the entire city was in danger of being destroyed entirely.
No one knows how the fire started. The original story involving a cow and a lantern was a fictitious story created by a local reporter who wanted to make the story more colorful. The only thing everyone is certain about is that it spread quickly, forcing the mayor to call neighboring cities for support.
By the time the fire ended, things looked pretty bleak. Approximately 300 people had perished, though only 125 bodies were ever recovered. 90,000 people no longer had a home. The cities waterworks were destroyed and there was more than $220 million worth of property was destroyed. No one knew how the city was going to recover. Much of the country felt that Chicago would simply shut down.
While the fire that wiped out Chicago was big, and it affected the lives of millions of people, it was not the biggest fire that year, or even that day. As people were hearing about Chicago and asking what they could do to help, another fire broke out, this destroying acres and acres of prime forest land in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The fire burning in Wisconsin was so bad, that the wife of Wisconsin’s governor, who was on a train that was full of help, on its way to Chicago were her husband was waiting, ordered the train to turn around, bringing the supplies and man power back to her own state.
Chicago does not try to hide the fire and pretend that it never happened. Instead they are proud of it, using it to show that with a lot of hard work the city was able to not just rebuild but thrive. The rebuilt city stronger than it had been before the fire. When you visit Chicago, everywhere you go, you’ll see tributes to the fire.