No – we’re not talking about the Chicago pro soccer team or the NBC TV Show. This week is the 147th anniversary of the great Chicago fire. According to legend, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow knocked over a lantern and started the blaze that killed over 200 people, leveled over 17,000 buildings and left over 100,000 people homeless. Over 3 square miles of Chicago was devastated whether it was a cow or human that started the blaze at an estimated cost of $200 million 1871 dollars.
Fortunately, most of the city’s infrastructure was untouched – in fact, the Water Tower on Michigan Avenue is one of the structures the fire left standing. Reconstruction began quickly and here’s a fun Chicago fire fact – much of the rubble of the fire was pushed into the lake creating the land that is now known as Grant Park or Chicago’s Front Yard. 22 years after the fire in 1893, the city was chosen to host the World’s Columbian Exhibition – a tourist attraction that brought over 27 million people to visit Chicago. Second fun fact of this post? 27 million people was HALF of the US population at the time!
At the time of the fire, Chicago’s population was around 324,000, within 10 years of the fire it had grown to 500,000 – and within 20 years of the fire, the population was up to 1.5 million. The city was a magnet for transportation, industry and modern thinking as many of the countries first skyscrapers rose here.
So Chicago is a perfect case study proving that amazing things can come in the aftermath of great tragedy. Want to know more about the Great Chicago Fire? Check out these articles: