Mrs. O' Leary lit a lantern in her shed,
The cow kicked it over, winked its eye, and said,
There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight."
There have been other fires that burned down cities, Rome AD 64, the Great London Fire of 1666, but it is the Great Chicago Fire which reflects spirit of America to rebuild, as much as the 911 attacks.
On an early fall Sunday evening, October 8, 1871, after a very hot and dry Midwestern summer a fire started in the barn of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick O'Leary. While the path it cut through Chicago consisted of only 3 1/3 square miles, in old Chicago this represented a sizable portiaon of an overcrowded city made of wooden framed structures. The loss to property would be valued at $192,000,000, in 1876 dollars. At least 100,000 people had nothing to return to, 300 people died in the fire. The fire, through lack of fuel finally died out on October 10.
O'Leary home, located on the city's West Side at 137 De Koven Street escaped the blaze as it was on the up wind side of the fire. That location can still be seen on one of the many tour boats which cruise the river showing tourists the site of old Chicago now gone except in memory. The O'leary's house is gone and the site has been re-numbered to 558 West DeKoven. It is now the location of the Chicago Fire Department training school.
A Panoramic view of the city in 1858 is here...
B. Bateham's Mills
C. Parmelee's Stables
D. Gas Works Conley's Patch
E. Court House
F. Wright's Stables
G. Polk Street
H. Northwestern Elevator
I. Galena Elevator
For more and some photographs of relics, the fire and the aftermath go here...
Another fire in the heart of Chicago, here...
A forgotten fire on the same day. Here...
God protect all firemen.