140th Anniversary of The Great Chicago Fire

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Though I've been living in this city for 3 years now (going on my fourth), I must admit that there was very little I knew about Chicago's history. Sure, everyone knows about Al Capone and the Daley dynasty. There maybe even some who can list off some fun facts about the Columbian World Exposition. But, did you know that that Expo, the fair that defined us as a "world city" and cultural center, would not have been possible without one of America's greatest disasters wiping Chi-town almost completely off the map? I know I didn't. 

This Saturday, October 8th, will mark the 140th anniversary of The Great Chicago Fire. The blaze, which is infamously known for the sheer size of the area it destroyed, left Chicago with over 2000 acres burned down and over 300 people dead. Just imagine if a giant bulldozer came and leveled everything downtown north of the Chicago River--unbelievable, right? It's crazy to think that Michigan Avenue, where thousands pass through every day, was once a wasteland of broken bricks and charred wood.

All it took, however, was one architecture tour along the Chicago River one fine summer afternoon to help me recognize the significance of such an event. The rippling effect of the fire can practically be seen all over the city. The Chicago Water Tower, for instance, is one of the few buildings that survived the blaze. And during the tour, I was introduced to the spot where the fire allegedly started. Ironically, in the place of the barn where poor Mrs. O'Leary's cow knocked over the lantern now stands the Chicago Fire Academy. Go figure!

But besides such fun facts, I was mostly humbled by the beauty of the surrounding buildings, which were interestingly a consequence of the fire. The tour taught me that the skyscraper was born from the ashes of the Great Fire. The elegance, practicality, and skill that went into these constructions are inspiring! Even the structural layout of the city can be considered a work of art. I never knew that the massive, yet detailed, Merchandise Mart is the world's largest commercial building, or realized that the emerald green and gold Carbide and Carbon Building, a.k.a the Hard Rock Hotel, looks like a champagne bottle. The fact that I have mundanely strolled through the city so many times, without realizing the historical richness of the ground beneath my feet is still beyond me, but I'm glad my ever increasing days of exploration are telling me more of Chi-town's story.

All in all among the many grand moments in this city's history, The Great Chicago Fire has to be one with the greatest impact and I think that's a big reason why we remember and to some degree celebrate it every year. And with the 140th anniversary, this year will certainly be no different. 

In celebration of this big anniversary, the Looking Glass Theater will be presenting "The Great Fire". Running September 21st to November 20th, the play gives an interesting perspective on what happened that faithful night. UChicago students have the opportunity to attend the play through an ORCSA, UChicago Arts Pass and The Chicago Studies Program sponsored trip, Wednesday, October 12th (transportation provided). Dean Boyer will be in attendance and will host a discussion on the aftermath of fire during a reception after the show. Tickets are available in Reynolds Club 001.

Prepare to never "look at Chicago the same way again"!

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: 140th Anniversary of The Great Chicago Fire.

TrackBack URL for this entry: https://blogs.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/588

Leave a comment

Recent Comments