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Still Waters

Chicago’s Great Fire, 150 Years Later

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Still Waters

By the day the Great Chicago Fire began—October 8, 1871—it had been 22 days since Chicago had last seen rain, reports Robert Loerzel for Chicago magazine. The rapidly-growing metropolis had built most of its homes, pipes and sidewalks out of wood, which became kindling for the blaze that was about to spread across the city.

The Great Chicago Fire sparked on DeKoven Street and would go on to raze huge swaths of the Illinois city, killing as many as 300 people and leaving 100,000 more without homes. People of all backgrounds and class were forced to flee for their lives, scrambling to save what they could. The fire destroyed some 18,000 buildings and radically reshaped the urban landscape.

After the flames subsided, Chicago’s residents reckoned with grief, loss and the recovery on an unprecedented scale. To mark the 150th anniversary of the disaster, the Chicago History Museum (CHM) has organized “City on Fire: Chicago 1871,” which opened on October 8 and runs through 2025.


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Well Chicago got all the coverage on that day because it was more newsworthy, however there was a larger fire the same day that killed an estimated couple of thousand. The Peshtigo Fire.


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