Chicago, IL The Great Fire, the Damage

Marshall Fields after the fire, photo from Watertower Survived the Fire

The fire consumed nearly 3,200 acres, or nearly 5 square miles. The great fires of London, Moscow, and Constantinople, all combined, will scarcely equal the Chicago fire in the amount, of space burned over. Nearly twenty-five thousand buildings of all descriptions have been leveled with the ground, and the number of human beings rendered homeless is 111,000 at the very lowest calculation, according to the Journal of Commerce. No perfectly reliable estimate of the amount of property destroyed has yet been made, the various reckonings ranging from one hundred to five hundred millions of dollars. Many of the most accurate calculations have unanimously agreed on placing the loss occasioned, by destruction of property, and damage to business, at from three to four hundred millions of dollars, on which there was, according to the "Underwriter," nearly $100,000,000, insurance.

The richest and finest portion of the city has been, as our readers must perceive, utterly swept away, nothing but blackened heaps of brick, stone and iron being visible. The only buildings left standing between the river and the lake, and the river and Madison street, are the Lind block, at the corner of Randolph and Market streets, Hathaway's coal-office and one of the Buckingham elevators on the lake shore. The destruction of five of the great elevators alone involved an enormous loss.


Chicago possessed seventeen elevators at the time of the great fire, with a storage capacity for over eleven millions and a half bushels of grain. The fire consumed five of these with their contents, amounting to 1,600,000 bushels, of all kinds of grain principally corn. The elevators destroyed include the "Hiram Wheeler" with a capacity of 500,000 bushels; "Munger Armor's Galena" 600,000 bushels; "Illinois Central A," 700,000 bushels; and the "Union," 700,000 bushels. The remaining elevators however contain about 5,000,000 bushels which is more than sufficient for all present wants.


The Court-House walls have successfully resisted the fire in the wings, although the central portion must be rebuilt, and the dome, with the famous electric clock, has been completely destroyed. The massive walls of the water works building are almost uninjured. With the exception of the Michigan Avenue Hotel, and a few others, the great hotels of Chicago are reduced to heaps of mortar, calcined marble, bricks and broken iron. The Pacific Hotel had been almost completed at a cost of nearly a million when the huge flames rushed into its fourteen hundred rooms and roared out of its numberless windows. The building occupied an entire square, was eight stories in height, and calculated when furnished to accommodate two thousand guests. It made perhaps the grandest spectacle of the great fire. Besides the Pacific and St. James Hotel, the Sherman, Palmer, Tremont, Briggs, Everett, Clifton, Orient, Oldridge and other houses fell a prey to the flames.

The brewers suffered terribly, nothing being saved of their huge establishments but a portion of the stock in the beer vaults. Moreover, the insurance on the property was generally light.


Lill's Brewing Company
J. A. Huck
Sand's Brewing Company
Bush & Brand
Buffalo Brewery
Schmid, Katz & Co
Metz & Stage
Doyle Bros. Co
Moeller Bros
K. G. Schmidt
Schmidt & Bender
George Hiller
Mitivet & Puoptel
John Behringer
J. Miller
William Bowman

Total $2,025,000

The above loss includes, of course, the destruction of ice-houses, malt-houses, stables, cooper and blacksmith shops connected with the establishments, which were utterly reduced to ashes.


Monster store only caught fire at day break. For more than an hour and a half several hundred men did all in their power to save it from the advancing ocean of flame. The building occupied an entire block, and from its isolated position, and its surroundings, being all vast structures of iron and marble, it was hoped that it might be saved. But the buildings on the opposite sides of the square, burst into furious flames, melting the great business blocks as though formed of wax and timber, and the heat became like that of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace. Then the largest dry-goods house in the West had to be left to its fate, and the flames were soon rioting among 2,000,000 dollars' worth of costly winter stock.


There is not a single one of these buildings left intact in Chicago. The bank vaults have, however, resisted the flames with success. The principal Telegraph offices were all consumed. All the records of deeds and mortgages' all the real estate titles, have been destroyed. The abstracts of titles in the office of Shortale & Hoard, conveyancers, were luckily saved.

There is not a law-office, or law-library, left in Chicago, nor an indictment in existence in the country against anybody, nor a judgment, nor a petition in bankruptcy. Duplicate files of important cases which the lawyers kept in their offices are likewise destroyed.


There is no doubt that fuel in Chicago will be dear and scarce during the winter. Every coal yard in the city caught fire, and vast piles laid in for winter were utterly destroyed. The coal stock of Rogers & Co., (lower yard), Robert Law, Dyer & Paynes, Holbrook, W. Johnson, Sydacker, Goit & Curtiss, Sweet & Williams, Richardson & Pratt Bros. amounting to about 50,000 tons of soft coal, and 10,000 of hard coal, insured -- was totally lost. Five considerable winter stores of coal were, however, saved, including Roger & Co.'s upper yards.


The offices of no less than eighty-five newspapers and periodicals were consumed. Several dailies reappeared in very small size soon after the fire, and since that time many of them have attained their former size. The Tribune, Post, Republican, Staats Zeitung, Mail, Times and Journal offices were among the finest offices destroyed.

The Tribune Building was the last to succumb to the flames by several hours, indeed it was considered one of the most thoroughly fire-proof buildings in Chicago. It was, moreover, one of the chief architectural beauties of the city. Every partition wall in the whole structure was of brick, the ceilings were of corrugated iron beams. It was erected in 1869, at a cost of not less than $225.000, and was seemingly so thoroughly secure that the Tribune Company had taken no insurance. On the first floor was the fire-proof vault, safes, &c, and the basement contained the engines, with two of Hoe's eight cylinder presses, with several folding machines, quantities of paper, &c. The building was completely gutted from roof to basement, and the loss of contents alone cannot have been less than $100,000. The fire-proof vault of the Tribune, however, proved perfectly trustworthy, and everything in it, even, a box of matches, was found intact.

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