The Great Chicago Fire Virtual Tour
This virtual field trip explores sites related to the history of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
The Chicago History Museum is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Chicago's rich and varied history, as well as American history. The museum is located at the southwestern corner of the city's famous Lincoln Park and housed in a building constructed in 1932; the modern addition was built in 1988. The museum was founded in 1856 as the Chicago Historical Society and given its current name in 2006. Its collection is very large, amounting to 20 million items. The museum features several permanent exhibits including: "Chicago: Crossroads of America," "Sensing Chicago," "Chicago Authored," and "Lincoln's Chicago," which explores President Abraham Lincoln's political rise in Chicago, his presidency, assassination, and legacy. The museum offers many temporary exhibitions as well.
The Isaac N. Maynard Rowhouses, built in 1880-81 by Issac N. Maynard, consist of three groups of connected rowhouses. Maynard, who made his fortune in Chicago's burgeoning pig iron industry, was one of many developers who helped rebuild the residential area around Washington Square after the Great Chicago Fire, which mostly consisted of affluent residents.
Located in the Near North Side neighborhood within its Magnificent Mile district, Chicago’s famous Water Tower remains a symbol of its pre-Great Fire past. Constructed in 1869, it held pumps to draw water from Lake Michigan as well as tall standpipes that could provide high-pressures for firefighting as well as regulate water surges. Architect William Boyington designed the building almost entirely with Joliet limestone in his famous castellated Gothic Revival style. Because of the Water Tower being constructed primarily of stone, it was one of the few to survive the Great Fire of 1871. The building underwent two renovations during the 20th-century, first between 1913-1916 and the second during 1978. The Water Tower is now an art gallery for the Chicago Office of Tourism and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 23, 1975.
The Chicago Fire of 1871 is largely considered the worst disaster in Chicago’s history. Starting on the night of October 8 and finally ending early on October 10, the fire burned out of control and consumed 17,450 buildings over a 3.5-mile swath, took about 300 lives, and caused $200 million in damages (equal to $4.6 billion dollars in 2018). A recent drought over the summer combined with strong southerly winds and a built infrastructure of mostly wood fueled the fire. The cause of the fire has never been determined, but legend has always placed the blame on Mrs. O’Leary’s cow who allegedly kicked over an oil lamp in the barn at 137 DeKoven Street.