Chicago’s Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City by Carl Smith

Having read a number of books about the Great Chicago Fire, there really wasn’t any new information that I could glean from the part of this book that dealt with the actual disaster. Did she, or didn’t she? Was it someone else who may have started the fire? Was it comets or Communists? Maybe it was the work of a vengeful God, or incompetent firefighters. You decide.

What interested me were the events that happened post-fire, which Smith did a good job of recounting. The feeding and sheltering of the newly destitute Chicagoans and the politics and red tape that inevitably bogged down the relief effort. The rush to rebuild the city, while repeating many of the same mistakes that contributed to the great fire’s width and depth of destruction. It took another sizable fire in 1874 (though not as wide-spread as the 1871 fire) to get citizens thinking seriously about fire safety.

The Water Tower is the most recognized survivor of the Great Chicago Fire. However, as mentioned in the book, there are other locations that survived as well. It would (in my opinion) be well worth a trip to Chicago to track these places down.