It’s rare to get a do-over on a citywide scale. As tragic as it was, The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was our do-over. We’re approaching the 143rd anniversary next week on October 8th and it will be remembered this weekend with a massive fire-themed event on the Chicago River.
But it was the moment that Chicago reinvented itself as one of the architectural treasures of the world. A four mile long by nearly one mile wide section of the city burned. But rebuilding began quickly as the first load of lumber arrived the same day the last building fire was finally extinguished.
And it wasn’t simply rebuilt. Chicago was reinvented. The call went out to leading architects all over the U.S., and soon the names of William LeBaron Jenney, Louis H. Sullivan, John Wellborn Root, and Daniel H. Burnham were as well-known as the city itself.
The style that became known as the Chicago School of Architecture, flourished and included what was called the first “skyscraper,” for the time, the staggeringly tall ten-story Home Insurance Building. The idea of using a steel cage instead of stone to support these new buildings allowed for large windows that let sunlight pour into the interiors in a way that had never been seen before.
This Saturday, October 4th, the always interesting Redmoon Theatre Group will be unveiling its “Grand Spectacle” as part of the first ever, Great Chicago Fire Festival along the Chicago River between Columbus and State Street. The event promises fiery cauldrons, burning houses and fireworks.
Okay. I’m intrigued. Sounds too crazy to miss.