Great Fire of New York
The Great New York Fire destroyed the
New York Stock Exchangeand most of the buildings on the southeast tip of Manhattanaround Wall Streeton December 16-17, 1835.
The fire began in the evening in a five-story warehouse at 25 Merchant Street (now called Beaver Street) [According to [http://oldstreets.com/index.asp?letter=E oldstreets.com] Merchant Street was originally called Exchange Street but changed to the Merchant name in 1835. After the fire the street was moved further south and became Beaver Street] at the intersection with Pearl Street between
Hanover Square, Manhattan[ [http://www.pbs.org/wnet/heroes/history1.html "Heroes of Ground Zero: FDNY - A History] ] and Wall Street in the snow covered city and was fed by gale-force winds blowing from the northwest towards the East River. With temperatures as low as -17°F and the East River frozen solid, firefighters had to cut holes in the ice to get water. Water then froze in the hoses and pumps. Attempts to blow up buildings in its path were thwarted by a lack of gunpowder in Manhattan. Firefighters coming to help from Philadelphiasaid they could see signs of the fire there.
About 2 a.m. Marines returned with gunpowder from the
Brooklyn Navy Yardand blew up buildings in the fire's path. By then it covered 50 acres, 17 blocks of the city, destroying between 530 and 700 buildings. The area is now reported as Coenties Slip in the south to Maiden Lane in the north and from William Street in the west to the East River [ [http://www.tribecatrib.com/newsnov02/forged.html Exhibit Details Devastation of Years Past] ] . The losses were estimated at twenty million dollars, which, in today's value would be hundreds of millions. Only two people were killed.
Insurance was not forthcoming because several insurance company headquarters burned, bankrupting those companies. A description of the conflagration was in the History of New York: [ [http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC07932050&id=VFIOAAAAIAAJ&pg=RA7-PA696&lpg=RA7-PA696&dq=New+York+Fire+1835#PRA7-PA725,M1 New York: Its Origin, Rise, and Progress by Mrs Burton Harrison, Martha Joanna Lamb - 1896] ]
:Many of the stores were new, with iron shutters and doors and copper roofs, and in burning presented the appearance of immense iron furnaces in full blast. The heat at times melted the copper roofing, and the liquid ran off in great drops. The gale blew towards the East River. Wall after wall was heard tumbling like an avalanche. Fiery tongues of flame leaped from roof and windows along whole streets, and seemed to be making angry dashes at each other. The water of the bay looked like a vast sea of blood. The bells rang for a while and then ceased. Both sides of Pearl Street and Hanover Square were at the same instant in the jaws of the hungry monster.
An investigation did not assess blame and reported that the cause of the fire was a burst gas pipe that was ignited by a coal stove. [ [http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ny/state/fire/11-20/ch19pt2.html Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments] ]
Since the fire occurred in the middle of an economic boom caused by the recent opening of the
Erie Canal, the destroyed wooden buildings were quickly replaced by larger stone and brick ones that were less prone to widespread major fires. The fire also prompted construction of a new municipal water supply, now known as the Old Croton Aqueduct, and a reform and expansion of the fire service. As a result, this was the last great fire of New York.
Great Fire of New York (1776)
Great Fire of London
1871 Great Chicago Fire
Notes and references
* [http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ny/state/fire/11-20/ch18pt1.html "Chapter 18: The Great Conflagration of 1835"] , "History of the Fire Department of the City of New York."
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