This Day in History: On October 8, 1871… 150 years ago… the tragedy of the Great Chicago Fire happened.
“This city has been swept by a conflagration which has no parallel in the annals of history” wrote the Chicago papers… after they were able to start printing papers again.
“The Chicago fire has so absorbed public attention
here that but little heed is given to anything else” wrote the New York Times
The driver of a hose cart that came to help: “My clothes began to smoke and my hat began to twist on my head, and Williams said, “Come out as fast as possible and wet the other side of the street, or it will burn.” I happened to cast my eye up and saw the buildings all on fire.”
- Read more on this blog from Newspapers.com
- Yes, there was an official inquiry, and the accounts make for fascinating reading.
- Clippings from papers around the world, and even a reprinted sermon on the subject.
- (Yes, some other things happened this day in history. Sgt. York, Martha Stewart, Homeland Security…)
So what does this fire, awful as it was, have to do with Sarasota County history?
Well, if it wasn’t for the devastation wrought by the fire, and the loss of property and even the complete destruction of her brand-new wedding gift, the Palmer House Hotel…
…the flame advancing eastwardly seized upon the Palmer House, wrapping it from roof to basement in a shroud of yellow fire, and the flames bursting from the roof, leaped astonishing distances to yet intact edifices. In a very short space of time all the surrounding buildings were blazing as fiercely as the Palmer House, itself, and the Tribune building, as well as McVicker’s theatre, crumbled away…
Potter Palmer was said to have lost the incredible amount of ten millions, and really loses at least a fifth part of that amount.
Bertha Palmer may never have realized her business skills and talent for land development. And perhaps she never would have come to our region and made such a difference in Sarasota County.