Boston Fire 1872

Created by: Tyler Houston
Time Period: 19th Century

Clearly a fire that destroyed 60 acres and 800 buildings in a vibrant downtown of a illustrious city such as Boston was not the best thing ever. However, through my research of the Boston fire of 1872 and the aftermath it has become evident to me that there were certain silver linings to this disaster. For one the fire allowed Boston to rebuild this busy commercial district in a safer and more orderly fashion. More importantly the rebuilding of this fire increased property values in the “Burnt District” as well as in the neighborhoods near it. The nicer and more valuable buildings being built in this district allowed its part in the Boston economy to grow during a depression during the 1870s.

Prior to the fire the “Burnt District” was noted as having cramped together streets with many buildings built almost on top of each other. Also the grandiose architecture was built in a manner to look beautiful but not built to be safe. Many buildings had wooden roofs because it was cost effective and in general building codes were not upheld. After the fire buildings had to meet strict codes and the dangerous building practices were undermined as much as possible. Street widening was the biggest emphasis of the urban planners charged with rebuilding the district, many streets were widened and some straightened to make the district to only safer but easier to navigate. These changes aided the district in the future as it did not have to build around and deconstruct old obsolete buildings.

The rise in property values in the district proved to be the most beneficial thing for the district. Within a year of the fire the lots were already more expensive in the district, which seems odd at first but really makes sense. Newer buildings were put on top of the rubble and these new building better housed the commerce fostered in this district. Despite many small business owners being put out by the fire a great many of these businesses were able to keep running despite the fire and actually got back into the district within sometime. During the depression where much of the city was hard pressed for cash money flowed in the transactions building the district, allowing the only growth seen during this time.

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