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The Great Chicago Fire destroyed the city 143 years ago.
Photograph: Timothy Rose/Flickr Creative CommonsThe Great Chicago Fire destroyed the city 143 years ago.

The Great Chicago Fire happened 143 years ago tomorrow

A new map and timeline explains where and how the devastating fire spread on Oct 8, 1871


If you grew up in the Chicago area, you likely were taught in school that the Chicago Fire started when a cow kicked over a lantern (note: that's actually a myth) and it destroyed the city, but we rebuilt like a champ with some spectacular architecture and now we're extra-awesome because of it. Yay, Chicago.

That little lesson glosses over how devastating the fire was, how quickly it spread and how much it cost the city. Chicago Line Cruises, which offers architectural and historical cruises, created this fascinating timeline to mark the 143rd anniversary of the fire, which started on the Southwest Side at around 8:30pm on Oct 8, 1871.

Not-very-fun facts: The fire killed 300 people and left 100,000 homeless, and the strong winds that night created terrifying-sounding "fire whirls" that spit out burning embers and helped the fire spread like, well, wildfire. Makes the furor over the "failed" Chicago Fire Festival seem pretty trivial, no?

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