Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Interpretive Digital Essay : The Plan of Chicago
The Plan of Chicago
Chicago in 1909
Planning Before the Plan
Antecedents and Inspirations
The City the Planners Saw
The Plan of Chicago
The Plan Comes Together
Creating the Plan
Reading the Plan
A Living Document
Fire Limits in Chicago in the 1870s
Return to "Planning Before the Plan"

The Chicago Fire of 1871 burned less than a quarter of the built-up area of the city. It destroyed the business district, residential blocks immediately to the south and southwest, and a good portion of the North Side east of the North Branch of the river, but missed virtually the whole South Side and most of the vast West Side. In the aftermath, "Fire Limits" were established in 1872 within which all new construction was to be of brick or stone. The limits were drawn so that much of the North Side could again be built up with wooden structures, a concession to the meager resources of many residents. Notwithstanding the new regulations, many replacement buildings across the city continued to be built of wood, making the fire limits a hollow act of city governance.