Chicago was growing into one of the nation's largest and most prosperous cities. Among many problems, it still had a potentially dangerous one: Fire. Chicago was almost entirely built of wood. Whether it be the frames of the downtown's many buildings, the walkways on which Chicagoans traversed, or the bridges that covered the only true containment point, Chicago was primarily lumber. If that wasn't enough, many locations throughout Chicago were covered in hay. In 1871, it is alleged that Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern in her barn outside of the city, quickly setting her property ablaze. With the aid of the wind, it did not take long or this violent conflagration to reach the downtown area. Buildings were quickly engulfed in flames as the fire fighters, tired from another incident the previous night, scrambled to douse them. After it was all said and done, Chicago was almost completely destroyed, and its residents began the reconstruction.
Many people, of course, saw this disaster as a potential end for the once great city. But once the construction efforts began, they soon came to realize that the fire may have been just what they needed. Before, downtown Chicago was a mess of commercial buildings, shanty's, and slums. After the rebuilding, the downtown area would be almost solely commercial buildings, building up rather than out. A fire aid society was also established, although they favored Anglos who had jobs, naturally leaving the poor, immigrant population out In just 2 years Chicago was completely rebuilt, and natives declared that it was a phoenix reborn.