The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack

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Today in History: New York City Burns

Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 18, 2016 at 8:35 PM

On this day (December 17) in 1835 the Great Fire broke out in a five story warehouse in New York City. The temperature was -17 degrees and the East and Hudson Rivers were frozen solid. Firefighters had to drill holes in the ice to access the water—which froze in the hoses as they tried to extinguish the blaze. The flames were visible in Philadelphia 80 miles away. The fire was so hot that copper roofs melted and ran like liquid spilling in great drops to the streets below. Ultimately 17 city blocks (50 acres) and between 530 and 700 buildings were destroyed. Two people were killed. The damage was estimated at $20 million dollars. 23 of NYC’s 26 insurance companies went bankrupt because of the fire and the insurance industry in nearby Hartford expanded to dominate New York, putting that city on track to become the Insurance Capital of the World.

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