What if Chicago never recovers from the 1871 and 1874 fire?

As i recently watched a video on the great chicago fires (the one in 1871 and 1874) i do wonder what if the prediction that chicago never recovers are true what will be the impact on architectural (as chicago is home to some of the world first skyscrapper) and economically (chicago was at the time one of america most leading city) and culturally?
 
Chicago is going to be rebuilt on some level as it's a prime location and an established hub. I can see some services and routes possibly going elsewhere, but the fact that everyone decided to stick with Chicago OTL suggests a city of some import will be there.
 
Chicago is going to be rebuilt on some level as it's a prime location and an established hub. I can see some services and routes possibly going elsewhere, but the fact that everyone decided to stick with Chicago OTL suggests a city of some import will be there.
But what if lets say gutted the city more and they decide to just built a new city (New Chicago lets say) will it work?
 
But what if lets say gutted the city more and they decide to just built a new city (New Chicago lets say) will it work?
Why is it more gutted? Why give up when the streets and railroad connections would have survived or be easily fixed as opposed to built from scratch?
 
Why is it more gutted? Why give up when the streets and railroad connections would have survived or be easily fixed as opposed to built from scratch?
Well you do make a good point chicago even if it completely gutted will still be more suiteable than building a new city but what if they still go and decide to build a new one instead where would it be located?
 
Well you do make a good point chicago even if it completely gutted will still be more suiteable than building a new city but what if they still go and decide to build a new one instead where would it be located?
My point is they're not going to go and build a new city somewhere else; they'll clear the rubble and rebuild where Chicago was/is.

Cities have been built on the bones of previous cities since humans developed the idea of the city; Chicago would be no different.
 
My point is they're not going to go and build a new city somewhere else; they'll clear the rubble and rebuild where Chicago was/is.

Cities have been built on the bones of previous cities since humans developed the idea of the city; Chicago would be no different.
I see well it does make sense yeah why built another if there is a skeleton that you can work with
 
South Bend is not on the Lake. The Indiana alternative would be Michigan City unless someone wants to build OTL Gary in the dunes 30 years before OTL. Bur neither Michigan City, TTL Gary, nor Milwaukee have the waterway connection (with Canal) to the Mississippi. Chicago gets rebuilt in situ.
 
South Bend is not on the Lake. The Indiana alternative would be Michigan City unless someone wants to build OTL Gary in the dunes 30 years before OTL. Bur neither Michigan City, TTL Gary, nor Milwaukee have the waterway connection (with Canal) to the Mississippi. Chicago gets rebuilt in situ.
So basically chicago will be rebuilt no matter what because of it strategic location?
 
So basically chicago will be rebuilt no matter what because of it strategic location?
Pretty much, Chicago was already a hub for trains, ships, and canal boats. The railroads, harbors, and canals were not destroyed during the fire so there's really no reason to move.

Paths of infrastructure have a tendency not to change. That's why most highways today were built over deer trails, wagon ruts, along river beds, and in the case of Europe, roads dating back to the Roman Empire.
 
Last edited:
Pretty much, Chicago was already a hub for trains, ships, and canal boats. The railroads, harbors, and canals were not destroyed during the fire so there's really no reason to move.

Paths of infrastructure have a tendency not to change. That's why most highways today were built over deer trails, wagon ruts and, in the case of Europe, roads dating back to the Roman Empire.
That would be my guess. The famous "loop" might become a rail/shipping district as the business hub gets rebuilt a mile or so to the west. Before WW2, wasn't the built up area on Lake Shore Drive a low-lying rail yard area?
 
Pretty much, Chicago was already a hub for trains, ships, and canal boats. The railroads, harbors, and canals were not destroyed during the fire so there's really no reason to move.

Paths of infrastructure have a tendency not to change. That's why most highways today were built over deer trails, wagon ruts, along river beds, and in the case of Europe, roads dating back to the Roman Empire.
Yeah true that but what if let say the rail lines are so damaged they decide to build elsewhere but the canals survived
 
Yeah true that but what if let say the rail lines are so damaged they decide to build elsewhere but the canals survived
Well, there are many variables to consider with rail transport. Railroads themselves are pretty resilient and have been shown to survive even though the rest of the city is totally annihilated (as was the case in WWII). Railroads are also easily repaired - they are, after all, simply planks of wood and steel bars laid on top of gravel. It's a lot more work to lay a new railroad than to repair an existing one, as the former involves a great deal of surveying work, cutting down trees, building bridges, and levelling the terrain with dynamite.

Rail hubs, on the other hand, are much more complex. Especially in the 19th century, rail ports needed to be built as close to shipping hubs and factories as possible as there are no trucks and not much in the way of cranes and shovels. Rail hubs also depend on big investors and shareholders who were entrenched in the city itself - bankers, industrialists, politicians, etc. For the vast majority of these investors, relocation would be unthinkable unless the relocation would take place within the city itself.

As mentioned before, it's much easier to rebuild than to relocate. In World War II, cities like Rotterdam, Warsaw, and a myriad of cities in Germany and the Soviet Union were essentially wiped from the face of the earth except for the streets and foundations. Nonetheless, these cities were all rebuilt.
 
Last edited:
Well, there are many variables to consider with rail transport. Railroads themselves are pretty resilient and have been shown to survive even though the rest of the city is totally annihilated (as was the case in WWII). Railroads are also easily repaired - they are, after all, simply planks of wood and steel bars laid on top of gravel. It's a lot more work to lay a new railroad than to repair an existing one, as the former involves a great deal of surveying work, cutting down trees, building bridges, and levelling the terrain with dynamite.

Rail hubs, on the other hand, are much more complex. Especially in the 19th century, rail ports needed to be built as close to shipping hubs and factories as possible as there are no trucks and not much in the way of cranes and shovels. Rail hubs also depend on big investors and shareholders who were entrenched in the city itself - bankers, industrialists, politicians, etc. For the vast majority of these investors, relocation would be unthinkable unless the relocation would take place within the city itself.

As mentioned before, it's much easier to rebuild than to relocate. In World War II, cities like Rotterdam, Warsaw, and a myriad of cities in Germany and the Soviet Union were essentially wiped from the face of the earth except for the streets and foundations. Nonetheless, these cities were all rebuilt.
Hmm well you do brings up good point about rails abd also speaking about bankers and investment why so many investor flocked to post fire chicago?
 
Hmm well you do brings up good point about rails abd also speaking about bankers and investment why so many investor flocked to post fire chicago?
It's often been said that the fire is one of the greatest things that happened to Chicago. Demolition can be very expensive, so the destruction of the city center, though tragic, was also a phenomenal opportunity to rebuild the city in an ultra-modern layout, with a grid and skyscrapers. Engineers from all over the world could suddenly come to Chicago to try out all the latest theories in city planning, like reversing the flow of a river or elevating entire street blocks on jackscrews (which technically began before the fire but was made a lot easier once the ruined buildings were cleared). This created an investment boom. Chicago was already established as a premier transportation hub before the fire, but the fire paradoxically made it even more desirable.
 
Last edited:
It's often been said that the fire is one of the greatest things that happened to Chicago. Demolition can be very expensive, so the destruction of the city center, though tragic, was also a phenomenal opportunity to rebuild the city in an ultra-modern layout, with a grid and skyscrapers. Engineers from all over the world could suddenly come to Chicago to try out all the latest theories in city planning, like reversing the flow of a river or elevating entire street blocks on jackscrews (which technically began before the fire). This created an investment boom. Chicago was already established as a premier transportation hub before the fire, but the fire paradoxically made it even more desirable.
So basically the fire is a blessing? Now that is something
 
Top