||This article is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. (November 2012)|
The Great Boston fire of 1872 was Boston's largest urban fire, and still ranks as one of the most costly fire-related property losses in American history. The conflagration began at 7:20 p.m. on November 9, 1872, in the basement of a commercial warehouse at 83-87 Summer Street. The fire was finally contained 12 hours later, after it had consumed about 65 acres (26 ha) of Boston's downtown, 776 buildings and much of the financial district, and caused $73.5 million in damage. Despite these devastations, only thirteen people died in the inferno.
Many factors contributed to Boston's Great Fire:
Notable events of the fire:
A 2017 study in the American Economic Review found that the Fire through the replacement of outdated buildings with upgraded buildings initiated "a virtuous circle in which building upgrades encouraged further upgrades of nearby buildings. Land values increased substantially among burned plots and nearby unburned plots, capitalizing economic gains comparable to the prior value of burned buildings. Boston had grown rapidly prior to the Fire, but negative spillovers from outdated durable buildings had substantially constrained its growth by dampening reconstruction incentives."
The fire rendered thousands of Bostonians jobless and homeless. Hundreds of businesses were destroyed, and dozens of insurance companies went bankrupt. However, the burnt district was quickly rebuilt in just under two years, mostly from the private capital of Boston's commercial property owners.
City planning during the post-fire reconstruction caused several streets in downtown Boston to be widened, particularly Congress Street, Federal Street, Purchase Street, and Hawley Street, and reserved the space for Post Office Square. Most of the rubble and ruins of the buildings destroyed by the fire was dumped in the harbor to fill in Atlantic Avenue.
Boston issued bonds for use by 16 private property owners in the downtown area to rebuild. A citizen who lived outside the area sued successfully, arguing that the bonds were a transfer of wealth from one set of citizens to another.
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