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“If the fire hadn’t happened, it would look a lot different.” To answer Kevin’s question, let’s first consider the possibility that a fire would have destroyed a large section of the city sooner or later. Richard Bales, author of , pinpoints a date when an alternate-history disaster might have struck: July 14, 1874.

Chicago was filled with wooden buildings, as well as piles of lumber and coal. That’s when a fire began near Taylor and Clark streets in the South Loop, sweeping across 60 acres but stopping short of the central business district. would have burnt even more properties.” But let’s say Chicago managed to avoid a devastating fire. Neither did that fire in 1874 — or anything on a similar scale. “Chicago would probably have been a much smaller metropolis and not the second-largest city in the United States,” says Neal Samors, author of several books on the city’s history.

A beautiful hotel by the same architect, the Tremont House at the southeast corner of Lake and Dearborn streets, might have survived too, says — along with gems like the Grand Pacific Hotel, Crosby’s Opera House, the Academy of Design and the original Chicago Historical Society.

And Lowe says the churches that once dotted downtown could still be standing, along with some of downtown’s mansions.

“Chicago’s perfect central location for commerce would have remained constant — the city would have continued to grow,” says Tim Samuelson, the city of Chicago’s cultural historian.

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“The Loop would not have become a series of skyscraper canyons,” Lowe says.“The fire stopped burning when it hit the newly built stone buildings in the business area,” Bales says. He argues that the fire’s clearing effect allowed a building boom that wouldn’t have been possible without the fire.But several historians told us that most of the changes that occurred in Chicago after the 1871 fire would have happened — only at a slower pace and with subtle differences.Free Naperville chat, latest topics discussed: Have you ever been taking a dump and posting on DH for so long that..., What are your preferred cable documentary channels?, A friend of the devil is a friend of mine..., Women are the best liars on the planet, Why doesn't Facebook charge you to use their service?

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