Updated date:

New York: A City Reborn Time After Time From Disasters


History is so exciting, uncovering facts about the people and places.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Great Fire of 1835

Great Fire of 1835

New York Burning

New York Burning

The 1835 Great Fire of New York

On a frigid night with the temperature hovering below zero and gale-force winds blowing on the early morning of December 16, 1835, fire broke out in a warehouse at 22 Merchant Street at the intersection of Hanover and Wall Streets. Rows of wooden buildings with flames shooting toward the sky. The fire was so intense it was visible from Philadelphia eighty miles away.

Some of the buildings had metal roofs melting onto the sidewalks, and windows were exploding out. The New York volunteer fire brigade consisted of 1500 men, 55 engines, a ladder truck, and five hand-driven hose carts. Between the inclement weather and primitive equipment, the men were exhausted trying to contain the fire. Water was gotten from cisterns, wells and an attempt to drill holes in the East River failed as the water froze in the hoses.

By the time the fire was somewhat contained, 700 buildings had been destroyed, and the Wall Street Exchange had been shut down for four days. Merchants had been desperately pulling merchandise out of their buildings, hiring anyone standing around to help. The damage amounted to twenty million dollars (today, that would equal 530-680 million).

Most insurance companies were bankrupt. However, the Aetna Insurance Company called a board meeting and promised to pay all losses if it took every dollar and personal fortune. The board members were so inspired each also contributed their personal fortunes. One year later, after paying all claims, the company restored its capital and then some. Hartford Insurance Company did the same.

A painting by Thomas Cole, landscape painter was so inspired by the fire he painted "DESTRUCTION" listed as #4 in his famous paintings:The Curse of Empire."



Croton Acqueduct

Croton Acqueduct




The Croton Aqueduct Company

Politicians, the public, and the city knew they had to get a source of water to New York, and they awarded a contract to the Croton Aqueduct Company to build forty-one miles of an aqueduct, and work began in 1837. It would remain in use until the 1890s when replaced with a new one until the 1920s. Then it was filled in and buried beneath the Great Lawn in Central Park. The aqueduct was a masterpiece and was the very first aqueduct in the United States, and New York, at last, had fresh water. The aqueduct was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Today, a twenty-six-mile trail in Westchester for biking, hiking, and jogging.

Short List of Disasters in New York

New York has an unfortunate history of destructive tragedies, yet the people of New York rallied and rebuilt each time. The impact of these disasters has led to new zoning laws, labor laws, building codes, fire regulations, a paid fireman department, and water to New York.

Here is a shortlist of disasters:

  • 1776 British occupied New York
  • 1835 Great Fire destroyed 700 buildings
  • 1845 Great fire destroyed 300 buildings
  • 1888 Great Blizzard, worst natural disaster, 200 left dead
  • 1904 General Slocum Disaster, the boat blew up killing 100
  • 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, 178 young girls dead
  • 2011 World Trade Center Bombing, 143 firefighters died, 3000 civilians died, and 10,000 injured
  • 2012 Hurricane Sandy


fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on May 05, 2021:

Thank you for visiting. I appreciate it.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on May 04, 2021:

Lions44, thanks for visiting. I agree it truly was an amazing engineering feat. Glad you had memories of actually seeing it.

CJ Kelly from the PNW on May 03, 2021:

Great hub. I lived next to the aqueduct for many years in Westchester County and it was an amazing engineering feat. Thanks for the memories.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on May 03, 2021:

Thanks, Alicia for visiting. I appreciate it.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 02, 2021:

The fire sounds like it was a horrible experience for people living in New York. Thank you for sharing the information about it.

Donna Wright on May 02, 2021:

This is such a great post, I learned so much today! Thank you

Related Articles