Immediately after the
fire, downtown rental costs increased more than twofold as hundreds of businesses
began to crowd into the undamaged west side of the island. Dry goods stores
that had been previously located in the neighborhood of the fire eventually
laid claim to the area west of Broadway, while an exclusively financial
district sprung up from the ruins of the Great Fire on the east side.
the city had grown haphazardly until then, many New Yorkers
viewed the disaster as an opportunity to widen streets and
revise the urban grid, a project that was completed quickly
before rebuilding began. Other internal improvements followed.
The outcry generated by the city’s inability to fight
the fire helped spur the construction of the Croton Aqueduct,
which insured a steady, safe, and quick supply of water for
the city and its fire fighters. After five years of construction
and at a cost of $11.5 million, the Aqueduct was completed
in 1842 to enormous fanfare.
In addition to a reliable
water supply, fire fighters were able to combat fire emergencies armed with
greatly improved, state-of-the-art equipment. For instance, in 1851, a sophisticated
alarm system linked many buildings to fire headquarters and by 1857, the
city had purchased its first steam-powered fire engine.
the 1850s and 1860s there were numerous attempts to professionalize
the fire department and alleviate the problems associated
with having an all-volunteer force. In the absence of professional
fire fighters, many private fire squads were formed by insurance
companies to protect individual property. By the spring of
1865, however, the state legislature elected to replace all
of these companies, private and volunteer, with a paid force
of 700 men, who patrolled both Manhattan and Brooklyn. The
Metropolitan Fire Department (MFD), as it was originally called,
was replaced by the FDNY in 1870.
York was transformed rapidly in the ensuing years, but the
city’s residents, perpetually fascinated by disaster,
were loath to forget the Great Fire of 1835. The vast array
of Fire memorials—including statues, plaques, commemorative
plates, and etchings—which found their way into city
museums, parks, and New Yorkers’ troves of mementos,
insured that they did not have to.