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   Undertoad  Tuesday Apr 22 02:22 PM

April 23, 2008: Chicago at night

IotD has always enjoyed the "at night" images, and here's one offered up with a Creative Commons license that permits us all to enjoy it as long as it's attributed to flickr user myelectricsheep.

My first instinct was to pull up a session of SimCity's latest incarnation; the game designers' approach usually gets you that grid pattern of roads and streets.

My second thought was: I've seen this. In Flight Simulator. There's O'Hare off to the upper left, Midway's actually one of those dark squares, but I'm going to bear right and aim at little Meigs Field... which no longer exists in real life.

Do I game too much? Well of course.

It's funny to think that it hasn't always been this color, and may not be this color forever. Before the bright sodium lights became the standard streetlight, it would have been dimmer and whiter. With all the research going into low-power lighting, maybe there will be a time when the light at night is once again a whiter, more natural shade. I don't think any of us would choose that particular shade of nighttime light, if we thought about it.

Trilby  Tuesday Apr 22 03:28 PM

My first thought: I'm not driving into that.

pretty cool, UT, I love these night photos, too. thanks!

Cloud  Tuesday Apr 22 03:57 PM

it's tomorrow already?

I'm confused!

glatt  Tuesday Apr 22 04:00 PM


But I have to agree with Brianna. The thought of driving into that wouldn't appeal to me.

BigV  Tuesday Apr 22 04:02 PM

Originally Posted by Undertoad View Post
It's funny to think that it hasn't always been this color, and may not be this color forever. Before the bright sodium lights became the standard streetlight, it would have been dimmer and whiter. With all the research going into low-power lighting, maybe there will be a time when the light at night is once again a whiter, more natural shade. I don't think any of us would choose that particular shade of nighttime light, if we thought about it.
I agree completely. In fact, I think an even better shade of nighttime light is dark. It's entirely possible to light the streets without polluting the sky. Just look what can be accomplished! Breathtaking!

beauregaardhooligan  Tuesday Apr 22 04:20 PM

Originally Posted by BigV View Post
No kidding, BigV!

Buckrogers47  Tuesday Apr 22 07:27 PM

I think I can see the Cubs losing from here...

Eclipse  Tuesday Apr 22 07:52 PM

Haha, it's April 23rd already? I thought that was a real picture at first, amazing that it's from a game.

Undertoad  Tuesday Apr 22 07:58 PM

It's April 23 in most of the world actually. Once our Aussie friends started posting I figured Aussie time was fair game.

And yeah, no, it's a real picture... I was just saying I'd seen it in context of a game. This is at 38,000 feet I think.

BeltNah  Tuesday Apr 22 10:56 PM

Thats what I like to hear Undertoad, Stop living in the past.

xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Apr 22 10:58 PM

Originally Posted by Brianna View Post
My first thought: I'm not driving into that.
Actually, for a big city, it's not that bad to navigate.

Imigo Jones  Wednesday Apr 23 02:42 AM

Originally Posted by xoxoxoBruce View Post
Originally Posted by Brianna
My first thought: I'm not driving into that.
Actually, for a big city, it's not that bad to navigate.
You know them better than me, Bruce, but I'd guess it's not the ease of navigation so much as the congestion that concerns Brianna and glatt. The congestion for the driver (and hopeful parker) is one of Chicago's few minuses, but it's a big one. The Dan Ryan, baby!

But Brianna, Bruce is right about the navigation. There is a relatively uninterrupted north-south & east-west grid laid over the whole flat town, as you can see in the great pic. Plus, Chicago is shaped kinda like a semicircle, and the expressways and several other major roads are "spokes" radiating in all directions from the hub near the Loop. Many of the "diagonal" roads follow the old Indian trails, which themselves often paralleled Lake Michigan or one of the few waterways that break up the modern grid.

So, even without a map it's easy to feel your way around in a general way. For example, Buckrogers is eventually leaving Wrigleyville after celebrating a Cubs loss and wants to get to the Kennedy Expressway, which is not nearby. First, he's got to remember where he parked his car, because parking in Wrigleyville is terrible, and it seems like more and more of the residential streets have parking by permit only, so you end up a mile away from Wrigley. But Buck's been celebrating responsibly, so he finds his car. Now, even if he didn't know the streets well, he could just get on a main east-west street and head west until he hits the diagonal (SE-to-NW) Kennedy--no prob.

Bonus annotated version of photo, including Wrigley (but at least a couple misplaced annotations: U of IL-Chicago should be significantly E; Brookfield Zoo, NW).

By the way, Buck, I want the Cubs to lose as much as the next guy--actually, more than the next guy. With the Cubs having won the division last year, however--and more importantly, doing very well in this young season, having won 5 in a row, taken the division lead, blah3--general-purpose insults don't ring as true and in the moment as usual. Forecasts for a June swoon might not be out of order, though. :p

In any case, the pic likely wasn't taken after a Cubs loss, or even during baseball season at all, because
1. for the streetlights to show up so well, the leaves must have been off the trees;
2. neither Wrigley nor White Sox Park is lit up; and
3. the Flicker page says it was taken January 2, 2007.

Originally Posted by BigV
No kidding, BigV!
Seconded, BV and BH! Every little bit of dark helps. My street is pretty dark, with streetlights spaced about two per block on the utility poles running between backyards--odd. But a couple years ago, a gas station 1/4 mile to the SE rebuilt, and its upgraded lighting makes for surprisingly downgraded casual stargazing from my place.

No lights at Wrigley!

xoxoxoBruce  Wednesday Apr 23 08:20 AM

Sure, congestion is a feature of any big city, especially on the expressways, but not nearly as confusing as some big cities.

By the way, on the annotated version, I doubt that's Zion Nuclear Plant at the top. I spent considerable time working there, and think it's further north, out of the picture, halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee.

dar512  Wednesday Apr 23 10:04 AM

My kind of town...

Thanks UT. I have dual monitors now at work and needed a new wallpaper.

kerosene  Wednesday Apr 23 01:59 PM

Chicago at Night by Spoon

Now When She Went To Chicago That Night She Faced A Wall
And She Woke Up Outside With All Those Leaves In Her Mouth
And Felt The Pall
And All Night The Rain Came On Down
But Then She'd Never Been To Chicago At Night Before The Fall
And It Don't Stop Not At All
It Falls All Around
In The City
Hits The Ground

And Now Everybody's At Disadvantage
Speaking With Their Second Language

She'd Never Been There Before They Went And Set Up The Wall
And Though Nobody'd Expected Much From This Reinvention
She Still Broke Right Down After All
Because She Knew That It Was All Over And We'd Hit A Wall
And Like The Fall This Was All
Now It's All Around
In The City
On The Ground

And Now Everybody's At Disadvantage
Speaking With Their Second Language

And I Never Been To The Wall
Never Been To The Wall
Never Been To The Wall
Never Been To The Wall
Never Been To The Wall
Never Been To The Wall
Never Been To The Wall

glatt  Wednesday Apr 23 05:15 PM

Oh, look up there at the top of the picture. That's the alley where they shot the mountain lion last week.

Cops kill cougar on North Side

newtimer  Wednesday Apr 23 11:33 PM

At first glance I'm reminded of the opening credits in Tron.

Scriveyn  Thursday Apr 24 02:05 AM

... which reminds me of one of my favourite albums:

(listen here ...)

SPUCK  Thursday Apr 24 05:27 AM

And now where did the cow kick over the lantern?

Scriveyn  Thursday Apr 24 05:59 AM

Originally Posted by SPUCK View Post
And now where did the cow kick over the lantern?
approximately here: Google Maps (formerly DeKoven Street) according to Wikipedia

dar512  Thursday Apr 24 09:48 AM

That's interesting. I've actually been down that way while walking on my lunch hour. No barns or cows in that area now. There is a nice Whole Foods store, though.

xoxoxoBruce  Thursday Apr 24 12:27 PM

No barns or cows in that area now
Pssst... they burned down.

Shawnee123  Thursday Apr 24 12:58 PM

Late last night
When we were all in bed
Old lady Leary lit a lantern in the shed
And when the cow kicked it over
She winked her eye and said
It'll be a hot time in the old town tonight
Fire Fire Fire

(sang at Campfire Girls summer camp)

Imigo Jones  Thursday Apr 24 05:51 PM

Originally Posted by Scriveyn View Post
Originally Posted by SPUCK
And now where did the cow kick over the lantern?
approximately here: Google Maps (formerly DeKoven Street) according to Wikipedia
Now you got me started, Scriveyn and Spuck! To be less approximate than wikipedia : The site of the O'Leary barn is in from the NE corner of DeKoven & Jefferson, at the modern 558 W. DeKoven St. This is 2 blocks west and 2 short blocks north of Roosevelt & Canal (the arrow in that Google map), or 2 blocks east of the Dan Ryan Expressway. DeKoven does still exist, if mostly to provide access to parking for the Robert J. Quinn Fire Academy, which stands at the O'Leary site.

For practical navigation purposes, like when Brianna and glatt are out tooling around town, we could say the academy is at the SE corner of Taylor (more of a through street than DeKoven) & Jefferson, with a monumental modern sculpture and the entrance on the S side just off Jefferson. Note to congestion sufferers : Get ethyl 4-(8-chloro-5,6-dihydro-11H-benzo[5,6]cyclohepta[1,2-b]pyridin-11-ylidene) -1-piperidinecarboxylate clear by using Jefferson St. to bypass the expressways and Spaghetti Bowl just to the west and northwest, where the Eisenhower Expressway meets the Dan Ryan Expressway, which becomes the Kennedy Expressway. Even when parallel Canal St. and Clinton are congested, Jefferson never is. Soon you'll be breathing a sigh of relief through clear passageways. Get back to your old self again--and back to today's active lifestyle .

. .

The O'Leary site is at the tip of that tiny finger in the upper left corner of map sector 1. This map (with north at right) is chronologically keyed to very descriptive PBS text following the progress of the fire.

. .

Left: The O'Learys' house (please note correct apostrophe placement ) was spared, since the fire spread N and NE from their barn--4 miles! (Please see also this old map and this map-illustration.) The O'Learys' barn was in back of the structures pictured, viewed from about DeKoven & Jefferson (looking NE).
" 'The land was thickly studded with one-story frame dwellings, cow stables, pig sties, corncribs, sheds innumerable; every wretched building within four feet of its neighbor, and everything of wood.'
- Joseph Edgar Chamberlin, reporter, Chicago Evening Post" (from PBS page).
Center: Modern view of the O'Leary site, from closer up. The precise spot where the O'Leary barn stood is marked by a dramatic bronze sculpture by Egon Weiner in the plaza in front of the fire academy.
Right: Ich nein sprechen sie Deutsch, but I think "Egon Weiner" can be translated as "wiener agony," as commonly experienced in campfires.

Of course, that should be:

Happy Monkey  Thursday Apr 24 09:32 PM

Originally Posted by Scriveyn View Post
approximately here: Google Maps (formerly DeKoven Street) according to Wikipedia
How about H. H. Holmes' murder house?

xoxoxoBruce  Friday Apr 25 01:03 AM

I've been to the Billy Goat Tavern.

SPUCK  Friday Apr 25 05:54 AM

Imigo Jones; Nice round up there..

Figgers they'd put a fire academy there!

Shawnee123  Friday Apr 25 09:16 AM

Classic, xoxoxoBruce!

dar512  Friday Apr 25 10:34 AM

Originally Posted by xoxoxoBruce View Post
Pssst... they burned down.
Right. Right. On the other hand, I don't think they built this immediately after the fire:

xoxoxoBruce  Friday Apr 25 12:09 PM

Probably not, but then we do know how long these urban renewal projects can take.

Imigo Jones  Saturday Apr 26 04:30 PM

Happy Monkey, the "Murder Castle" was blown up and burned down by explosive arson (or in an arsonous explosion ) before Holmes's 1896 execution, either by an accomplice trying to destroy evidence or by just anybody who considered the structure's continuing existence to be an abomination. The site is in the heart of the South Side, in Englewood, at 63rd St. & Wallace, between the Dan Ryan and Halsted. If you know where to look, it's in the aerial photo, about 1 mile SW of Washington Park. Next time I'm on 63rd, I'll have to keep an eye out for the post office that was built on the site in 1938.


Disclaimer before someone suspects that my writing about Chicago is fraudulent: I've never lived in Chicagoland. Due to friends and relatives, though, it's been my own "second" hometown all my life. (Chicago was the city of my father's birth, and where he lived into his 30s; and Grandpa & Grandma still lived there when I was a kid; my family lived in Lake County for a few years [my luck: they moved up there 2 years after I'd moved out on my own--but at least they gave me their new address]; and several relatives, including a brother and his family, still live in the City and in the metro area.)

So, I'm uniquely unqualified to call myself a Chicagoan. Anyway, I'd been directly past the O'Leary / fire academy site, driving up Jefferson, I don't know, a dozen, 15, 20 times; indirectly past on Roosevelt (within sight of the academy) countless times. I'd slowed down, but all those times, I'd never once stopped to visit, on foot, the Chicago Fire's ground zero and the academy's little museum.

Until this month, that is! (Must be why I'm all hot on this topic. I'm setting a pace, or word & pic volume, as a site newbie I cannot possibly keep up through subsequent topics. :p) Three weeks ago I was in town and found myself going up Jefferson from Roosevelt. Once again I was just rushing by, looking out the window at the tall flame sculpture.

This time, though, I stopped up ahead and walked back down to the fire academy. Spuck, I hope you get a chance to visit sometime! Yes, a very apt site for its current function. Dar and Bruce, the Chicago Fire Academy building--not exactly an Adler & Sullivan design --was dedicated in 1961. The "Chicago" part of the name was replaced with "Robert J. Quinn" in 1978 in honor of a longtime Chicago Fire Department commissioner who, coincidentally, bore that same name. The "Chicago" part, though, remains in metal letters in the red brick wall:


So, coming alongside the west wall of the building and entering the plaza (from the left side of the pic), first you see the sculpture where the O'Leary barn stood, with a plaquelike disk around its base, and a plaque by the Chicago Landmarks Commission (or National Register of Historic Places or whomever) close by. Posed across the plaza, I think, are a bronzed helmet and boots to memorialize Chicago (and other) firefighters who died in the line of duty (not necessarily the ones pictured below, but you get the idea):

Inside the building entrance is a lobby with a few items on display. Most interesting are the old horse- (or man-)drawn fire engines from the 19th century, with steam boilers providing high pressure for the pumps.

To the right of the receptionist's desk is a hallway lined with basically two-dimensional displays of CFD history, which I looked at for the better part of an hour:
* Accounts (museum-type text with photos, newspaper reproductions, maps) of big Chicago fires and other disasters the CFD responded to, especially ones that were costly in terms of human life
* Other CFD history, such as the evolution of equipment and of the organization itself
* Plaques honoring annual (and other) award winners
* Memorials for firefighters killed in the line of duty
* Display honoring the brothers and sisters for 9/11

"Chicago Line of Duty Death Total 563"
Chicago Fire Department timeline, following a text history.

It's pretty poignant and sobering, standing there soaking in the tragic and sacrificial history, while behind you are heard the footsteps of current firefighters walking down the hallway to the vending machines in the cafeteria. On the hallway floor are a few more bronzed boots.

There is an area marked in the floor that says something like "On this site on October 8, 1871, began the Great Chicago Fire." I axed the receptionist about which was the actual site of the O'Leary barn: the hallway marker, or the plaza sculpture. She didn't know, and then she asked the firemen she was chatting with, and they weren't sure, either. From the wording on the plaque by the sculpture, that seemed more like the exact spot, though maybe it too was just referring to the general site.


The O'Learys' place, behind which stood
the barn in which stood
the cow which kicked over
the lantern in which burned
the flame which ignited
the hay and shavings which started
the Chicago Fire that Jack built.

Left: View to the NE from about DeKoven & Jefferson.
Right: View to the NW from DeKoven. In the background are probably other surviving houses on the other side of Jefferson.

Outside again, I stepped back and tried to visualize the 1871 O'Leary place and its relation to the streets. Considering 1871 street widths and structure sizes, the plaza seemed like the right distance from Jefferson. Given the small size of the O'Leary structures, the sculpture could have also been the right distance back from DeKoven (back at the cow's quarters). I like this sort of thing to be marked accurately . (Real Chicagoans: Did you know that the bronze outline of Fort Dearborn embedded in the pavement all over Michigan & Wacker is actually several feet south of the exact spot? The northwest blockhouse, for instance, would be down the steps and out in the Chicago River, which has been partially straightened since Fort Dearborn days.)

Back to the O'Leary hood: I stepped over to the sidewalk and looked up Jefferson, up the initial path of the fire. Off in the distance are the four tall Presidential Towers (condos), on Madison near the NorthWestern depot. This seemed pretty far off, but Madison is just 1 mile from Roosevelt, and a bit less from where I was standing. The fire had jumped the South Branch of the Chicago River and had not actually burned the site of the Presidential Towers, but east on Madison all would have been destroyed from the river to the lake--which today would include the Civic Opera, First National Bank, and Carson Pirie Scott. That's just on Madison. I was imagining the fire sweeping up everything in its path between where I was standing and to Madison, then another mile up across the river and to Chicago Avenue and the Water Tower. Then yet another mile to North Avenue, along the south edge of Lincoln Park, where fire refugees were seeking refuge in the cemetery then there (and when the lakeshore wasn't nearly as far east). And then yet another mile parallel to the park to Fullerton.

Let me leave you with a Fun Fact culled from the CFD timeline:

1871.10.02 [6 days before the Great Fire]: "Benjamin Bullwinkle selected to head the newly formed Chicago Fire Insurance Patrol."

Sundae  Saturday Apr 26 06:01 PM

The Cellar: I now know more about something than anyone I know knows anything about.

Thank you

xoxoxoBruce  Saturday Apr 26 08:57 PM

So, I'm uniquely unqualified to call myself a Chicagoan.
We really don't give a rat's ass if you're Chicagoan or Martian. The information, pictures and links, you've posted, are interesting and informative. That's all that matters.

toranokaze  Saturday Apr 26 10:49 PM

City fire now thats carbon emission

JuancoRocks  Sunday Apr 27 04:44 AM

Scientific evidence has allowed Mrs O'leary and her cow to be exonerated as the cause of the Great Chicago Fire.

xoxoxoBruce  Sunday Apr 27 10:12 AM

Wasn't it Mrs O'Leary's son Jimmy, reading Playboy under the covers with a lantern?

SPUCK  Monday Apr 28 05:38 AM

No I believe he was lighting farts!

Imigo Jones  Tuesday Apr 29 05:21 AM

Originally Posted by xoxoxoBruce View Post
So, I'm uniquely unqualified to call myself a Chicagoan.
We really don't give a rat's ass if you're Chicagoan or Martian. The information, pictures and links, you've posted, are interesting and informative. That's all that matters.
Yes, thanks, Bruce--my not ever being a Chicagoan hasn't stopped unrelated Chicago friends (people who've never met each other) from calling on me to be Chicago tour guide for their visitors coming in from out of town.
The Cellar: I now know more about something than anyone I know knows anything about.
Sundae Girl, you're welcome, but I bet one of your friends secretly knows way more about the Great Fire of London than he or she is letting on.

SundaeG, imagine this: There must be someone in Chicago right now who is descended from
a. a 1666 Londoner who got burned out of their house in the Great Fire of London, who was the ancestor of
b. an 1871 Chicagoan who got burned out of their house in the Great Chicago Fire, who was the great-(great-)grandpa or -ma of
c. this modern-day Chicagoan.
Scientific evidence has allowed Mrs O'leary and her cow to be exonerated as the cause of the Great Chicago Fire.

Juanco, that might be overstating it a bit. There never has been any scientific evidence that proved that the cow of Mrs. O'Leary did have anything to do with the fire, or whether Mrs. O'Leary herself was with the cow at this point if it did. There was conflicting testimony from Day 1 (or so), and it at least seems likely (though not established by standards acceptable to a scientist ) that Mrs. O'Leary would not have been present at the precise moment the fire started. Everyone is pretty much agreed, however, that the fire did start with the O'Leary barn.

The esteemed members of the Chicago City Council, I recall having read over the weekend, passed a resolution in recent years officially exonerating Mrs. O'Leary from blame. Let's see whether I can find that again. . . .

Check out this little essay on Mrs. O'Leary's guilt or innocence, in which we find the following passages:
"In 1881 the Chicago Historical Society installed a marble plaque marking the spot on the much more solid home that had been built at 137 DeKoven {old street-numbering system}. The alley behind the house became a kind of sacred site for local residents, who protested when the city finally filled it in and paved it two decades after the great conflagration. And when Chicago constructed a new fire academy in the early 1960s {woo-hoo!}, it selected as the location the block where the calamity began."

"Did Mrs. O'Leary's cow start the Great Chicago Fire?

"There's evidence that suggests she did. {Then several reasons follow.} . . .

"But one can find good reason to think that poor Mrs. O'Leary and her benighted cow--named Daisy, Madeline, and Gwendolyn in assorted retellings--were innocent. {Then reasons for this view.} . . .

"Like the several cowbells that different people have sworn were the one the four-legged perpetrator (who herself perished in the fire ) wore around her neck that fateful night, it is possible that any one of these theories has the truth behind it, but all of them are open to question" {my emphasis}. The essay goes on to discuss why it was that the public latched onto the possibility that the fire was started on accident by a dumb cow (and not, for instance, on purpose by international terrorists).

Don't miss this "library" page with links to Mrs. O'Leary's testimony and the official Board of Police and Fire Commissioners' Report.

In the 1990s one writer developed a strong alternate theory of who started the fire, if not the cow kicking over a lantern. I recall reading about this years ago. His work set in motion the council resolution lifting the onus of responsibility from Mrs. O'Leary; here is more corroboration for this alternate account.

Yet, there's no evidence to positively prove that Peg Leg Sullivan or somebody else (besides Daisy, or Daisy) started the Great Chicago Fire. One way or another, though, the O'Leary barn is still where the fire started.

Fire location, time of starting {current structure on site}
October 8
A. O'Leary barn, 8:30 pm {Robert J. Quinn Fire Academy, 1961}
B. Bateham's Mills, 10:00 pm {between New Main Post Office and Greyhound Bus Depot}
C. Parmelee's Stables, 11:30 pm {Brooks Building, 1910; Holabird & Roche, architects}
October 9
D. Gas Works, 12:00 midnight {just N of Sears Tower}
Conley's Patch, 12:20 am {poor residential section around (D)}
E. Court House, 1:30 am {City-County Bldg, 1911, Holabird & Roche}
F. Wright's Stables, 2:30 am {IBM Bldg, 1971, Mies}
G. Polk Street, 2:30 am {Just N of River City, 1986, Bertrand Goldberg}
H. Northwestern Elevator, 7:00 am {Merchandise Mart, 1930, Graham, Anderson, Probst & White}
I. Galena Elevator, 7:00 am {the Donald's tower}

"From the mass of often conflicting information available, Musham meticulously reconstructed the source and progress of the several different parts into which the wind-blown fire divided itself as it advanced through the city. The North Division fires continued beyond the limits of the map to Fullerton Avenue," which is another 2 miles beyond Chicago Avenue (near the top of this map), or twice as far as this map shows. {I reformatted the table and added the current structure info.} From a gallery page in my new favorite Chicago Fire site, put together by the Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University.

dar512  Tuesday Apr 29 03:31 PM

I'm surprised no one has mentioned spontaneous combustion of the hay as a possible cause. It does happen from time to time.

glatt  Tuesday Apr 29 03:45 PM

Originally Posted by dar512 View Post
It does happen from time to time.
Even in the Cellar.

dar512  Tuesday Apr 29 04:54 PM

Originally Posted by glatt View Post
Even in the Cellar.
So I see. What rotten luck for the Ducksnuts family. It's tough enough to make a living farming.

Imigo Jones  Wednesday Apr 30 12:38 PM


Originally Posted by dar512 View Post
I'm surprised no one has mentioned spontaneous combustion of the hay as a possible cause. It does happen from time to time.
Hey there, Dar. It's another possibility. If this were to be the case, the onus is back on poor Kate O'Leary for negligently inadequate storage and monitoring. This would make her about as personally responsible as leaving a lantern out where Daisy could knock it over.

From the reading you've provided, though, the hay would have to be pretty moist--"above 20-25% moisture content"--for its internal temp to rise enough to cause spontaneous combustion (nice monitoring technique, punching a probe into the hay and dropping a candy thermometer down it). On the one hand, you'd think that hay that had been cut and dried in the field, then baled or piled into a wagon, and transported into town might've dried out pretty well through all that handling. One also thinks "dry" when visualizing Daisy's lantern or Peg Leg's smoke igniting the hay.

The hay wasn't used just for dry bedding for the animals, of course, but also as feed. It's assumed, however, that the O'Learys had plain old hay and not silage, in which the moisture content is kept very high to encourage fermentation. "The ensiled product retains a much larger proportion of its nutrients than if the crop had been dried and stored as hay or stover. Silage is most often fed to dairy cattle, because they respond well to highly nutritious diets." Silage spoils without proper handling, and it seems unlikely to have been something poor 1871 city folks with just a low-tech barn (no silo etc.) would want to mess with.


On the other hoof, even if it was basic "dry" hay, the O'Leary's had a lot of hay, and it was farm fresh: "The O'Learys had just laid up plenty of coal, wood shavings, and hay to see them and their livestock {five cows, a calf, and a horse} through the winter"
( According to theoretician Richard Bales, this was "at least two tons of hay." (At least he claims his name is "Bales" .) In terms of "square bales" we can picture, which weigh 40-80 (let's say 60) pounds each:
2 tons = 4,000 pounds = 240,000 bales of hay in the O'Learys' barn!
No, wait--I multiplied instead of divided .
2 tons = 66.666... bales .

That's a lot of hay! Stacked in one little barn, that's like transistors on a chip (and also where a limiting factor is overheating). A lot could go wrong.

xoxoxoBruce  Wednesday Apr 30 11:19 PM

I'd bet it was loose hay as baling wasn't around until the late 1800s and not widespread until the 1930s.

Mowing the hay, waiting for the sun to toast it to a golden brown, raking it into winrows, hand forking into stacks, then loading it onto a wagon and offloading in the barn, is a tedious process.

Add typical summer weather, with thunderstorms popping up with little or no warning, and it becomes a very hectic ballet. Putting hay away, a little on the wet side to beat a thunderstorm, is quite common, even with modern machinery that sped up the process considerably.

We always tried to spread greenish hay out over the hay mow, but that doesn't mean it will be completely dry before the the next load arrives, because of humidity and lack of circulation in the barn.

Oh, and two ton of hay ain't shit.... yet.

Imigo Jones  Friday May 2 02:13 AM

Thanks for the handy firsthand farmhand perspective, Bruce.

Shouldn't that be "heighth"?

Haystack Colonna :p

Imigo Jones  Tuesday May 6 09:21 PM

The City of Chicago has a great site I'd never seen before tonight, getting you close-up aerial photos and various maps, including, it seems, most of the real estate plats and building footprints in town. The aerial photo alone couldn't be posted, but here's the interactive page for the O'Leary homestead / Quinn (Chicago) Fire Academy site.

Jefferson is the unnamed street along the west edge. You can see the Weiner plaza sculpture marking the exact spot where the O'Leary barn stood. (Typing in any other address, you'll see that the site isn't centered in the map--the street is. The star is always placed in the street, so not on the actual site.)

Not from City of Chicago site, but kinda a daytime version of the OP view, and from closer to the Loop

Here's something weird with the footprint type of map (with building outlines): The academy building's footprint is given the address of "1310 S" Jefferson. Notice, though, that this is between 1010 S and 1113 S. The real 1310 S. Jefferson is a few blocks away, on the other side of Roosevelt (1200 S). Also, DeKoven is such a minor street, it doesn't even get its own outline.

Going for the plat doesn't show most of the details of this block, for some reason. You can see, though, how Jefferson has been widened (especially if you zoom out; solid line showing current street edge, dashed line showing former street and alley edges) to eat up most of the corner lot, reducing the distance between Jefferson and the O'Leary site.

Chicago History Museum diorama. In 1871, Michigan Ave. was actually on Lake Michigan. The city had blocked the Illinois Central Railroad from running tracks on this nice real estate, which it needed to get access from 12th Street (Roosevelt Road) to the mouth of the Chicago River. So, the railroad simply built its tracks on a causeway parallel to Michigan Avenue, the lake being under the jurisdiction of the more agreeable State of Illinois.

Rubble from the fire was thrown into the water between avenue and tracks, contributing mightily to the development of Grant Park (hafta check its history; I think some of the space between avenue and tracks had already been turned into a boating lagoon, but fire debris was the first fill). The tracks are still there, going under the Art Institute and Millenium Park. Go to this page and click "Previous" and "Next" for more of the diorama.

xoxoxoBruce  Friday May 16 01:31 AM

Check out these HDR photos of Chicago at night.

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