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The Great New Orleans Fire

All cities have been victim of their own share of calamities and tragedies. New Orleans is no different. Throughout its history, it has been the subject of serial killings and yellow fever epidemics. But in 1788, it added a massive fire to its list of devastating events. The Great New Orleans Fire was one of the most destructive fires to ever occur in America.

It was Good Friday at about 1:30 pm when the home of Don Vincente Jose Nuñez caught ablaze. Because of this timing, it was the perfect storm. When a fire began in the city, the church bells would typically ring to alert the townsfolk and call attention to it as soon as possible. However, because it was Good Friday, the priests of the city refused to allow the church bells to be used for the alarm on this day. Their refusal would lead to the destruction of most of the city.

Devastation by Fire

Within five hours, over 800 of the 1100 structures in the city had been burned to the ground. These buildings included the church, municipal building, armory and jail. It stretched across the French Quarter, sparing only the riverfront buildings and leaving hundreds, if not thousands, homeless. Soon after the fire ended, the colonial governor at the time erected homeless tents to give them shelter until their homes could be rebuilt.

The rebuilding started almost immediately. Because of the devastation of this fire and to avoid the risk of another, the officials replaced all of the wooden buildings with masonry structures. These buildings would prove far more difficult to burn down.

Although the city of New Orleans is now thriving, it didn’t get there without perseverance and hardships. Only six years after the rebuilding began, another horrific fire swept through the city and destroyed another 200 buildings. Because of these two fires combined, most of the French-style architecture that had once filled the city is no longer there, instead replaced by Spanish architecture because of Spain’s influence at the time. Many speculate as to why New Orleans has been targeted by so many destructive events. From hurricanes, to fires, to serial killers, the city has seen it all.

Could this all be a coincidence, or could the city be cursed as some have theorized?