After the Great Fire of 1871 destroyed Chicago’s business district and rendered 100,000 people homeless, the city lost no time in rebuilding. Within two years, the downtown area was completely reconstructed, and better than ever. But if you visit Chicago today, you’ll still be able to find glimpses of the Chicago my characters in Veiled in Smoke knew well.
- The Chicago Fire Academy
The site of the blaze’s first sparks can be found at the Chicago Fire Academy, at the corner of DeKoven and Jefferson. Visitors are allowed inside to see the spot, and to see antique fire engines as well.
- Courthouse finial, Lincoln Park
My characters, the Townsend family, lived across from Courthouse Square. The night of the fire, the bell in the Courthouse Cupola rang for five hours before it collapsed. Today, an urn-shaped finial from the courthouse’s roof can be seen in front of Lincoln Park Zoo.
Thousands of Chicagoans fled north from the flames in October 8-9, 1871, many of them finally finding refuge in Lincoln Park.
- St. James Cathedral
The Great Fire gutted St. James Cathedral at the corner of Wabash and Huron. All that was left were the stone walls, the bell tower, and a Civil War memorial in the narthex. The top of bell tower remains charred from those flames of 1871 as a reminder of what the church survived.
- Fire relics at the Chicago History Museum
In Veiled in Smoke, two Italian boys sell fire relics such as marbles molded together, pieces of charred statues or sculptures, and a mound of washers fused into one form. These relics, and others like them, can be seen today at the Chicago History Museum.
- Water tower
The water tower survived the Great Fire and is open to the public to look around inside. You won’t find any water there—the tower actually holds a huge pump that brings water in from Lake Michigan. After the Great Fire, the water tower was one of the few remaining landmarks in the area which helped orient people to where they were.
I sincerely hope that my historical novel Veiled in Smoke brings 1871 Chicago alive for you. But I also hope you can get to Chicago and see some of these sites yourself. Whether through my book or in person or both, I hope you experience Chicago soon!
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Windy City Saga #1
Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.
The sisters become separated from their father and make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend was murdered on the night of the fire. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.
Though homeless and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.
About Jocelyn Green
Jocelyn Green is the award-winning and bestselling author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including The Mark of the King, A Refuge Assured, and Between Two Shores. Her books have garnered starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly and have been honored with the Christy Award and the Golden Scroll. Jocelyn lives with her family in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Visit her at www.jocelyngreen.com.