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The Working Man’s RewardChicago's Early Suburbs and the Roots of American Sprawl$
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Elaine Lewinnek

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199769223

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199769223.001.0001

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“Domestic and Respectable”

“Domestic and Respectable”

Property-Owner Politics after the Great Chicago Fire

(p.33) Chapter 2 “Domestic and Respectable”
The Working Man’s Reward

Elaine Lewinnek

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces conversations about homeownership during the year of reconstruction after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. With one-third of the city left homeless, leading philanthropists chose to tear down emergency barracks and instead erect 8,033 “isolated” suburban-style houses on the edges of the city in order to forestall what they perceived as the physical threat of disease, the moral threat of too easy sexual relations, and the political threat of property-less people. Chicago’s aldermen instituted “fire limits,” an early form of zoning, attempting to separate home and work as well as rich and poor. In January 1872 thousands of German and Irish residents marched from Chicago’s North Side to City Hall in order to protest these fire limits, demanding single-family houses within the city limits. They shared the elite penchant for single-family homes, but they resisted building those homes in the suburbs.

Keywords:   Great Chicago Fire, Victorian domesticity, fire limits, zoning, anti-suburban riot

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