On December 17, 1835, many citizens wandered around the area of destruction,
while firemen continued to put out the last of the flames. Trading on the
stock exchange had been suspended and remained so for four more days. Looting
continued even as soldiers patrolled the streets to discourage it. Thick
smoke lingered, billowing throughout the neighborhood. The exhausted New
York firemen had been joined by volunteers from New Jersey, Westchester
and even Philadelphia and there was still plenty of work to be done.
The Great Fire of 1835 destroyed nearly 700 buildings. The area from Bond
Street to South Street and from Wall Street to Coenties Slip (as it was
called then) was in ashes. Most of the destroyed buildings were commercial
enterprises, including shops, warehouses, businesses and the like. Thousands
of New Yorkers were out of work. Surprisingly, there were only two casualties
from amongst the slew of people—ranging from firefighters to observers
and looters— present at the fire. In contrast, four hundred people
would eventually be arrested for looting during the fire.
The damage was estimated at $20 million. All but three of the city’s
twenty-six fire insurance companies went bankrupt. The local papers spoke
about the fire’s effect on the country as a whole, viewing it as a
national tragedy, not one limited to the devastation of New York City. At
least in part, this was because New York had already become the nation’s
financial capital and the fire destroyed the financial heart of the city.
Nicholas Biddle, president of the Bank of the United States, promised the
city financial assistance if the national government would also agree to