Type of Document Thesis Author Ermus, Cindy Author's Email Address email@example.com URN etd-04092010-163050 Title The Good Friday Fire of 1788: Implications of a Disaster in Spanish Colonial New Orleans Degree Master of Arts Department History, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Rafe Blaufarb Committee Chair Darrin M. McMahon Committee Member Jonathan Grant Committee Member Keywords
- Spanish Colonial New Orleans
- New Orleans
Date of Defense 2010-04-01 Availability unrestricted AbstractOn Good Friday, March 21, 1788, the Spanish colonial city of New Orleans experienced a catastrophic fire that destroyed more than eight hundred fifty buildings, which at that time was over 80% of the city. Flames razed the residences of hundreds of individuals, along with warehouses of food, the parochial church, the presbytery, the government meeting house, the military barracks and arsenal, and the public jail. There was no fire department in place to assist the populace in stopping the incessant flames. Fire extinguishing materials, too, were scarce or nonexistent. As a result, much of the population was left homeless, and the colonial Spanish government, headed by Governor Esteban Miró, was confronted with the enormous task of rebuilding a Spanish capital over the ruins of a now desolate landscape.
The disaster, however, served as a catalyst for a series of changes that began to unfold almost immediately after the occurrence. Aside from the various measures put in place to aid and house the victims of the fire, city officials imposed a variety of regulations to help prevent such a disaster in the future, including for instance, safer building codes, night watchmen, and the implementation of new fire extinguishing tools. Also, because the fire destroyed food stores and warehouses of supplies, the Spanish government immediately reacted by sending a series of ships to the United States, thus loosening trade relations between the two powers. Moreover, as a result of the massive project of rebuilding that ensued under Spanish administration, some of New Orleans’ most distinctive and recognizable architectural characteristics began to emerge.
Undoubtedly then, this catastrophe was a significant event that merits further study – not only in light of New Orleans’ recent history with natural disasters, but also as it serves to illustrate the major social and economic changes that such devastation could effect in an 18th-century colonial capital.
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