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FIRE OF 1776

fire of 1776
Martha J. Lamb, History of the City of New York: its origin, rise and progress, Volume 2, 1877, pg. 136. Retrieved from

New York was the only American city to remain under British military occupation for nearly the entire Revolutionary War, and it suffered more physical damage than any other city. In late 1776, the American troops under General Washington fought a series of battles in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and by the end of summer, they were dispirited and in danger of being surrounded. On September 12, Washington accepted the advice of his officers to abandon the city. The British occupied Manhattan for the remainder of the war, holding patriot prisoners of war in appalling conditions in the Bayard Sugar House on Wall Street.

Just after midnight on September 21, a fire broke out in the Fighting Cocks Tavern on Whitehall Street and quickly spread uptown and by 2 a.m. had consumed Trinity Church. By the time the fire burned out around midmorning, more than 500 houses, one quarter of the city's total, were destroyed. The British were quick to suspect arson and rounded up about two hundred men and women for questioning, including a young captain named Nathan Hale, who admitted to being an American spy and was hanged the next morning. The housing shortage produced by the fire, and another in 1778, caused a number of churches, including the First Presbyterian Church on Wall Street, to be commandeered for barracks, prisons, or storehouses. Large shantytowns filled the burned-out areas, and rebuilding did not begin in earnest until after the war ended.


Pre-1850 History of Wall Street
Dutch Origins
New Amsterdam: The Castello Plan
British New York
Early 18th Century
The Slave Market
City Hall
East River Commerce
Fire of 1776
Trinity Churches
Mansions and Banks
Wall Street in 1825
The Great Fire of 1835
Customs House and Merchants Exchange
A Street of Banks
Lowenstrom's Panorama-1850 South
Lowenstrom's Panorama-1850 North
New York in 1850
Fortune 1930
Monuments of Wall Street
Early Photographs of Wall Street
Vertical Wall Street
1 Wall Street
23 and 63 Wall Street
Unbuilt Stock Exchange
14 Wall Street
40 Wall Street
60 Wall Street
120 Wall Street
1928-1931 Towers
East River End
Historical Land Maps