The rapid reconstruction of Chicago began almost before the ruins of the old city had cooled. The burnt district was rebuilt at a prodigious pace. Aided by new construction techniques, including the use of the derricks visible here, workmen erected commercial buildings that were taller than the ones they replaced, though the skyscrapers for which Chicago would become famous did not begin to appear until the following decade.

The pace of the rebuilding reflected the vigor of the national and international economy in which Chicago played such a vital role. The city's boosters would point to the reconstruction as proof of the indomitable spirit and inevitable preeminence of Chicago, which adopted the phoenix as its symbol. They were at the same time eager to ignore the numerous class divisions revealed during the Great Rebuilding. These included bitter zoning fights over new regulations that seemed to discriminate against working-class homeowners who could not afford to build with fireproof materials, and disputes over wages between workers in the construction trades and their employers.

Many working people were also angered and insulted when temperance advocates, who were overwhelmingly native-born and middle-class, insisted without lasting success on the enforcement of a Sunday ban on alcohol. Chicagoans of Irish and German background correctly saw this measure as targeting the beer gardens and taverns so essential to their culture, and as blaming them for social disorder.

The Chamber of Commerce Building was on the southeast corner of LaSalle and Washington Streets, opposite the city hall. The chamber's previous building on the same site was one of the thousands of casualties of the fire. Previously this lot had been occupied by the First Baptist Church, which, like several other downtown houses of worship, moved out of the center of the city as the downtown became almost entirely commercial.

The Board of Trade, the great commodities exchange originally organized in 1848, and one of the key elements of Chicago's importance to the rest of the world, occupied space in this building starting on the first anniversary of the fire—October 9, 1872. By the early 1880s the board had outgrown these quarters and constructed its own building at the junction where LaSalle Street meets Jackson. One of the major pre-Haymarket anarchist rallies, involving several figures who were held responsible for the bombing, took place at the dedication of this building in late April 1885. The current Board of Trade Building, erected in 1930, is on the same spot.