The area devastated by the fire was frequently referred to as the "burnt district," and this image gives some sense of the totality of the ruin. The epithet also provides a reference point for the astonishing revival of the city. The intersection of State and Madison, at the epicenter of the downtown where all the street numbers begin, soon became deservedly known as "the world's busiest street corner."

The fire destroyed some 18,000 buildings in all and caused damage estimated at $200 million, about one third of the value of the entire city. Close to one hundred thousand of the city's approximately 330,000 residents were left homeless. But much of importance escaped the fire, including substantial portions of Chicago's transportation and manufacturing infrastructure. This fact, along with the city's strategic geographical locationówhich the fire could not alterówere the keys to the economic vitality that had brought Chicago into being and would quickly rebuild it.