The Good Friday Fire of 1788

The Good Friday Fire of 1788 was a blaze that reduced over 857 structures into ashes in New Orleans of Louisiana in Spain. In the year 1727, the first church of St. Louis was dedicated. It was one of the most beautiful structures in the city. There was a presentable clock on the wall that struck after every hour. The community and the society were proud of this church. There were armchairs available near the altar which was meant for the intendant and the governor.

Also, two L-shaped chairs were given to the staff officers and superior council members. Unfortunately, chaos erupted among the parishioners, the church pews were auctioned off to the highest bidders. The church members wished if they had a chance to obtain and own those most precious seats. However, the structure had survived humid climate and damp weather. In the year 1763, some elements considered harsh took a toll in the building.

The church structure was abandoned to create a room for reconstruction and repairs. The king’s warehouse in the street of Dumaine, was a temporary structure assigned for people to attend the service as they waited for the church to be repaired. The church was reopened after several months of repairing. However, this research paper is aimed at discussing about a catastrophe that happened to St. Louis Church in the year 1788. On Friday 21st of March, in the year 1788, the church at St. Louis and the city of Orleans received a devastating blow. The greatest catastrophe happened whereby the fire busted into flames and spread out destroying over eighty one percent of the cities.

The Good Friday flame started at around one pm during the day. It began at the house of Don Jose, 619 street charters corner of Toulouse. The priest denied people to use the church bell as an alarm for fire alert. It was a catastrophe that went down to New Orleans history. The St. Louis church, the entire French quarter and other 827 structures were leveled to ground and reduced to ashes within five hours. It was accelerated by the strong wind that kept on blowing from the southeast.

Over one hundred and fifty residential houses were torched along with food warehouses, government conference house, presbytery, the church of parochial, the arsenal, military barracks and the public jail. Fire departments were not available at the moment to control the blazing fire. The fire extinguishers were scarce while on other areas, they did not exist. This led to a large crowd being left homeless with no place to go. Governor Miro Esteban, the head of colonial Spanish government was left with a big task to rebuild the city after the catastrophe.

The disaster was seen as a catalyst that served as a series of changes which unfolded immediately. Rules and regulations were imposed by the officials in responsible for the city to prevent such incident from occurring again in future. Watchmen, safe building codes and purchase of fire extinguishing equipments were made. A series of ships were sent by the Spanish government to America in search of food to restock the empty food stores and warehouses. This loosened the trade relations between the two states. The massive rebuilding projects ensued by the Spanish government led to an emergence of more recognizable and distinctive architectural characteristics under New Orleans.

This catastrophe can therefore, be viewed as a significant event that is of great advantage not only to the New Orleans light of natural disasters in recent history but also serves as an illustration to major economic and social changes. After six decades, the church of St. Louis (first permanent structure) had stood up again. For the last sixty one [footnoteRef:2]years, the structure has remained to be the center of the community life in Louisiana, Spain.

The high and low born children, slaves and couples were baptized and joined in holy matrimony in this church. The church has therefore served faithfully in preparation of eternal life. [2: 4 Rules and regulations were imposed by the officials. 5. responsible for the city to prevent such incident from occurring again. 6. Future. Cindy Ermus, ?Reduced to Ashes: The Good Friday Fire of 1788 in Spanish Colonial New Orleans,? LH, vol 54, #3, Summer 2013, pp292-331. ]


Cindy Ermus, Reduced to Ashes: The Good Friday Fire of 1788 in Spanish Colonial New Orleans, LH, vol 54, #3, Summer 2013, pp292-331.
Charles Edwards O?Neill, The French Regency and the Colonel Engineers: Street Names of Early New Orleans, LH, vol 39, #2 Spring 1998, pp207-214.

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