Fire was a constant threat in dense places like New York. From the days of Dutch settlement in the early 1600s, city leaders had tried to legislate away the danger in various ways–mandating brick rather than wood construction, requiring regular chimney cleaning, asking property owners to keep buckets and ladders at the ready. But time and time again, devastating blazes consumed whole portions of the built up area of the city. The Great Fire of 1835, perhaps the worst of the 19th century, covered a full 17 city blocks. As gale force winds fanned the flames, firefighters tried first to drill holes in the frozen rivers for water, then to create firebreaks by destroying rows of buildings with gunpowder. By the time the fire petered out, as many as 700 buildings had been destroyed. The severity of the damage convinced New Yorkers to speed completion of the Croton Aqueduct, a more reliable water source. Source: Glenn P Corbet and Donald J Cannon, Historic Fires of New York City (Chicago, 2005). Text written by Dr. Brett Palfreyman