The Cost of Safety

Thursday, November 16, 1871

The Common Council’s special committee considering new fire safety regulations proposes a virtual ban on wooden houses, as well as very high standards for those made of brick.  By the terms of this proposal, walls of one-story brick houses must be at least twelve inches thick, and taller homes must have even thicker walls in their lower stories.  All roofs are to be made of metal, slate, terracotta, or another fireproof material, and any cornices, coping, bay windows, or other projections must be similarly non-flammable.  The proposal immediately draws criticism not only from working-class residents who cannot afford such buildings, but also from those in the real estate business who say it will drive up prices.