Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912) had a vision for Chicago. He wanted to create a “Paris on the Prairie” in Chicago. He was a leading architect and forward thinking urban-planner.
Burnham and Root were the architects of one of the first American skyscrapers: the Masonic Temple Building in Chicago. It was 21 stories high at 302 feet. It was torn down in 1939.
Burnham and Root played an integral role in why Chicago looks the way it does today. They accepted the responsibility of overseeing and constructing the Exposition of 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ famous voyage.
After Root’s sudden death, the plans were radically changed into a Classical Revival style in Jackson Park on the south lake font in Chicago.
Burnham became the Director of Works, and ultimately led the design and construction of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
Considered the first example of comprehensive planning in the nation, the fairground was complete with grand boulevards, classical building facades, and lush gardens. Often called the “White City”, it “popularized neoclassical architecture in a monumental and rational Beaux-Arts plan.” Much of his work was based on the classical style from Rome and Greece.
In 1909 he declared: “The Lakefront belongs to the People” and laid out the Burnham plan; his vision for Grant Park that still guides the Park’s evolution.
Published in 1909, Burnham and his co-author Edward H. Bennett prepared “The Plan of Chicago“, which laid out plans for the future of the city. The plan included ambitious proposals for the lakefront and river and declared that every citizen should be within walking distance of a park.
Many plans and conceptual designs of the south lakefront from the Columbian Exposition came in handy. His “Paris on the Prairie” vision included French-inspired public works projects, fountains, and boulevards radiating from a central domed municipal building. Burnham is famously quoted as saying, “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.” This slogan has been taken to capture the essence of Burnham’s spirit.
You can walk “The View Path” that highlights his plan in a new exhibit at Millennium Park. If you want to stay at a nice hotel in Chicago that was designed by Burnham and Root, head over to The Reliance Building at 1 W. Washington Street in the Loop. The first floor and basement were designed by John Root of the Burnham and Root architectural firm in 1890, with the rest of the building completed by Charles B. Atwood in 1895. It was the first skyscraper to have large plate glass windows make up the majority of its surface area. The Reliance Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970; and on January 7, 1976, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Stay at the lovely the 122-room Hotel Burnham and dine at the Atwood Cafe.
The path includes following sites:
Art Institute of Chicago
Congress Parkway Bridge
North President’s Court
Lower Hutchinson Field
Lake Michigan Shoreline
“Burnham View” a new permanent landmark sculpture with a spectacular view of the city and the park
Burnham also designed several notable buildings and skyscrapers in Chicago including:
- Kent House
- Rookery Building
- Butler Brothers Warehouse (Now The Gogo Building)
- Monadnock Building (northern half)
- Reliance Building
- Fisher Building
- Heyworth Building
- Marshall Field
Union Stock Yard Gate
- Union Station
- Boyce Building, on the National Register of Historic Places
- You may want to watch the documentary: Make No Little Plans – Daniel Burnham and the American CityEdward Bennett’s 1909 Plan of Chicago.
- Read: The Devil in the White City, a non-fiction book by Erik Larson, intertwines the true tale of two men: H.H. Holmes, a serial killer and Daniel Burnham.