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Daniel Burnham


Burnham and Root Raised and educated in Chicago, Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912) gained his early architectural experience with William Le Baron Jenney, the so-called "father of the skyscraper." In 1873, Burnham formed a partnership with John Wellborn Root (1850-1891) that produced such commissions as the Kent House, Masonic Temple (demolished), Monadnock Building, Reliance, Rookery, St. Gabriel's Church, and the Union Stock Yard Gate.

Following Root's death in 1891, the firm became known as D.H. Burnham and Co. Its design output continued to be prodigious, including department stores (Marshall Field's), office buildings (People's Gas and the Railway Exchange, at 122 and 224 S. Michigan, respectively), and public buildings (e.g., park fieldhouses, railroad stations, city halls) all across the country.

Daniel Burnham However, Burnham gained an even greater reputation for his influence as a city planner. He supervised the laying out and construction of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and, in 1909, Burnham and his assistant Edward H. Bennett (Michigan Avenue Bridge) prepared The Plan for Chicago, which is considered the nation's first example of a comprehensive planning document. Burnham also worked on other city plans, including ones for Cleveland, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Manila in the Phillipines.

John Root Numerous important architects worked for Burnham's firm, including Peirce Anderson, Charles Atwood (Museum of Science and Industry), Ernest Graham, and Frederick Dinkelberg (35 E. Wacker Building, Heyworth Building). Following his death, the firm continued as Graham, Anderson, Probst and White; its commissions include the Civic Opera Building, Field Building, Field Museum, Merchandise Mart, Union Station, and Wrigley Building. Burnham Park, which is located along Lake Michigan south of the Loop, is named in honor of the famed architect-planner.

Born September 4, 1846(1846-09-04)

Died June 1, 1912 (aged 65)

Occupation Architect and Urban Planner

Daniel Hudson Burnham (September 4, 1846 - June 1, 1912) was an American architect and urban planner. He was the Director of Works for the World's Columbian Exposition and designed several famous buildings, including the Flatiron Building in New York City and Union Station in Washington D.C.

Burnham was born in Henderson, New York and raised in Chicago, Illinois. His parents brought him up under the teachings of the Swedenborgian Church of New Jerusalem,[1] which ingrained in him the strong belief that man should strive to be of service to others. After failing admissions tests for both Harvard and Yale, and an unsuccessful stint at politics, Burnham apprenticed as a draftsman under William LeBaron Jenney. At age 26, Burnham moved on to the Chicago offices of Carter, Drake, and Wright, where he met future business partner John Wellborn Root (1850-1891).

Masonic Temple Building in Chicago

Burnham and Root were the architects of one of the first American skyscrapers; the Masonic Temple Building[2] in Chicago. Measuring 21 stories and 302 feet, the Temple held claims as the tallest building of its time, but was torn down in 1939. Under the design influence of Root, the firm had produced modern buildings as part of the Chicago School. Following Root’s premature death at the hands of pneumonia in 1891, the firm became known as D.H. Burnham and Co.

World's Columbian Exposition

Court of Honor and Grand Basin - World's Columbian Exposition

Burnham and Root had accepted responsibility to oversee construction of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago’s then-desolate Jackson Park on the south lakefront. The largest world's fair to that date (1893), it celebrated the 400-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus' famous voyage. After Root's death, a team of distinguished American architects and landscape architects, including Burnham, Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim and Louis Sullivan, radically changed Root's modern and colorful style to a Classical Revival style. Under Burnham's direction, the construction of the Fair overcame huge financial and logistical hurdles, including a worldwide financial panic and an extremely tight timeframe, to open on time.

Considered the first example of a comprehensive planning document 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. The remaining population of architects in the U.S. was soon asked by clients to incorporate similar elements into their designs.

City Planning & the Plan of Chicago

Burnham's Plan for central Chicago

Beginning in 1906 and published in 1909, Burnham and assistant Edward H. Bennett prepared The Plan of Chicago, which laid out plans for the future of the city. It was the first comprehensive plan for the controlled growth of an American city; an outgrowth of the City Beautiful movement. The plan included ambitious proposals for the lakefront and river and declared that every citizen should be within walking distance of a park. Sponsored by the Commercial Club of Chicago,[3] Burnham donated his services in hopes of furthering his own cause.

Plans and conceptual designs of the south lakefront[4] from the Exposition came in handy, as he envisioned Chicago being a "Paris on the Prairie". French inspired public works constructions, fountains, and boulevards radiating from a central, domed municipal palace became Chicago's new backdrop. The plan set the standard for urban design, anticipating future need to control unexpected urban growth.

Burnham's Plan for Manila

City planning projects did not stop at Chicago though; Burnham helped shape cities such as Cleveland (the Group Plan), San Francisco, Washington, DC (the McMillan Plan), and Manila and Baguio in the Philippines, details of which appear in The Chicago Plan publication of 1909. The Plan for Manila wasn't fulfilled, except for a shore road, which became Dewey boulevard, and now as Roxas boulevard.

Much of his career work modeled the classical style of Greece and Rome. In his 1924 autobiography, Louis Sullivan, considered by many to be the greatest architect from the Chicago School, chastised the late Burnham for his lack of original expression and dependence on Classicism. Sullivan claimed the neoclassical example of the World's Fair had "set back architecture fifty years" -- corporate America thought differently.

Burnham was quoted as saying, "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized." (Moore-1921) This slogan has been taken to capture the essence of Burnham's spirit.

Burnham and Bennett's Plan for San Francisco

A man of influence, Burnham was considered the preeminent architect in America at the turn of the twentieth century. He held many positions during his lifetime, including two-time president of the American Institute of Architects.[5] In 1912, when he died in Heidelberg, Germany, D.H. Burnham and Co. was the world's largest architectural firm. Legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright eulogized, "(Burnham) made masterful use of the methods and men of his time... (as) an enthusiastic promoter of great construction enterprises... his powerful personality was supreme." His firm continues its work today under the name Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, which it adopted in 1917.

Almost as a tribute to his urban planning ethos, Burnham's final resting spot is given special attention, being located on the only island in Uptown, Chicago's park-like Graceland Cemetery. Burnham's personal and professional papers are held in the Ryerson and Burnham Archives at The Art Institute of Chicago. In his honour, the American Planning Association has also named a major annual prize the Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan.

Notable commissions


Union Stock Yard Gate

Kent House
Rookery Building

Monadnock Building (northern half)

Reliance Building

Fisher Building
Heyworth Building

Washington, D.C.

Union Station

Postal Square Building


Flatiron Building New York City

Columbus Union Station of 1897

Pennsylvania Union Station Pittsburgh

Henry W. Oliver Building 1910 Pittsburgh

Dime Building (Dime Building) (Detroit, Michigan)

Ford Building (Ford Building) (Detroit, Michigan)

David Whitney Building (Detroit, Michigan)

Majestic Building (Detroit, Michigan)
(The Majestic Building is a former high-rise in Downtown Detroit, Michigan. It was located at 1011 Woodward Avenue. The building was constructed in 1896, and was the city's second skyscraper, following the completion of the Hammond Building. It stood at 14 storeys (68 metres, or 222 feet) in height. This building was designed in the Beaux Arts architectural style by Daniel H. Burnham & Company, and composed of terra cotta. At the time of completion, the building cost $1,000,000. This was also Detroit's tallest building, from 1896 (its completion) until 1909, when the Ford Building was completed.
The Majestic Building was also hailed as a "fireproof skyscraper". A fire broke out on the top floor in 1915 and burned for two hours straight. However, the fire never spread from where it began, and never endangered the building's supporting structure.
The building was demolished in 1962, to make way for 1001 Woodward, which was finished in 1965. Towards the end of its life, the tower had offices and a roof-top observation deck for the United States Weather Bureau for science and meteorologists performing weather observations. This observation deck offered unobstructed views for up to 12 miles in any direction, and cost only a dime to access).

Wyandotte Building (Columbus, Ohio)

Pennsylvania Railroad Station (Richmond, Indiana)

The Group Plan (Cleveland 1903) with Arnold Brunner and John Carrère
(The Cleveland Mall is a long public park in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. It was conceived as part of the 1903 Group Plan by Daniel Burnham, John Carrère, and Arnold Brunner[1] as a vast public room flanked by the city's major civic and governmental buildings, all built in the neoclassical style. Many of those buildings were built over the following three decades, including the Metzenbaum Courthouse (1910), Cuyahoga County Courthouse (1912), Cleveland City Hall (1916), Public Auditorium (1922), Cleveland Public Library main building (1925), and the Cleveland Public Schools Board of Education building (1931).[2] Other buildings include Key Tower, the Cuyahoga County Administration Building, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.[3]
In the spirit of the City Beautiful movement, formerly seedy areas were transformed into a "magnificent civic center," which was supposed to be crowned by the Union Terminal at the north end of the mall, on the shores of Lake Erie. However, the location of the station was eventually moved south and west, to Public Square, where it was finally born as the Terminal Tower.[4] Even though the plan was never fully carried out, it was one of the few City Beautiful plans to be realized to a large extent, and remains one of the most complete examples in the United States.[5] The Mall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975,[6] and the Cleveland Restoration Society is pursuing a National Historic Landmark designation.
The Mall is divided into three sections, known as Malls A, B, and C. Mall A (the southernmost) is officially named Veterans' Memorial Plaza,[8] and Mall C was dedicated as Strawbridge Plaza in 2003.[9] The Memorial Plaza, which borders St. Clair Avenue, is the site of the Fountain of Eternal Life, also known as the War Memorial Fountain. The Cleveland Convention Center is underneath Malls B and C, and plans to extend the Center north are under consideration as part of the Cleveland City Planning Commission's efforts to renovate or replace the existing facility.[10] This would create a new Mall D above the Amtrak station, abutting the Shoreway. Another proposal would put an above-ground welcoming facility on the western side of Mall B. In order to "complete the Group Plan of 1903," both of these plans call for a reconstruction of the original park, replacing the classical landscaping with a more modern design that includes foot paths across the lawns and skylights for the underground exhibition halls.[11]
Mall B with Brian Tolle's installation, For the gentle wind doth move Silently, invisibly. Memorial Plaza, with the Fountain of Eternal Life, is visible in the background.In 2004, New York artist Brian Tolle installed For the gentle wind doth move Silently, invisibly around Mall B. The work featured eight nine-foot-tall styrofoam neoclassical urns standing atop pedestals, warped to reflect actual wind data collected from Lake Erie.[2] The sculptures were taken down in fall 2006).

Union Station (El Paso),Texas]]

Print references
Moore, Charles (1921). "XXV "Closing in 1911-1912"", Daniel H. Burnham, Architect, Planner of Cities, Volume 2. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1921.
Larson, Erik (February 2003). The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. New York, New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-609-60844-4.
Burnham, Daniel H., and Edward H. Bennett, Plan of Chicago, the Commercial Club, Chicago MCMIX