WTTW Chicago: The Influential Plan That Sought to Make Chicago Beautiful

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“‘At no period in its history has the city looked far enough ahead,’ admonished Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett in the 1909 Plan of Chicago. Chicago’s astonishing growth over the previous seven decades—from about 4,000 people to more than two million—had outpaced the ability to plan its expansion in an orderly fashion. ‘Men are becoming convinced that the formless growth of the city is neither economical nor satisfactory,’ they wrote. Therefore, ‘practical men of affairs are turning their attention to working out the means whereby the city may be made an efficient instrument for providing all its people with the best possible conditions of living.’

“Burnham and Bennett had been commissioned to create a plan for Chicago in 1906 by the Commercial Club of Chicago, whose civic-minded membership included many of the city’s most prominent “practical men of affairs.’ Businessmen like George Pullman, Marshall Field, George Armour, and Burnham himself sought to promote Chicago’s development as well as various contemporary reforms through the Commercial Club, and the Plan for Chicago incorporated their goals into one grand vision for the city.

“At base, the Plan sought to make Chicago beautiful: attractive, rational, navigable, accessible, full of parks and monumental buildings that would inspire moral uplift and civic pride amongst the growing number of citizens who made it their home. It’s not for naught that the Plan is considered an epitome of the City Beautiful movement, a prevailing urban planning philosophy in America at the time.

“Burnham was a leading proponent of City Beautiful, which saw its first major realization in the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, for which he served as Director of Works. The Exposition’s stately buildings and landscaped grounds on the city’s southern lakefront were significant inspirations behind the commissioning of the Plan—city leaders wanted to emulate the success of the Exposition across the city. “The World’s Fair of 1893 was the beginning, in our day and in this country, of the orderly arrangement of extensive public grounds and buildings,” the Plan boasts.” (WTTW, 11/19/20)

Read the full story at WTTW Chicago

The Influential Plan That Sought to Make Chicago Beautiful, Daniel Hautzinger, WTTW Chicago, 11/19/20

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