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|BEFORE THE PLAN|
Chapter I of the Plan
of Chicago traces the origin of its development to the World's Columbian
Exposition of 1893. Organized to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's voyage to the New World, the World's
Columbian Exposition was held in Jackson Park, Chicago, between May and October, 1893. An estimated twenty-seven
million visitors from around the world visited the fair during that time. The fair is recognized today as one of the
defining moments of American cultural history and was especially influential in the fields of architecture and urban
planning, laying the groundwork for the City Beautiful movement of the early 20th century. Hosted just twenty years after the Great Fire had
destroyed much of the city, the world's fair showed the world that
Chicago was a vibrant place capable of great achievements.
Numerous architects, artists, and engineers—including Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan; Richard Morris Hunt; McKim, Mead, and White; Frederick Law Olmsted; Mary
Cassatt; and Augustus St. Gaudens—collaborated to construct these monumental Beaux-arts and classically-inspired
buildings and sculpture on reclaimed swampland along the lakefront south of Chicago's downtown. Daniel H. Burnham served as Director of Works for the Exposition,
supervised the design and construction process for all buildings on the
fair grounds. With a
few exceptions, the fair's buildings were destroyed by fire or demolition in 1894.
The world's fair was Burnham's first experience with large-scale planning, and it marked the start of his work within the City Beautiful aesthetic. In 1896, Burnham submitted a proposal for the redesign of the Chicago lakefront, and subsequently took on city planning projects for various cities in the U.S. and abroad. Burnham accepted his first such offer in 1901 as head of the McMillan Commission, a group charged with developing an architectural plan for the development of Washington, D.C. Influenced by Pierre L'Enfant's partially realized 1791 plan for the city, the Commission revived much of that scheme while adding to and amending it in order to satisfy current needs and sensibilities. The plan created the National Mall, the Burnham-designed Union Station and the Lincoln Memorial which was not completed until 1922. The Cleveland Group Plan—conceived in 1903 by Burnham, John Carrère, and Arnold Brunner—was built largely as the group envisioned, as a mall consisting of several formally landscaped parks flanked by a series of neoclassical civic and governmental buildings. The implementation of the San Francisco Plan of 1905, however, was sacrificed to the the calamity of the 1906 earthquake and fire. Burnham's final city plans, for the Philippine cities of Manila and Baguio, were developed concurrently in 1905. The Manila Plan, which was to redevelop portions of the city south of the Pasig River, was formal in nature though uniquely sensitive to the city's physical characteristics. Unlike the largely unrealized Manila Plan, the Baguio Plan for the Philippine summer capital was an opportunity for Burnham to design a completely new city.
It is within the context of these planning projects that the ideas and inspirations that will inform Burnham's vision for the city of Chicago are formulated. Despite Burnham's formidable workload during the decade following the world's fair, he advocated tirelessly for the improvement of Chicago's public spaces. A frequent orator before planning committees, public audiences, and the press, Burnham expounded his vision of the city, often with the aid of dazzling illustrations and lantern slides. While explaining the details of his plans, he constantly invoked the larger interests of the city and the grand ideals to which its citizens could collectively aspire.
This section contains speeches and correspondence that best convey Burnham's vision for the City of Chicago and the rhetorical style he used to communicate it. It is divided into two parts: Lakefront Proposals, which includes materials from the 1890s related to proposals for public parks and lakefront development, important antecedents to Burnham's work on the Plan; and Selling the Plan, speeches, notes, and public pieces Burnham penned at various stages during the creation of the Plan. Spanning just over a decade, these documents reveal Burnham's constant, underlying ideals for Chicago, as well as the ways he modified his thinking to respond to changes and events in the planning process. It is also interesting to note the different "selling points" Burnham employed to persuade Chicago's varied constituencies of the necessity for and viability of his recommendations.
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