October 27: Here’s The Plan

2016/10/27 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1906 Chicago Merchants Club decided to move forward on Burnham’s Plan of Chicago.

The Merchants Club comprised a bunch of civic leaders and business folk and other grandees interested in the commercial strength of Chicago.  Although this crowd is not to be trusted with the built landscape anymore, in the early twentieth century, they knew what was what.  They hired Jedi Planning Master Daniel H. Burnham to develop a roadmap for the future development and re-development of Chicago.  Their aim was simple: bring people to the city and encourage them to spend their money here.  Burnham convinced them their best bet was to enhance the architecture, parks and roadways of Chicago: if it’s beautiful, they will come.  Along the way, he snuck in all kinds of amenities for normal residents to enjoy too–an amazing streak of social justice runs straight through the gorgeously illustrated book that finally was published, hailed, and memorialized as the 1909 Plan of Chicago.

Sorting out what part of Burnham’s grand vision was implemented as a direct result of the Plan is a tough job.  This website does as good a job as any in trying to parse Burnham’s ideas in relationship to the changes made to the city in the following decades.  Although assessing the legacy as a whole is a hard job, its difficulty does not diminish the achievement of the plan in terms of American city planning, nor Burnham’s great contribution to the development of Chicago.

Image: view from The Plan (from this source)

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