He was over sixty years old when he published his vision for Chicago. He
died two years later, but his dreams for the city live on. Chicago Stories
takes a look at the life and work of architect Daniel Hudson Burnham, the
man behind The Plan of Chicago.
His parents were Swedenborgians, members of the Church of New Jerusalem that followed the teachings of Emmanuel Swedenborg, an 18th century Swedish scientist and mystic. His faith instilled in him the belief that one should strive to be of service to others. After failing the entrance exams at both Harvard and Yale, Burnham tried his hand at several vocations, including politics. At the age of twenty-six he began to work at the office of architect Peter Wight. It was there that Burnham met John Root, who would become his business partner and chief collaborator.
Burnham rose to become one of the most respected architects in the world. At the same time, Chicago was rising to new heights, literally. Burham and Root helped to develop the first high-rise office building. After Root died in 1891, Burnham threw himself into planning the World's Fair of 1893. Burnham went on to plan entire cities, including Washington, D.C., Cleveland, San Francisco, and Manila. In Chicago, Daniel Burnham will be remembered as the man who envisioned a city complete with lakefront parks for its citizens. Burnham's plan is still used today, more than ninety years later.
Chicago Stories provides keen insight into Burnham The Man, using interviews with scholars Neil Harris of the University of Chicago, Kristen Schaffer of Syracuse University, and Reuben L. Hedlund, Former Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission. Also interviewed is Pulitzer-Prize-winning Chicago Tribune Architecture Critic Blair Kamin.
For more information on Daniel Burnham and his work, visit the Chicago Historical Society website.
For information about the Burnham Library of Architecture, go to the Art Institute of Chicago Libraries website.
About the Program Producer
In addition to "The Bungalow: Sweet Home Chicago," Risé Sanders has written and produced numerous other documentaries for A&E, MSNBC, TLC and The History Channel, as well as WTTW. In December 2000, she received an NAACP Image Award nomination for her episode of A&E's flagship series, Biography, on Sally Hemming--the woman who is now accepted as having been Thomas Jefferson's mistress. For WTTW, she has also produced the popular installment of Chicago Stories on "The Swedes in Chicago," and her next assignment is a program about our city's Lithuanian population.
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