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John Wellborn Root

Photo credit: Chicago History Museum
John Wellborn Root (at right) with Daniel Burnham Photo credit: Chicago History Museum

A partner with Daniel Burnham  in the firm of Burnham & Root, John Wellborn Root was instrumental in the design of dozens of important Chicago buildings, including the Rookery, the Monadnock Building  and the Masonic Temple.

Burnham and Root met when they worked in the Chicago offices of Carter, Drake, and Wright. They joined forces in 1873, combining Root’s artistry and Burnham’s business aptitude.

Root was just 41 when he died of pneumonia in 1891, and the firm continued as D. H. Burnham & Company. Before Root died, his design for the Reliance Building was partially built; however, although the base was complete, the elevation plans were lost. The upper floors had to be designed (again) by Charles B. Atwood after Root’s death.

Root’s son, John Wellborn Root, Jr. (1887 - 1963), carried on the family tradition, going on to design important buildings including the Chicago Board of Trade .