The Plan of Chicago

“Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men’s blood……”

From the Plan of Chicago to Planning Chicago

The 1909 Plan of Chicago was the city’s first comprehensive plan. Authors Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett lauded Chicago for its phenomenal growth over the past seven decades. They warned that growth had created serious problems that must be solved for Chicago to continue to maintain its competitive economic position as a commercial city.

Plan of Chicago centennial cover

Plan of Chicago Centennial Edition MMIX (Chicago: The Great Books Foundation, 2009)

(Click on images to enlarge and view in higher resolution)

Substantial coordinated change to the built environment was needed to improve the transportation networks that had made Chicago a key manufacturing and mercantile hub. Improvements to the Lake front and the city’s system of parks were needed to enhance the living conditions of a growing population of wage-earners and to encourage the wealthy to spend their money in Chicago. The development of centers of intellectual and civic life were necessary to foster a greater sense of coherence and unity among Chicago’s diverse population. Although Chicago’s subsequent growth followed only some of the pathways advocated in the Plan, the planners did succeed in making planning and Chicago synonymous.

Planning Chicago cover

B. Bradford Hunt and Jon B. DeVries, Planning Chicago (Chicago: American Planning Association, 2013)

In their 2013 Planning Chicago, Roosevelt University authors D. Bradford Hunt and Jon B. DeVries note that the city has not had a comprehensive plan since 1966. Pundits and politicians characterize Chicago as a tale of two cities beset by demographic, economic and political problems. Hunt and DeVries point out that this over simplification misses the interconnections between the central city and the neighborhoods. To set the city on a sustainable path, they argue that Chicago must move beyond planning as a project by project, available funding driven exercise and again develop and implement a visionary comprehensive plan.

The first Plan of Chicago did provide a unifying vision of the future. It became a touchstone for discourse on the transformation of Chicago’s built environment, a discourse that began decades before the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition and continues into the present. The Plan emphasized basic principles that still apply when contemplating a vision for a next comprehensive plan: it must prepare the city for a distant future, be economically viable, and share its bounty equitably among the mass of the population.

The Planners

From a special penthouse built atop the Railway Exchange Building (now Motorola) the authors of the Plan of Chicago and their sponsors in the Commercial Club looked out over a city beset with serious problems and limitless opportunities. Manufacturing and mercantile expansion accompanied by rapid population growth was creating great wealth along with unacceptable congestion, pollution, and slums.

Lunch meeting of key planners in D. H. Burnham and Company offices, with illustrations from the Plan of Chicago on walls (1908). Chicago History Museum, ICHi-03560

Lunch meeting of key planners in D. H. Burnham and Company offices, with illustrations from the Plan of Chicago on walls (1908). Chicago History Museum.

Chicago had accomplished impressive public works in its short history, including raising its streets and buildings out of the mud to improve drainage, constructing a water works and building the Sanitary and Ship Canal to reverse the flow of the Chicago River to purify the city’s Lake Michigan drinking water. The recent World’s Columbian Exposition had presented a scaled down version of what Chicago could become. It was now time to execute substantial and comprehensive change to the city’s built environment to enhance the wealth and well-being of its people.

It would take several hundred formal meetings and 30 months to conceptualize and write the Plan of Chicago published on July 4, 1909. The Plan was approved by the city and Mayor Busse appointed 328 men to serve on the Chicago Plan Committee with Charles Wacker as chairman. Wacker hired Walter D. Moody to lead a public relations campaign to convince the community as a whole that the Plan would secure Chicago’s future. The campaign included lectures and slide shows in every available venue and active lobbying of public and private interests. Moody wrote Wacker’s Manual of the Plan of Chicago and arranged to have it included in the eighth grade curriculum of the public schools through the 1920s.

Wackers Manual Cover #2

Wacker’s Manual of the Plan of Chicago was especially prepared for study in the schools of Chicago under the auspices of the Chicago Plan Commission by Walter D. Moody, Managing Director.

Moody believed that educating our children to their responsibilities as the future owners of Chicago was central to solving the major problems the city faced. Although Daniel Burnham died in 1912, Edward Bennett remained involved in the planning within Chicago government through the 1930’s.

The Plan’s key recommendations were to improve the Lake front, relocate railway terminals to redirect the flow of freight and passenger traffic, develop a system of highways outside the city, create parkway circuits and systematically arrange streets and avenues within the city to facilitate movement to and from the business district, and develop centers of intellectual life and civic administration to give coherence and unity to the city.

Plate CXXXVII. View of the proposed development in the center of the city from Twenty-Second street to Chicago Avenue, looking towards the east over the Civic Center to Grant Park and Lake Michigan. Painted for the Commercial Club by Jules Guerin.

View of the proposed development in the center of the city from Twenty-Second street to Chicago Avenue, looking towards the east over the Civic Center to Grant Park and Lake Michigan. Painted for the Commercial Club by Jules Guerin.

Plan of the complete system of street circulation; railway stations; parks, boulevards circuits and radial arteries; public recreation piers, yacht harbor, and pleasure-boat  priers; treatment of Grant Park; the main axis and the Civic Center. Presenting the city as a complete organism in which all its functions are related one to another in such a manner that it will become a unit.

Plan of the complete system of street circulation; railway stations; parks, boulevards circuits and radial arteries; public recreation piers, yacht harbor, and pleasure-boat priers; treatment of Grant Park; the main axis and the Civic Center. Presenting the city as a complete organism in which all its functions are related one to another in such a manner that it will become a unit.

Bird's-eye view at night of Grant Park, the façade of the city, the proposed harbor, and the lagoons of the proposed park on the South Shore.

Bird’s-eye view at night of Grant Park, the façade of the city, the proposed harbor, and the lagoons of the proposed park on the South Shore.

Proposed Boulevard (Michicago Avenue) to connect north and south sides of the River; view looking north from Washington Street.

Proposed Boulevard (Michigan Avenue) to connect north and south sides of the River; view looking north from Washington Street.

Chicago at the turn of the century

Chicago in 1909 did not look like the city proposed and illustrated in the Plan of Chicago. The city had grown at the intersection of Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, and the railroads. It was the mercantile hub connecting eastern capital with the western hinterlands. Chicago’s population and wealth grew with commodity trade in cattle and hogs, lumber and grain. Population exploded from some 300,000 in 1870 to 1.7 million in 1900. There was sufficient land and potential markets for continued growth. By various estimates population could grow to 7 million or even 13.5 million by the 1950s.

The railroads and grain elevators still dominated the main branch of the Chicago River.

The mouth of the Chicago River in 1893. The Illinois Central serves the city's two largest grain elevators on the south bank of the river. The grain elevator further up on the north bank is served by the Chicago and Northwestern. The South Water Street Market is on the south bank. Bird's-eye Views and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rank, McNally & Co., 1893)

The mouth of the Chicago River in 1893. The Illinois Central serves the city’s two largest grain elevators on the south bank of the river. The grain elevator further up on the north bank is served by the Chicago and Northwestern. The South Water Street Market is on the south bank. Bird’s-eye Views and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rank, McNally & Co., 1893)

Wolf Point in 1893. The Chicago and Northwestern terminal is on the north bank at Wells and Kinzie. Grain elevators along the river include the St. Paul which stands as tall as a 10 story building. Bird's-eye Views and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rand, McNally & Co., 1893)

Wolf Point in 1893. The Chicago and Northwestern terminal is on the north bank at Wells and Kinzie. Grain elevators along the river include the St. Paul which stands as tall as a 10 story building. Bird’s-eye Views and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rand, McNally & Co., 1893)

The Illinois Central entered the city from the south and the Chicago and Northwestern from the west. South Water Street on the south bank of the river was the city’s grocery market. Potter Palmer had earlier moved the retail district from its east-west axis along Lake Street to a widened and now bustling State Street.

State and Madison looking north around 1911

State and Madison looking north around 1911. Chicago Historical Society.

Swivel bridges for railroad and public traffic spanned the river. The Rush Street Bridge was a major avenue for north-south traffic.

Chicago River with  Rush Street Bridge

Chicago River with Rush Street Bridge circa 1900. Chicago Historical Society.

Lumber yards had initially stretched for 12 miles along the South Branch. The Union Stock Yards, established in 1865 and spread out along Halsted Street southwest of the business district, was the center of the city’s slaughtering and meat packing industry.

Stockyards around 1910. Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969)

Stockyards around 1910. George Krambles Collection.

The Board of Trade, established in 1848 as canal and rail traffic brought a golden stream of grain into the city, anchored the downtown financial district. It was surrounded by banks, law offices and corporate headquarters, the last communicating with outlaying factories by telegraph and telephone. Corporate back office functions were located in the central business district.

Looking south on LaSalle Street to the 1885 Board of Trade. Bird's-eye Views and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rand, McNally & Co., 1893)

Looking south on LaSalle Street to the 1885 Board of Trade. Bird’s-eye Views and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rand, McNally & Co., 1893)

Montgomery Ward had moved its catalogue facility and warehouse from the “busy bee hive” located near the corner of Michigan Avenue and Madison Street to a new building on the North Branch of the river in 1906-1908.

Montgomery Ward & Co.

Montgomery Ward & Co.

Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue House

Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue House

Newer mail order competitor Sears, Roebuck and Co. located its catalog plant and offices west of downtown at Homan Square in 1905-06. Printing and publishing firms located near the downtown businesses they served.

Print House  Row from Van Buren Street 1893

Printing House Row from Van Buren Street. Bird’s-eye View and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rand, McNally & Co., 1893)

Railroad manufacturing and repair was among the city’s major employers along with machines shops and iron and steel forging. The latter enterprises were located along both branches of the river but were most concentrated southwest of the center. With limited opportunity for expansion in the city center, manufacturers expanded at the edges of the built up areas and in the Calumet region. The Central Manufacturing District, established in 1890 as the nation’s first such organized industrial district, was located north of the stock yards and was served by the same railroads. Electric machinery manufactures, a newer industry located outside the city center, provided light and power systems to serve offices, street railways and factories. The Columbian Exposition had introduced Chicago to the wonders of electric lighting. Street railways were in the process of switching from coal and cable to electric. The garment industry, drawing on local cheap labor, was concentrated along the South Branch of the river. Industry was variously dependent on the river for transport, water input and waste disposal and on the railroad for bringing in raw materials and sending out finished products. Wards and Sears, the Amazon.coms of the early 20th century, used the post office which in turn shipped by rail.

The economic forces that led to the outward movement of industries also strongly influenced residential patterns. A Chicago Planning Commission map (1919) shows built up areas north, west and south of the city center.

This 1919 promotional slide from the Chicago Plan Commission highlights current industrial areas in yellow and future areas in red. Future population is estimated at 7,000,000 and the built up area at 400 square miles.

This 1919 promotional slide from the Chicago Plan Commission highlights current industrial areas in yellow and future areas in red. Future population is estimated at 7,000,000 and the built up area at 400 square miles.

Those living in the subdivisions beyond the high density neighborhoods surrounding the city center traveled on street and passenger railways to work and shop in the center.

Transit system expansion contributed to flux in the city’s real estate market. South Side growth had been fueled by the World’s Fair and new transit connections to the center. The South Side’s predominance began to diminish as the North and West Sides expanded along their newer elevated and electrified transit connections to downtown. The social elite had moved from Prairie Avenue to the Gold Coast in the 1880s. The old baronial estates on the Near South Side were divided into multifamily residences and often converted into tenements. Daniel Burnham no longer wishing to live on the South Side had moved to Evanston. The city’s population had its greatest density west of the South Branch of the river and declined along the north and south shores of Lake Michigan and within newer subdivisions to the west.

While Chicago grew with immigration it was predominately a city of middle class homes. As members of one immigrant cohort became more economically established it could move to the more pleasant outlying residential districts. Regardless, the living conditions of those yet to move up were appalling. Several Chicago city wards west of the river housed an immigrant population in tenements with densities up to 61,000 people per square mile (about the capacity of Soldier Field).

housing circa 1900

“Packingtown” housing circa 1900

At the turn of the century many of the new immigrants were from southern and eastern Europe. A Hull House map documents countries of origins for residents around Roosevelt Road and Halsted.

The Hull House Settlement conducted careful studies of the Near West Side neighborhood which housed many of Chicago's most recent immigrants, most of whom came from central, southern, and eastern Europe. This color coded map depicts nationalities of residents in the area bordered by Polk, Twelfth (now Roosevelt Road), Halsted, and Jefferson Streets. The map appeared in the volume Hull-House Maps and Papers,

The Hull House Settlement conducted careful studies of the Near West Side neighborhood which housed many of Chicago’s most recent immigrants, most of whom came from central, southern, and eastern Europe. This color coded map depicts nationalities of residents in the area bordered by Polk, Twelfth (now Roosevelt Road), Halsted, and Jefferson Streets. The map appeared in the volume Hull-House Maps and Papers,

Although the Plan is predominantly positive in tone, it does describe living conditions along the edges of the central city where industry intermingled with high density residential areas. At the important intersection of Chicago Avenue and Halsted the Plan reports that smoke from railroad shops and yards and standing locomotives foul the air – nearly 400 trains come and go each day. River traffic adds their soot while tanneries and garbage wagons contribute their odor. Coal docks increase the din. Close by a “cosmopolitan district inhabited by a mixture of races, conditions a menace to the moral and physical health of the community.”

The Railroads

The railroads were central to Chicago’s past and future growth and a source of its most vexing land use problems. They limited expansion of the central business district to the south and west and claimed much of the Lake front south of the river. Chicago was a major freight hub and its railroads were a major source of congestion and pollution. Speed of delivery and cost of freight per ton were the keys to the competitive advantage of Chicago’s railroads. If the city could not address line congestion and control costs, it would lose its competitive position. The railroads with their substantial investment in fixed facilities would suffer.

Illinois Central depot circa 1890 Lost Chicago p 54

Illinois Central depot circa 1890. Chicago Historical Society

The Plan stated that railroads in particular and transportation networks in general had to be viewed from the perspective of Chicago as a commercial city. The planners offered a set of proposals that would promote the convenience of the people, enhance the commerce of the city, and improve railroad profits. As elsewhere, the planners hoped their solutions would appeal to all constituencies.

The essential problem was how to handle railroad traffic with dispatch and at lowest costs. There were twenty two trunk lines entering the city. The Plan asserted the need to study the fine art of traffic management to achieve an efficient placement of tracks and terminals. Consolidation among lines would reduce both their enormous terminal costs and the city’s congestion. The Plan offered a detailed discussion of common freight depositing and reloading stations with warehousing nearby, common tracks and central depots for passenger traffic, and the use of exiting underground tunnels to move freight from depots to central city retailers. A complete system would connect shipping facilities on the Chicago and Calumet rivers to freight handling centers. These changes would yield convenience and reduce cost. The railroads would need to cooperate in this endeavor but would collectively profit. To rationalize space and reduce cost, the railroads would only carry goods into the city that were needed there.

Plate LXXV. Diagram of the City showing complete system of inner circuits including general traction subway circuit and general railroad freight circuit.

Diagram of the City showing complete system of inner circuits including general traction subway circuit and general railroad freight circuit.

As many as 1,300 trains a day in 1910 carried a total of 175,000 passengers to and from six principal downtown stations. They moved workers and travelers. Travelers would enter the central business district to change trains and continue their journeys. As a growing metropolis, having travelers traverse downtown was good for business. Now it just added to congestion. The Plan proposed that passenger traffic be rationalized and centralized in two terminals, one on Roosevelt Road (then Twelfth Street) and one on Canal. The welter of tracks crisscrossing the city at grade level was also a serious source of traffic delay and deadly accidents. Below is the Plan’s “modern and perfect system for passengers and freight in a great city’s heart.”

Plate LXXX. Diagram of the City center, showing the proposed arrangement of railroad passenger stations, the complete traction system, including rapid transit subways, and elevated roads, and the circuit subway line. Railway stations are located on Twelfth Street (Roosevelt) and Canal Street. Railroads are denoted by solid red lines. Dashed red lines are subway connections to passenger stations, additional circuits and rapid transit lines. Dashed blue lines are proposed subway system.

Diagram of the City center, showing the proposed arrangement of railroad passenger stations, the complete traction system, including rapid transit subways, and elevated roads, and the circuit subway line. Railway stations are located on Roosevelt Road and Canal Street. Railroads are denoted by solid red lines. Dashed red lines are subway connections to passenger stations, additional circuits and rapid transit lines. Dashed blue lines are proposed subway system.

Better circulation of people, while essential, was not the principal gain. Rationalizing lines, terminals, and warehousing would free up land almost as large as the central business district (from State Street to the South Branch of the river and Van Buren to Roosevelt Road) and would “end the crowding out of enterprising men and vast capital.” It would allow more of the commercial activities that must take place in the city center.

Twelfth Street Station. Bird's-eye View and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rand, McNally & Co., 1893)

Twelfth Street Station. Bird’s-eye View and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rand, McNally & Co., 1893)

 

Proposed Twelfth Street Boulevard at intersection with Michigan Avenue. The proposed railway terminals are shown facing the Boulevard. Painted for the Commercial Club by Jules Guerin.

Proposed Twelfth Street Boulevard at intersection with Michigan Avenue. The proposed railway terminals are shown facing the Boulevard. Painted for the Commercial Club by Jules Guerin.

The proposal was ambitious. It would impact numerous competing railroad companies and would require substantial change to the urban infrastructure. Railroad executives met with the planners. Charles D. Norton, chair of the Plan’s General Committee reports that at the end of the meeting the executives stated that “we intend to co-operate with you as far as we can—at least up to the point of a full discussion of what may or can be done and when we can do it.”

Union Station in the mid 1920s

Union Station in the mid 1920s. The Penn-Central Railroad.

While the planner’s greater visions did not come to fruition, the railroads did build Union Station to serve multiple lines. Photographs from the 1930s show little change in railroad presence in the central business district in the decades after publication and promotion of the Plan.

Southwest view of central Chicago in 1936. The complex of railroad lines and industry still constrains the movement of business southward. Chicago Historical Society.

Southwest view of central Chicago in 1936. The complex of railroad lines and industry still constrains the movement of business southward. Chicago Historical Society.

The decline of long-distance travel by rail and changes in the location of manufacturing did eventually diminish the impact of the railroads as a source of congestion in the city center. To better utilize the available land, new developments, including the Merchandise Mart in the late 1920s, were built over the Chicago and Northwestern tracks. Marina Towers would be built to the east in the 1950s. The Dearborn Street station was repurposed as commercial space after the Dearborn Park development replaced railroad tracks in the early 1970s.

Dearborn Street Station. Bird's-eye View and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rand, McNally & Co., 1893)

Dearborn Street Station. Bird’s-eye View and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rand, McNally & Co., 1893)

City policy and planning encouraged other development. By the late 20th century multiple commercial structures were built on air rights west of the South branch of the river with 100 N Riverside (at one time the Boeing Building) cantilevered to accommodate the rails. The Illinois Center planned development was built on air rights to the Illinois Central’s terminus south of the main branch of the Chicago River. the Dock and Canal project (now Cityfront Center) was built over the tracks north of the main Branch. The south loop’s Central Station development, also built on Illinois Central rail yards and air rights, led to a redesign of the Museum Campus and opened that portion of the Lake front to the central business district.

Parks and the Lake front

After the 1893 Columbian Exposition Daniel Burnham worked on plans to redesign the Lake front. The Illinois Central had built its tracks on a trestle off shore in Lake Michigan in the 1850s, the tracks fanning out to connect with shipping on the lake and river.

Illinois Central heading south over trestle off Michigan Avenue, circa 1860.

Illinois Central heading south over trestle off Michigan Avenue, circa 1860.

Over the decades the shore line moved east with fill leaving the tracks as a barrier to the Lake front. The State of Illinois had granted the right to connect Jackson Park to Grant Park and Grant Park to Lincoln Park and also granted submerged land along the Lake shore for that purpose. Jules Guerin’s illustration of the Plan of Chicago’s proposed shoreline from Jackson Park to north of Chicago Avenue offers a vision of Chicago’s Lake front transformed.

Lake shore from Chicago Avenue on the north to Jackson Park on the south.

Lake shore from Chicago Avenue on the north to Jackson Park on the south.

The Plan proclaimed that the “Lake front by right belongs to the people. It affords their one great unobstructed view, stretching away to the horizon…” The Plan proposed construction of a Lake front park complete with beaches, lagoons and harbors. The shore line would be extended east of the tracks. Cost always a factor, the Plan argued that building parks along the shore can be easily accomplished since “probably 1,000,000 cubic yards of waste are annually conveyed to the Lake front from Evanston to South Chicago.” The whole project could be accomplished in 30 years. The Plan’s lyrical description of the parks impact on the senses accompanies Jules Guerin’s illustration of the Lake front park.

The proposal that the Lake front should be for the people was challenged by the argument that Chicago’s commercial future would remain dependent on transport by ship on the lake and river. This would require that the downtown Lake front be used for railroad tracks, warehouses and piers. Continued movement of freight in the city center would do nothing to alleviate the congestion the Plan hoped to diminish through its proposals regarding the railroads. The planners successfully argued that the future of freight movement would be with rail rather than boats and that Calumet Harbor would be a preferable locus of access to the waterways. Illustrations in the Plan include facilities for lake shipping at the mouths of the Chicago and Calumet Rivers.

The Lake front park was one piece of a system of parks and forest preserves that would encircle the city and be accessible to all of the people. Public commissions had secured land for an outer belt of parks and neighborhood centers that would be located near Chicago’s existing boulevards. Proposed boulevards would provide additional ease of access.

Plate XLIV Complete Park enhanced

General map showing topography, waterways and complete system of streets, boulevards, parkways, and parks. The parks and parkways encircle the city; they are placed in relation to the radiating arteries, and increase in area in proportion to their distance from the center.

The Plan proposed interior parks that would be distributed about the city as evenly as possible as well as the acquisition and improvement of forest parks. Together this would create an encircling system of forest parks and urban parks with connections along the lake that would run a hundred miles.

The planner’s vision was part of a national movement that prized recreational space for physical exercise and appreciation of nature. Chicago, once a leader in park development, had fallen far behind. The Plan aimed for a standard of one acre of park per 100 people and noted that the average for Chicago was 590 people per acre of park and in some areas of the city 5,000 people per acre. There were social and economic gains to be had from expansion of the park and shoreline system. The Plan acknowledged that many wage earners lived and worked in crowded and unhealthy environments. Ready access to parks and field houses (“clubhouses for the people”) had value in preventing crime, promoting cleanliness and diminishing disease. Parks would reduce population density which, when too great, resulted in disorder, vice and disease; a menace to the well-being of the city. If the city was to be a good labor market, it needed to provide for the health and pleasure of the great body of the workers.

As with other elements of the Plan, the park proposals would bolster the economic life of the city. The forest preserve would attract residences and large estates and increase adjoining property values. The proposed expansion in greenway lined boulevards would have the same positive economic impact. The city would be able to recoup in taxation many times the cost of the land needed for park expansion.

The proposed Lake front would also have a huge economic impact. With its lagoons, restaurants, pleasure pavilions, public bath houses and beaches, it would rival those in Paris, Vienna and on the Riviera. “What will it do for us in health and happiness,” queried the planners. “After it is finished will the people of means be so ready to run away and spend their money in other cities? Where else can they find such delightful conditions as at home?”

Streets in the City

Chicago was the fastest growing city in the world. The flat prairie spread out west from the Lake front and allowed indefinite expansion. While the city was growing outward its essential commercial functions remained concentrated in the central business district. The dispersion of population and industry from the city center was causing congestion that was bound to become more severe. The planners stated that it was essential that Chicago develop a more adequate means of circulation within the city for ease of access to work, to shop, and to benefit from the parks and the Lake front.

The Plan proposed a region wide system of thoroughfares and transit facilities to provide ease of circulation. The city was already laid out in a grid. Streets carried local residential traffic while avenues, often along section lines, carried heavier traffic. Avenues would have separation to allow for both vehicles and streetcars. Boulevards, broader still, combined parks and driveways. Their greenbelts of grass, shrubs and trees could afford continuous playgrounds for children and attract commodious and fine dwellings. Diagonals, an essential element of good city planning, would provide savings in time and expense, and complete the system.

Plan of the streets and boulevard system present and proposed. Proposed additional arteries and street widening are in red. The diagonal arteries are extensions of those already existing, and around the center of the city they serve to create. in conjunction with rectangular streets, the proposed circuit boulevards.

Plan of the streets and boulevard system present and proposed. Proposed additional arteries and street widening are in red. The diagonal arteries are extensions of those already existing, and around the center of the city they serve to create, in conjunction with rectangular streets, the proposed circuit boulevards.

Main roads led through the city center. The proposed redesign would allow traffic to reach the center expeditiously, divert traffic not needing to reach the center, and afford direct passage through the center when necessary. The proposal included a grand circular roadway that would connect with avenues and diagonals. The Plan also included a system of highway connections outside the city proper.

From experience, the planners anticipated that population would follow the development of the new transit corridors. They expected property values to increase along avenues and boulevards where parks and shopping amenities were close by and where there was ease of access to the central business district and the Lake front. The planners hoped that buildings along the new thoroughfares would achieve a uniform architectural vision and even frontage that was consistent with enhanced property values. The planners envisioned Chicago as a Middle West incarnation of Paris with its broad boulevards and uniform rows of fine multistory buildings laid out around parks and squares. They hoped that middle and upper class city dwellers shared their vision and that developers would build to that preference.

At the same time, the planners recognized that the legal powers of the State needed to be applied to promote the Plan’s vision for development. An appendix on legal aspects of the Plan of Chicago states that the “municipal authorities which establish parks, boulevards, and other public places need some power to regulate the use of premises within immediate view of the public grounds, so as to prevent offensive advertising, restrict the kind of business…and make appropriate regulation of the height, manner of construction, and location of surrounding buildings.” Within limits, these ends could be achieved either through police powers or the power of eminent domain.

Billboards were a nuisance and increasingly so near population centers. Police powers were limited as a means to promote aesthetic values. The City council could control building height, but only on a city wide basis, not just within specific areas, such as around parks and boulevards. Chicago would not have its first zoning ordinance until 1923. Alternatively, the city and other agencies could resort to the use of eminent domain to control the environs of a public place. Property or the relevant interest in a property (for example, a facade allowing signage) could be acquired for public use with just compensation.

Police powers were limited for addressing the problem of congested areas. Single buildings could be demolished without compensation if unsanitary or unsafe. However, congested or unwholesome areas could not be taken through eminent domain even for renovation. At the same time, there was no obstacle to opening wide thoroughfares and avenues through congested areas, or taking the heart of the district as a public park. The planners argued that the remedy for slums is the same as resorted to the world over; first, cut broad thoroughfares through the unwholesome districts; and second, establish remorseless enforcement of sanitary regulation which will insure adequate air-space for the dwellers and absolute cleanliness on the street, the sidewalks, and within the buildings. The Plan states that “it is no attack on private property to argue that society has the inherent right to protect itself against abuses. It is a failure of the city to have allowed these conditions .”

Heart of the City

The center of Chicago commerce, the Heart of Chicago, was the area between Halsted and the Lake and between the main branch of the river and Roosevelt Road. With limited ground devoted to business, the planners expected land values to continue to rise and buildings to grow up to the limits allowed by law. The Plan’s railroad proposal would provide additional buildable ground and allow expansion of the central business district. The Plan advocated a diversion of the multiple streams of freight and passenger traffic that flowed into the city center. Proposed changes to Michigan Avenue, Grant Park and the banks of the Chicago River, combined with the creation of a Civic Center at Congress and Halsted would then make the Heart of Chicago an accessible center of commercial, intellectual and civic life.

Michigan Avenue was the baseline of the city and was proposed to become the main connection between the North and South Sides as well as an opening of the center to the West Side. It was a major bottleneck and destined to carry the heaviest movement of traffic of any street in the world. Michigan Avenue was being widened at Grant Park while structures of “the first order of size and architecture” lined its west side.

Plate CXVIIL Michigan Ave looking south p 106

Proposed double roadway on Michigan Avenue looking towards the south

The Plan proposed that Michigan Avenue be widened between Randolph and the river. The avenue would rise in grade and cross the river on a new double deck bascule bridge and continue north to the Lake. The proposed Michigan Avenue Bridge would allow passenger traffic to cross on the upper boulevard level and freight traffic to cross on a lower level. The new bridge would divert traffic from the Rush Street Bridge which was carrying most of the traffic coming into the city from the North Side.

The proposal required condemnation of buildings on the east side of the existing Michigan Avenue south of the river, a stretch of road that Walter Moody characterized as presenting the appearance of a poor, tenth rate city. It would also require condemnation of buildings on the west side of the current Pine Street to the north of the river, thus allowing for an alignment of a wider road on both sides of the bridge.

schematic Mich Ave widening

North and South boulevard connection showing plazas (A and AA). Shaded areas indicate buildings that must give way to boulevard widening. (Chicago: Wacker’s Manual of the Plan of Chicago, 1915)

There was considerable east-west traffic along both banks of the main branch as well as along several blocks on the east and west sides of the river to access railway terminals, docks and warehouses. The elevation of Michigan Avenue would allow freight traffic to pass on a lower grade. An upper and lower level configuration was also proposed along the main branch of the river which would divert freight traffic to warehouses on the lower levels and allow passenger traffic to use the more scenic upper level. Guerin’s illustration, drawing on a European aesthetic, rather accurately predicts the appearance of the current South Wacker Drive.

Plate CVIL plan-of-chicago_Wacker Drive

View looking north on the South Branch of the Chicago River, showing the suggested arrangement of streets and ways for teaming and reception of freight by boat at different levels.

The proposed Boulevards along the river would reduce congestion downtown and also follow the lead of European cities where rivers once devoted to commerce would later combine drives and promenades for traffic and pleasure. The Chicago River had become “a dumping spot and cesspool” where owners had used their riparian rights to encroach on the river. The Sanitary District had a widening proposal that would promote both the commercial and aesthetic character of the river.

Proposed Riverfront improvement along S Water  Street ca 1920 M&W p310

Proposed Riverfront improvement along South Water Street circa 1920. The architectural firm of Bennett and Parsons retouched a photograph to illustrate the way the new South Water Street (now Wacker Drive) would look once remodeled consistent with the Plan of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society.

The proposed widening of Michigan Avenue and construction of the Michigan Avenue Bridge were major points of contention. The project had been proposed in 1904, the State legislature authorized it in 1907, and the Chicago Plan Commission approved a design in 1911. Owners of properties proposed for condemnation strenuously protested and more than two hundred lawyers were hired to protect owner interests. New drawings of the proposed Bridge were produced to assuage opposition by some of Chicago’s newspapers. Northwest side business interests saw the bridge as a plot by State Street interests to capture trade north of the river.

Are your foolish enough

Northwest side businessmen here depict those most in favor of the boulevard and bridge as bloated, bejeweled, and beady-eyed “State Street Interests,” who want to steal more business by opening a bridge between the downtown and the North Side. They wield the favorable editorial policy of the daily newspapers like an enormous cudgel. The pennant flying from the building on the right reads, “M.F. & Co.,” fingering the Marshall Field State Street store as a chief culprit. Commentary from Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Image from Art Institute of Chicago.

The City ultimately purchased fifty-one properties to create the widened and aligned Michigan Avenue. The bridge opened on May 14, 1920. Construction of the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower followed the opening of the bridge and construction of the Drake Hotel anchored development along the “magnificent mile” to the north. By 1925 the Chicago Plan Commission claimed that the $16 million spent on Michigan Avenue had already paid for itself six times over through increased property values.

Streeterville about 1926

Streeterville looking southeast, circa 1926. North of the river, Michigan Avenue is anchored by the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower at its south end and the Drake Hotel at the north end. The Furniture Mart (now 680 Lake Shore Drive) is to the east. The Illinois Central tracks can be seen south of the river. Chicago Historical Society.

The widening of Michigan Avenue addressed the problem of north-south traffic. An easing of East-west traffic would be addressed through a widening of Roosevelt Road and Chicago Avenue. This was part of the greater program of avenues, boulevards and diagonals that would promote circulation outside of the central business district.

Plate CXL Plan of the Center of the City p 102

Plan of the center of the city, showing present streets and boulevard system. The proposed arteries and streets widening are in red.

The Plan’s proposal to create a center of intellectual and civic life involved placing three cultural institutions in Grant Park, widening Congress Street, and building a civic center with combined city, county and federal representation at the intersection of Congress and Halsted.

Grant Park would be the intellectual center of Chicago. The promotion of art, as everywhere, would be a source of wealth and moral influence. The Plan proposed that the Field Museum be build at Congress with a new Art Institute to the north and the Crerar Library to the south. The construction of buildings on the Lake front had long been a matter of dispute. Aaron Montgomery Ward, mail order magnate, had waged a twenty year battle against plans to build public and private structures in Grant Park. His opposition was based in part on the guarantee that the Park would “remain public ground forever open, clear and free of any buildings, or other obstructions whatever” as stated on the 1836 map drawn by the Illinois Canal Commissioners.

Created by the Illinois and Michigan Canal commissioners and recorded on July 2, 1836 this map mandates that a portion of the lakeshore be dedicated as "Public Ground. A Common to remain forever Open, Clear, & Free of any  buildings, or other Obstructions Whatever." Chicago Historical Society.

Created by the Illinois and Michigan Canal commissioners and recorded on July 2, 1836 this map mandates that a portion of the lakeshore be dedicated as “Public Ground. A Common to remain forever Open, Clear, & Free of any buildings, or other Obstructions Whatever.” Chicago Historical Society.

Ward had agreed to construction of the current Art Institute in 1892. With his strong opposition and an $8 million 1906 Marshal Field’s bequest to be spent for a museum by a date certain, the Field Museum site was moved south to its current location. The Art Institute was able to sidestep legal limits and subsequently expand to the east over air rights and then on land fill. The Crerar Library is now located at the University of Chicago.

Grant Park did not develop as proposed but, as the planners envisioned, it did become a spacious and attractive public garden that serves Chicago’s heterogeneous population. It provides sweeping vistas of the lake and yacht harbors and a vantage point to view the buildings that played a part in Chicago’s architectural destiny. With the addition of Millennium Park, also built on air rights, it has become a major tourist destination and a magnet for central business district development.

Daniel Burnham was a central figure in the City Beautiful movement. The movement advocated transforming the urban environment into a beautiful, unified and efficient organic whole. The addition of great and noble architecture, preferably in the neoclassical style that graced the World’s Columbian Exposition, would inspire civic order and unity among a diverse population. The proposed Civic Center, the keystone of the arch of the transformed Heart of Chicago, would serve that function. It would be placed at the center of gravity of all radial arteries entering Chicago.

Civic center plate

View looking west, of the proposed Civic Center Plaza, and buildings, showing it as the center of the system of arteries of circulation and of the surrounding country. Painted for the Commercial Club by Jules Guerin.

The Civic Center would be the Administrative axis on a widened Congress Street connecting to the center of art, literature and science located at its base in Grant Park. The Dome rising above the Civic Center, a larger version of the Columbian Exposition’s Administration Building would be the symbol of civic order and unity.

Civic center sepia

The proposed Civic Center Square showing the group of surrounding buildings, crowned by the central dome.

Traffic would pour into the space characterized by a harmonious grouping of government buildings. For the planners, it would be Chicago’s version of the Acropolis in Athens, the Forum in Rome or St. Marks in Venice – the very embodiment of civic life.

For better or worse, the Civic Center was not built. Chicago had already entered the auto age. As predicted, the intersection proposed would become a center of gravity for major roads entering Chicago in the guise of the Circle Interchange.

Circle_Interchange_Chicago wiki

The Circle Interchange. The Plan of Chicago envisioned the intersection of a widened Congress Street and the twenty mile long Halsted Street as the Axis of Chicago. Congress would connect the city center with the western suburbs.

Looking Back on the Plan

The Plan of Chicago builds on basic principles that are as essential today as they were a hundred years ago: a comprehensive plan must prepare the city for a distant future, be economically viable, and share its cost and bounty equitably among the population.

The exhortation “make no little plans…” attributed to Daniel H. Burnham, captures the visionary and multidimensional scope of the Plan. The Plan encompasses a region while maintaining a focus on Chicago’s commercial center. It concentrates on the built environment as a major determinant of how city dwellers live, work and play. It proposes change that would create a more livable and economically sustainable urban environment.

The Plan is designed to solve the city’s existing problems as well as those anticipated with future growth. The planners state that it will take many decades to carry out this transformation. They assume that Chicago’s population will continue to grow over the next decades and that manufacturing will continue as a dominant source of employment. Both held true through the first half of the 20th century.

Within this broad context, the planners argue that their proposals would yield benefits to current and future generations more than sufficient to justify the cost imposed. The Plan states that Paris, when its population was 500,000, adopted a street improvement scheme at a cost of $265 million and carried it out to completion in thirty-five years. For Paris planner Baron Haussmann, money thus spent made a better city and a better city was a greater producer of wealth. The Plan notes that the value of Chicago real estate had increased over the prior ten years in excess of the projected cost of the Chicago plan. Chicagoans did approve some eighty-six Plan related bond issues between 1912 and 1931 that covered seventeen different projects with a combined cost of $234 million. Bond issues funded street widening projects including the reconstruction of Roosevelt Road, Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive. Bonds also funded expansion of the Lake front, Lake Shore Drive, Grant Park and the forest preserves. These were sound public investments ultimately paid for through economic growth that resulted in improvements to the quality of life in the city.

To win broad support for the necessary public investment, the planners argued that private capital would contribute to the Plan’s success and funding and that all Chicagoans would benefit regardless of their current standing in the economic hierarchy. Public investment in infrastructure improvements would create new opportunities and induce private investment which would stimulate further economic growth. Economic growth would raise property values and provide the funds to service the public debt undertaken to pay for public investment. The appendix on legal aspects notes that Chicago already was loaned up and advocated a change in the city’s assessed property valuation formula to generate more tax revenue in support of increased bonded indebtedness.

While proposals for streets, parks and the Lake front were designed to benefit all of Chicago, the Plan has been criticized as having a preference for the wealthy and a callus attitude toward the poor. As regards the first, there is no question that the success of the Plan assumed active private investment. The planners clearly hoped that the wealthy would remain and spend their money in Chicago. They highlighted some improvements with this end in mind (for example, the Lake front development) while also asserting that the proposals for circulation would make these improvements accessible to all Chicagoans.

As regards the second, the planner referred to slums as rookeries, a 19th century term for an overcrowded city district occupied by the poor and criminals. They expressed their contempt for speculators who created these conditions and their empathy for children living in tenements cut off from light and fresh air. The proposal to eliminate slums through road building projects tends to be conflated with the federally funded “blight” removal projects of the 1950s. The Plan notes that “Chicago has not yet reached the point when it will be necessary for the municipality to provide at its own expense, as does the city of London, for the rehousing of persons forced out of congested quarters…” Residents of turn of the century slums generally were not subject to racial discrimination and many did move to better residential neighborhoods as Chicago prospered. That said, disagreement remains as to whether the Plan was designed to benefit all segments of society and whether it satisfied that goal in its implementation.

Some elements of the Plan were viewed by contemporaries as designed to yield benefits to private interests at the expense of the public purse. The proposed improvements to Michigan Avenue are a prime example. There was serious conflict between the planners and some entrenched political interests who wanted their share of the gains. The public stopped funding new bond issues after 1931 due to scandals, corruption and the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.

In concluding its case for change, The Plan of Chicago asserts that the city must continuously improve civic conditions. “Every one knows that the civic conditions which prevailed fifty years ago would not now be tolerated anywhere; and every one believes that conditions of to-day will not be tolerated by the men who follow us.”

Planning Chicago

In Planning Chicago, Hunt and DeVries examine the interaction and impact of planning, politics and market forces on Chicago since the 1950s. They explore the “negotiations, plans, policies and choices that shape the outcomes we see today.” A power point summary of their book is included. The following draws from and builds on the book.

Chicago has undergone significant change since the Plan of Chicago. After 1966 the city moved away from comprehensive planning as a strategy to attract broad-based investment. Projects tended to follow the paths defined by federal and state funding sources. Chicago developed plans for the central area and for industrial corridors as well as for specific needs such as protecting the Chicago River and the Lake front. Planning efforts could not always resolve conflict between competing private and public interests. Planning was too often perceived as challenging mayoral choice, aldermanic prerogative, and agency turf.

City of Chicago Industrial Corridors, 2011. Planning Chicago.

City of Chicago Industrial Corridors, 2011. Planning Chicago.

After substantial growth through the 1920s, the city experienced a hiatus of commercial and residential construction during the Great Depression and World War II. A plan for the central area in 1958 envisioned a compact downtown with commercial and middle class residential development expanding to the north, south and west over the still encircling railroad tracks and yards. This vision was substantially realized by the first decade of the 21st century.

Map of Railroads and Chicago's Loop circa 1930. Planning Chicago/Newberry Library

Map of Railroads and Chicago’s Loop circa 1930. Planning Chicago/Newberry Library

 

Central Area. Google Earth 2014

Central Area. Google Earth 2014

The movement of railroads out from the center did not diminish Chicago’s importance as a transportation hub. Growing demand and efficiency gains from globalization, containerization, and double-stacked trains more than compensated for a decline in passenger traffic and competition from trucking. Chicago still captures 25 percent of all U.S. rail traffic and processes 46 percent of intermodal units, primarily containers.

Transformation to a global, post-industrial, information economy impacted manufacturing employment while creating central city demand for finance and technology related office space. The demise of steel manufacturing and its allied industries had a devastating impact on South Side employment. Industrial corridors were created to support industrial employment while residential and commercial development vied with older industries for location near the center. When Chicago drafted its last comprehensive plan, the best predictor of a community’s economic success was physical capital. With the shift from traditional manufacturing to innovation and knowledge, the best predictor of a community’s economic success is now human capital.

While the market is increasingly global, face-to-face contact remains essential for innovation, dissemination of information and networking. The result is ongoing competition for space in and around the central business district. The Chicago Plan Commission recently approved the Fulton Market Innovation District in the West Loop, the city’s first innovation district in its last market district. The area home to meatpacking and food wholesalers for 150 years has become a center for culture, nightlife and dining. Due to location and amenities it has attracted firms like Google and Uber . The Innovation District provides a framework to evaluate development proposals for property in the district as an overlay to the existing zoning map. The plan is expected to encourage the entry of information and technology firms, preserve existing jobs and buildings, and limit new residential construction. Establishment of the district can constrain the impact of market driven property values on determination of land use. The Landmarks Commission will hold hearings on a controversial recommendation to designate a portion of the Fulton Market as an historic district.

The plan is intended to coordinate development patterns that balance the area's historic role as a center for food production and distribution, along with its more recent evolution as a home to innovative industries, culture, nightlife, and housing.

The plan is intended to coordinate development patterns that balance the area’s historic role as a center for food production and distribution, along with its more recent evolution as a home to innovative industries, culture, nightlife, and housing.

The geography of race and class has changed. The pattern throughout most of the 20th century was one of lower-income housing in decaying buildings circling the urban core with rings of working-class and then middle class housing further out. This gave way to inversion by the 2010 census. Hunt and DeVries observe that affluent families – generally white and Asian – now dominate the central area, while working-class Latinos and African Americans have been pushed outward to previously middle-class areas. Chicago’s population peaked at 3.6 million people in the 1950s and has since declined to 2.7 million people in 2010. The city lost 200,000 people, predominately African Americans, between 2000 and 2010 in part as a consequence of Chicago Housing Authority housing policy and the mortgage/housing crisis. Chicago neighborhood demographics likely will continue to shift with migration and differential employment opportunities.

Population change by race and ethnicity, 2000-2011.  Planning Chicago

Population change by race and ethnicity, 2000-2011. Planning Chicago

Growth in jobs and growth in population generally move together. To continue to grow, Chicago needs to expand its employment base, enhance the human capital of its future work force, and rebuild neighborhoods that will attract and retain population. This is a challenge for industrial policy and neighborhood revival.

A film titled A Tale of One City was produced in support of the Plan of Chicago. Today Chicago is often characterized as a tale of two cities. An expanding central area benefited economically as people and jobs followed investment in new residential and commercial construction. Chicago’s vernacular buildings were repurposed, Grant Park development was capped with Millennium Park, an entertainment district flourished, and a growing university presence helped to create a 24 hour downtown. The city center is recovering from the Great Recession as young professionals and empty nesters move downtown and the urban core attracts employment from the suburbs. At the same time, predominately minority neighborhoods on the South and West Sides have lost population and face foreclosure, vacant and abandoned properties, and violent crime.

Residential development in the central area, 2001-2007 color coded by years. Planning Chicago.

Residential development in the central area, 2001-2007 color coded by years. Planning Chicago.

Hunt and DeVries point out that the central business district and the neighborhoods are interconnected. “The neighborhoods need a vibrant downtown to generate employment and tax revenue to fund neighborhood services, while the downtown needs healthy, affordable communities to attract workforce.” With tax-increment financing a downtown recovery can be economically self-sustaining. Middle class and working class neighborhood income and employment may improve with growth in the urban core. However, public investment to revive hard hit neighborhoods on the South and West Sides is challenged by high and growing public debt, concentration of tax revenue in TIFs and a drying up of federal and state funding sources.

Chicago has come a long way from the Plan of Chicago and the 1950s solution for eliminating a distressed neighborhood by cutting a road through its heart or leveling it for urban renewal. Hunt and DeVries point out that the city has invested in new schools, police stations and libraries in disadvantaged neighborhoods. It has initiated bottom up planning efforts to empower neighborhoods to articulate their visions of the future. While equity demands investment to alter the quality of life in distressed neighborhoods, the question remains how to invest to yield sustainable economic improvement.

Marshall Brown, a Professor of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, argues that we should view the landscapes of distressed neighborhoods dotted with abandoned properties and empty lots as an opportunity. Brown estimates that there are 150 acres of vacant land in the Washington Park neighborhood, almost half the acreage of the park itself. He proposes bundling buildings into more cohesive units and opening up all the space which is now chopped up and deemed vacant lots. He would overlay the neighborhood’s grid with winding roads and open space and a collective management of the land; in his words “a soft system of land stewardship and land formation.”

Model of Washington Park looking southwest. The rigid urban grid is overlaid with a softer system of land stewardship and land formation. Marshall Brown Projects.

Model of Washington Park looking southwest. The rigid urban grid is overlaid with a softer system of land stewardship and land formation. Marshall Brown Projects.

It may take twenty or thirty years to bring this vision to fruition. There is a similarity between Brown’s proposal and the case made for boulevards and the Lake front in the Plan of Chicago, although in this instance need and opportunity derive from population decline as opposed to population growth. Over time these improvements can eliminate vacant buildings that are a magnet for crime, raise property values, and attract additional private investment and population. In the spirit of Daniel Burnham one might add that Chicago should move on this opportunity while land is still cheap.

Hunt and DeVries conclude their book with a case for the restoration of planning to address the crucial challenges facing Chicago. They argue that the city needs investment to increase transit capacity, especially in the central area, that will help to retain regional job growth in the city and expand the tax base. The need to ease access to and through the central business district is as old as Daniel Burnham’s Plan. So is the argument for the gains that will be realized. Wacker’s Manual of the Plan of Chicago informed its elementary school readers “we must realize that lifetimes are made up of minutes, and that to save minutes means to lengthen life. Thus we can justify spending millions of dollars today if it means saving time for millions of people in years and centuries to come.”

Map of proposed transitway system, the Chicago Central Area Plan, 2003. The Carroll Avenue transitway would connect the Metra stations with Michigan Avenue and Navy Pier using an abandoned railroad right-of-way. A second east-west transitway would run under Monroe Street. A third would connect McCormick Place with Streeterville. Planning Chicago.

Map of proposed transitway system, the Chicago Central Area Plan, 2003. The Carroll Avenue transitway would connect the Metra stations with Michigan Avenue and Navy Pier using an abandoned railroad right-of-way. A second east-west transitway would run under Monroe Street. A third would connect McCormick Place with Streeterville. Planning Chicago.

Chicago needs to bring coherent and comprehensive planning to its struggling neighborhoods by expanding existing and proven initiatives that build “capacity, empower local actors and balance vision with readily attainable goals.” Neighborhoods need to implement policies that not only retain existing population but attract new population.

Community sketch from the Little Village Quality of Life Plan, 2005. Planning Chicago

Community sketch from the Englewood Quality of Life Plan, 2005. Planning Chicago

The city’s industrial policy needs to adapt to a rapidly changing employment base. Heavy manufacturing may offer the best wages, but nonmanufacturing industries may be a more likely source of future employment growth. The city has invested in industrial corridors and needs flexibility to attract and accommodate a range of enterprises that can bring good jobs to Chicago.

Chicago has dozens of timely plans on the shelf that could be implemented rather than ignored. Carefully crafted plans address widely acknowledged problems and pose solutions for the betterment of the city and its central area as well as for industrial and economic development. Passing an appropriate set of these plans into law would help organize priorities and “could reverse a decade of scattershot capital budgeting, TIF-based inefficiencies, and project-by-project thinking.” If city-wide and central city area plans are adopted, zoning application would need be consistent with a more broadly articulated vision. The authors argue that this would help to restrain “the current structure where aldermanic privilege and mindless NIMBYism distorts and paralyzes debate over development.”

Finally, Hunt and DeVries challenge planners to assert themselves. Chicago once prided itself on visionary planning. Will the city now do the hard work of “laying out a vision, creating policy to set direction, and prioritizing its resources?”

The Plan of Chicago identified constraints on the city’s growth and commercial standing and proposed solutions. The solutions focused on the city as an organic whole with specific consideration given to the railroads, the streets of the city, parks and the Lake front, and the heart of the city. Each component could be evaluated in terms of cost and outcome relative to the over-arching goal: the improvement of Chicago as a place to work, to live and to play. With all components contributing to a common goal, the impact of the whole would be greater than the sum of the parts. The Plan of Chicago was comprehensive. Many of its proposals were implemented with benefits that more than justified the public’s investments. Benefits and costs were often broadly distributed over the city’s population. The Plan has had a lasting impact on the vision and development of Chicago’s built environment.

These same criteria can be applied to evaluate a new comprehensive plan that would address broadly recognized problems and set goals for improvement. The parts would be evaluated relative to their specific goals as well as for their contribution to an over-arching vision. Not all outcomes can be quantified, but measures of cost and gain would provide a framework for debate and refinement. This process would allow evaluation of public investments in terms of economic viability and distributive equity. It would facilitate rejection of plans guided by private versus pubic interest goals. Such plans would sacrifice economic viability and equity to private gain, raise the city’s debt and impose a drag on growth. Chicago cannot afford to risk such outcomes. What the city achieved with the Plan of Chicago and could again achieve is a visionary and viable plan that will produce broad based growth sufficient to pay for public investment and become self sustaining.

Building a New Chicago sign edited

Sources

The primary source for discussion of the 1909 Plan is Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett, Plan of Chicago, Centennial Edition, (Chicago: The Great Books Foundation, 2009). A digital version of the 1909 edition is available on-line at http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/10537.html.

Walter D. Moody, Wacker’s Manual of the Plan of Chicago: Municipal Economy, (Chicago: The Henneberry Company, 1915) provides a good scaled down version and additional historical context on implementation. A digital version of the 1911 edition is available on-line at http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/10418.html.

I also benefited from Carl Smith’s interpretive essay in “The Plan of Chicago,” Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago (http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/10537.html); Harold M. Mayer and Richard C. Wade, Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969); David Lowe, Lost Chicago, (New York: American Legacy Press, 1985); and Alice Sinkevitch (editor), AIA Guide to Chicago, (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2004).

Discussion of planning in Chicago after 1950 is based primarily on D. Branford Hunt and Jon B. DeVries, Planning Chicago, (Chicago: American Planning Association, 2013).

Rand McNally’s Bird’s-eye View and Guide to Chicago (Chicago: Rand McNally & Co., 1893) is available on line at https://archive.org/details/randmcnallycosbi00lawr.

When not otherwise credited, with the exception of the Montgomery Ward postcards, images are from the Burnham and Bennett, Plan of Chicago.

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World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893

On Chicago Day, October 9, 1893, over 750,000 people visited the World’s Chicago Day posterColumbian Exposition. The Fair still draws a crowd. One hundred and twenty years later, a Google search delivers 921,000 results for Chicago’s World’s Fair.

The Columbian Exposition was Chicago’s grand statement of its international standing. The birthplace of the skyscraper and the fastest growing city in the world, Chicago created the White City, a showcase of architectural splendor, and threw a great party on the Midway.

Daniel Burnham, the Director of Works, brought together the most notable Chicago-Worlds-Columbian-Exposition-1893-Birds-Eye-View-Map_mediumthumbarchitects in the country to design major fair buildings. Most were from New York, to the chagrin of Chicago’s architectural luminaries. Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central Park, redesigned Jackson Park for the Fair. The White City was a classical city, a form of architecture familiar to city dwellers on the east coast, but not common in the Midwest. One exception to the classical aesthetic was Louis H. Sullivan’s Transportation Building.

The court of honor

The Court of Honor

transportation building (arnold)

The Transportation Building

 The Fair was a visual, auditory, olfactory and gastronomic experience. One can still ride a scaled down Ferris wheel and eat Cracker Jacks. The Museum of Science and Industry, designed as the Palace of Fine Arts, is the only building that remains. The White City was built of steel framing covered with staff (plaster of Paris and hemp fiber) to speed building, keep down cost, and allow a recovery of materials when the fair ended on October 30, 1893.

Thanks to the work of the UCLA Urban Simulation Lab, we can take a virtual stroll through the Fair. As the Lab notes on its website, Burnham’s chosen “architects created a classical city that would have lasting repercussions on wooded island flowers USLAmerican design ideals and spark the American Renaissance and City Beautiful movements. Our understanding of this important complex has heretofore been based solely on static images and written descriptions. This is no longer the case. Real-time visual simulation technology allows us to reclaim the lost experience of navigating through the White City. Just as in 1893, the completed model will allow users to stroll along the virtual Court of Honor, tour the Wooded Island, and marvel at the fair’s classical structures from a gondola.”

The Lab’s Tour of the World’s Columbian Exhibition takes us on a gondola ride through the Grand Basin that includes some the greatest structures of the Fair: Lagoon and Buildings USLAgriculture, the Peristyle, Manufactures, Electricity, Administration (with its gold dome), and Machinery. We walk through the Fine Arts Building as it looked before it was transformed into the Museum of Science and Industry. We see the Wooded Island and several State buildings. The grandeur of the buildings is evident.  (Use the interactive map to identify the buildings).

One of my favorite clips is the tour of Louis H. Sullivan’s Transportation Building with its Golden Door.  (Be patient, these files may take awhile to load.) Sullivan’s was the only main building of the Trans1_68 Golden DoorWhite City that was multicolor. The Golden Door was considered an architectural marvel of the Fair.  It echoes other Sullivan portals as well as the interior design of the Auditorium theatre. Most of Sullivan’s great Chicago buildings are gone. The Lab, as urban archeologist, used the exterior of Sullivan’s Wainwright Building (St. Louis, 1891) and remnants of the reconstructed trading room of his Chicago Stock Exchange (built in 1893, currently in the Art Institute) to add color to their simulation.

The Lab also provides a tour of the Street of Cairo, one of the most popular attractions on the Midway. At the end of the tour, behind the Temple of Luxor, Cairo8_1130 w ferris wheelwe see a slice of Mr. Ferris’s wheel, Chicago’s answer to the 1889 Paris Exposition’s Eiffel Tower. The Arnold collection (Official Views of the World’s Columbian Exposition) includes pictures of the “exotic” peoples of the world (Penobscot and Alaskan Indians, Samoans, Turks, Dahomeans, Laplanders, and Arabs) who tried to make the Midway home during the Fair.  Buffalo Bill Cody held his Wild West Show off the Midway to save on rent.

The Worlds Columbian Exposition was to be a money making event, but from its opening in May through September 1893 it did not appear that it would pay After-the-Ball2-225x300off its debt.  Special events were planned to draw in crowds including the great Midway Ball held on the night of August 16, 1893. The Ball brought together Chicago dignitaries (Daniel Burnham, Mayor Carter Harrison, Potter Palmer) and the men and some scantily clad women of the Midway. The Chicago Tribune thought it was scandalous and was not amused.  I can find no pictures of the Ball, but Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City) opines that the dignitaries in attendance took their carriages home at four-thirty A.M., perhaps singing After the Ball, a hit song of the day.  Here is a clip of Irene Dunne singing After the Ball in a setting evocative of an 1890s music hall. Consistent with its setting, it’s a little ruckus for the first minute. Then shut your eyes and image you are dancing at the Midway Ball in the White City.

The White City represented a vision of what Chicago could become, not what it was at the end of the 19th century.  William Cronin (Nature’s Metropolis) Admin and Grand Basin at Nightdescribes how visitors to the Fair from the hinterlands were impressed by Chicago’s wealth and appalled by its encircling slums. Labor and capital were at odds after Haymarket and the fight for the eight hour day. The Pullman Strike would erupt after the Fair closed against the background of a depression that lasted until 1897 (the Panic of 1893). The Union Stockyards were a popular tourist stop as well as a source of substantial pollution. Tenement housing surrounded the fair grounds, while the more well-to-do traveled further out on the street cars. At the Fair, electricity lit up the night as entertainment but was not a standard feature of city dwellings. Downtown was congested, dirty and loud. It was surrounded by the railroad tracks and hard up against the Levee vice district. The Lake front was cluttered with squatter’s shacks and mountains of garbage

Fabulous Imperialism: The 1893 Columbian Exposition, posted on YouTube, provides an strong statement of the Fair as a manifestation of Empire.

The White City celebrated the Chicago that had risen like a Phoenix out of the ashes of the Great Fire of 1871 and offered hope that it could be remade in the genteel vision of the Fair’s architects and designers. It would have wide avenues and grand buildings, parks, gardens and ponds. It would be well planned. Prior to the Fair, Daniel Burnham was most highly regarded for his organizational and business acumen. Creating the Fair established Burnham as the supreme planner of his day. His vision and learning would come together in the 1909 Plan of Chicago.

The 1893 World's Fair coverAdditional commentary and views of the Fair are provided in the attached class presentation.

World’s Fair – Overview

World’s Fair – Photographs

 

In anticipation of visitors with diverse interests, published guides offered information on the range of entertainments the City had to offer. One guide, Chicago by Day and by Night – Pleasure seekers guide to the Paris of America,  has been revised by Chicago historians Paul Durica and Bill Savage.

To celebrate the 120 anniversary of its opening, Roosevelt University Librarian
Michael Gabriel arranged a show at the Auditorium Library, “Rare Books AboutPalmer book cover the Womens building book coverColumbian Exposition of 1893″ and posted links to an Interactive map of the Fair and the Project Gutenberg EBook of Official Views Of The World’s Columbian Exposition, by C. D. Arnold (the Fair’s official photographer) and H.D. Higinbotham (President of the Exposition Board).

 

He has also posted a guide to contemporary books on the The White City: The World’s Columbian Exposition.

Current books of interest on 19th century Chicago that offer discussion of the Fair and its significance include William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, Donald Miller, City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America, and Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City.

The Urban Simulation Lab clips of Street of Cairo and the Transportation Building have no sound. Scott Joplin introduced Ragtime to Fair goers – numerous sources credit the World’s Fair with spreading the popularity Ragtime. His Pineapple Rag is good background music for the Transportation Building. For the Street of Cairo, try the music of Hamid El Kasri at the Festival Gnaoua in Essaoira, Morocco

 

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Chicago School of Architecture – Marquette Building

“To follow those waters… which will henceforth lead us into strange lands”
Pere Jacques Marquette

To follow bronzeWith the Marquette Building, architects William Holabird and Martin Roche achieved a mastery of steel frame construction that would set them among the most prolific of the Chicago School.  After some 120 years the Marquette remains a viable commercial property and a survivor of the economic forces that have replaced much of the old urban core with the architecturally new.  Its survival is due in large part to the late 20th century stewardship of John D. MacArthur and, subsequently, to restoration by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It is due also to the Marquette design program, a celebration of Pere Jacques Marquette and Louis marquette on dearbornJoliet, central figures in the story of Chicago’s origins.

Starting their exploration in 1674, Marquette and Joliet were the first Europeans to traverse the Chicago portage, a muddy stretch of continental divide connecting Lake Michigan and waterways to the east with the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to the west. In 1848, the Illinois and Michigan Canal cut through the portage and accelerated the growth of Chicago as a mercantile hub linking east coast markets to the resource rich west.

Owen Aldis, agent for investors Peter and Shepherd Brook and a collector of American literary first editions, translated Marquette’s journals in 1891. This was said to be the inspiration to name the building after Marquette.  While planning the Marquette in 1893, Aldis developed his fundamental principles for the design and profitable management of a first-class office building.  His principle that the parts every person entering sees must make a lasting impression gave rise to the romanticized narratives in bronze and mosaic that draw Chicagoans to the Marquette.

Marquette rotunda HCBHolabird and Roche saw the electrified Louis Comfort Tiffany lanterns designed by J. A. Holzer at Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition.  The lamps are reported to be the ancestors of all Tiffany lamps. Holzer was commissioned to design the three long panels that depict events in the life of Jacques Marquette that are displayed on the balcony walls of the Marquette rotunda. The Tiffany favrile glass that still shines in the mosaic was produced at the Peltier Glass Factory in Ottawa Illinois, a place along the Michigan and Illinois Canal that Marquette and Joliet would have passed on their traverse of the Chicago portage.

The narrative of the Marquette Building is by Marquette picture from PP
Allison Dussias, Kristin Ramirez and Kaitlin Vens.

Designing and Building the Marquette

Murder at the Marquette

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation, with offices in the Marquette, provides a comprehensive history of the building online and in the west lobby. The online series includes videos on restoration of the Marquette and detailed images of the mosaic and bronze work.

Rolf Achilles talked about A. J. Holzer sourcing the Tiffany mosaics at the Peltier Glass Factory on the first Friends of Downtown’s Jane’s Walk.

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Mr. Selfridge and Chicago – A Backstory

“I am glad to get a breath of the old Lake Michigan ozone. This is the first time I have had it in a year.”
Harry Selfridge on visiting Chicago in 1908

Harry Gordon Selfridge, known as “Mr. Selfridge” on PBS Masterpiece Classics, was a Chicagoan by achievement though not by birth.

Harry Selfridge was born in Ripon, Wisconsin in 1856. In 1879 he started as a clerk at Harry Selfridge 1910Field, Leiter & Co., was made a partner in 1891 and received an interest in the store that was now called Marshall Field & Co. In 1904 he sold his interest for $1.5 million. He purchased the Louis Sullivan designed building of Schlesinger & Mayer for $5 million and then sold it to Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. He used the proceeds of these transactions to help finance construction of his London emporium, Selfridge & Co., designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. Selfridge & Co. opened in 1909. (Mr. Selfridge, to the right, circa 1910).

Miles Berger (author of They Built Chicago) tells the story of the construction and sale of the Schlesinger & Mayer property (now the Sullivan Center), but Harry Selfridge’s name doesn’t appear until the denouement. The man behind the transaction was Otto Young – a merchant prince, land baron and financier who Berger refers to as the Titan of State Street. In 1904 Young was the mastermind behind a complex set of transactions that left him in control of the land and the buildings to be occupied by Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co.

Schlesinger and Mayer had occupied the choice State and Madison location since 1881. To Carson Pirie Scott 1remain competitive with more modern additions to State Street, they demolished their existing store and hired Louis Sullivan to design a nine story Madison Street section of the new building, which was completed in 1899. The corner building, Sullivan’s masterpiece with its geometric forms and botanical motifs above the entrance, was completed in 1903.  Construction cost overruns, high rents to corner land owner Marshall Field, and loss of business during construction placed a substantial burden on Schlesinger and Mayer.

Schlesinger sold his interest to a third-party in 1902 to inject cash into the enterprise, but it was not enough.  Mayer saw expansion as the only means to generate more revenue and save the business.  He turned to Otto Young who owned the parcels on State Street towards Monroe. Young offered a lease at six times the rate Mayer was paying to Field. Mayer was apparently willing to pay, but in the words of the Chicago Tribune, “insurmountable differences arose involving the building to be erected and the deal fell through.”  Mayer and Young than played a high–stakes game to block each other from acquiring frontage on the city block bounded by State, Madison, Wabash and Monroe.  Mayer’s resources were severely strained.  He would even have sold out to Young, when Harry Gordon Selfridge made an offer to buy the business and the buildings.

Selfridge took possession of the property in June 1904 and immediately sold the buildings and leaseholds to Otto Young who leased the buildings back to him. Selfridge then sold the business to the Carson Pirie Scott & Co department store group.  After the fact it became known that Young was the majority, silent player in the transaction. Otto Young got the State and Madison leaseholds and buildings, Mayer got out of retail, and Selfridge eventually used his profit to build his London store.

Miles Berger speculates that the “insurmountable differences” that killed the earlier deal was Young’s insistence that expansion of the Schlesinger and Mayer building toward Monroe be designed by Daniel Burnham and not by Louis Sullivan. For Berger, the most notable snub in the history of Chicago architecture.

Mr. Selfridge left for London with millions of dollars in capital and decades of retail experience. He most certainly also took with him knowledge of the property acquisition fair store stats with Lehmann namestrategies honed by his first employers Marshall Field and Levi Leiter, Chicago’s biggest property owners, and by his recent silent partner Otto Young. In the mid-1890s, Young had completed a long-term plan to acquire all the parcels on the south half of the block bounded by State, Dearborn, Adams and Monroe. The Fair Store was built on this largest consolidation of downtown property in the city’s history.  Selfridge’s version of this speculative acquisition plan was to slowly buy up (and eventually demolish) a series of Georgian architecture buildings on the then unfashionable western end of Oxford Street to build his department store.

Harry Selfridge wanted to bring to London the latest selling ideas that he and others had so successfully developed in the United States. He also wanted to execute those ideas in a Chicago style department store with huge window Selfridges_530x394displays to entice the passing public and wide well-lit interior aisles to showcase the best selection of goods. He hired Daniel Burnham who had recently designed Marshall Field’s main store.  Besides being the designer, Burnham’s role was to convince the London County Council that a five-story high steel frame building with wide spans between beams was safe. Burnham had earlier played this role for William Le Baron Jenney. Jenney’s design for the Home Insurance Company (completed in 1891) was one of the first applications of iron and steel frame construction with masonry curtain walls hanging from the metal frame.  In response to fears voiced by skeptics, the Home Insurance Company asked to call in an outside expert to verify that the building would stand.  Daniel Burnham was hired and pronounced that the design was sound.

As reported in early 1908 in the Chicago Daily Tribune, Harry G. Selfridge “won a signal victory in his year-long fight to put a ‘Chicago building’ in Oxford Street in staid old London.” The obstacles were the “uncompromising attitude of certain owners of old buildings that had to be pulled down, and …the medieval building regulations of the London county council.”  With true booster flair, the Tribune noted that “the councilors admitted the soundness of American building methods” and that a bill to permit these methods will be sent to parliament.

Sources
The story of Young and Selfridge’s role in the Carson, Pirie, Scott transaction is drawn primarily from Miles L. Berger, They Built Chicago: Entrepreneurs Who Shaped A Great City’s Architecture, Chicago: Bonus Books, 1992, pages 141-147.

Burnham’s assurances to the Home Insurance Company is from Donald L. Miller, City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America, New York: Simon &  Schuster, 1996, page 342.

“Marshall Field’s Career as Merchant and Financier,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan 17, 1906, Pro Quest Historical Newspapers, Chicago Tribune (1849-1989), accessed through Chicago Public Library.

“H.G. Selfridge Wins Fight with London County Council,” Chicago Daily Tribune, February 9, 1908, Pro Quest Historical Newspapers, Chicago Tribune (1849-1989), accessed through Chicago Public Library.

“Harry Selfridge Home Again: He Grows Young in London,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 16, 1908, Pro Quest Historical Newspapers, Chicago Tribune (1849-1989), accessed through Chicago Public Library.

“H.G. Selfridge Dies; Conquered London’s Trade,” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 9, 1947, Pro Quest Historical Newspapers, Chicago Tribune (1849-1989), accessed through Chicago Public Library.

Nina Metz, “’Mr. Selfridge’: the man who invented retail therapy,” Chicago Tribune, March 28, 2013, downloaded April 19, 2013.

“Harry Gordon Selfridge,” Wikipedia

“Selfridges, Oxford Street,” Wikipedia

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Chicago School of Architecture – Second Leiter Building

Lake Street was the center of Chicago’s business district in the 1850s. Marshall Field and Levy Z. Leiter purchased Potter Palmer’s Lake Street dry goods emporium in 1865. Three years later, they led the move of Chicago’s great department stores to Palmer’s State Street development district. Field and Levi Leiter imageLeiter would become Chicago’s biggest property owners. Leiter (pictured on the right) sold his share to Field. He commissioned architect William Le Baron Jenney to build the Leiter Building in 1879 and the Second Leiter Building in 1891. With these projects and the Home Insurance Building in 1885, Jenney would become known as the Father of the Skyscraper.

Jenney built the Second Leiter using a Wm Le Baron Jenneysteel frame construction that allowed the fullest use of unobstructed interior space. The exterior granite curtain walls no longer needed to be load bearing and could feature large windows to illuminate the interior retail space with natural light.  It became the model for the modern department store.

The Second Leiter, on State Street between Van Buren and Congress, would eventually house Sears, Roebuck and Company’s flagship store. It anchored a street of great department stores that included Marshall Field, The Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, The Fair Store, Mandel Brothers, and Rothschild’s.  All of these retail emporia would be built or rebuilt using the same innovative technology that Jenney applied in his Second Leiter Building. The Second Leiter was both the anchor and the touchstone of that Great Street.

Today the ghost of Marshall Field resides in Macy’s while the other great Second Leiter Building postcarddepartment stores are gone.  In their place are universities and some 38,000 full-time college students that have helped to restore vitality to the Loop. The education corridor extends south of Madison on State to the School of the Art Institute, DePaul, and Second Leiter’s Robert Marshall University.

The narrative of the Second Leiter Building is by Samantha Benduha, Cara Garvey, April Hill, Eleanor Peck and Elizabeth Staszel. The narrative is edited and material has been added.

The Second Leiter – Technology & Design

The Second Leiter – Jenney & Leiter

The Second Leiter – State Street

 

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Chicago School of Architecture – Monadnock Building

Wabash Bldg Nov 1 2012 without trainBuilding Chicago met on the 12th floor of Roosevelt
University’s new Wabash Building. The classroom affords a sweeping view of the museum campus and the south loop as it spreads out behind the Auditorium tower where Adler and Sullivan and their employee Frank Lloyd Wright had their offices.

The Wabash Building is a short walk to all of the late 19th century buildings of Chicago School builidngs Plymouth Ctthe Chicago School of Architecture. The class took a walking tour of the neighborhood and visited the four buildings assigned for this class segment.  Each building tells a story about developers and architects, the birth of the commercial building in Chicago, and how a building can remain financially viable after some 120 years.

The Monadnock north building was commissioned by New England investors Peter and Shepherd Brooks through their agent Owen Aldis. It was situated at the “ragged edge” of the business district and would soon add to the value of surrounding land. The firm of Burnham and Root was retained to design the building.  Developer, agent and architects envisioned and constructed a new class of real estate – the commercial building.  The Monadnock was the tallest building in Chicago, one of the last load bearing brick skyscrapers, and the first example of an unadorned (commercial) façade.

An earlier John Wellborn Root design for the Monadnock was stripped of its Egyptian ornament leaving what would be described as an Egyptian pylon. Breaking up the exterior surface and adding to commercial value, the projecting bay (Chicago) windows maximized light and added rentable floor space.

The south Monadnock building was commissioned by Shepherd Brooks, overseen by Aldis and designed by the architecture firm of Holabird and Roche. Their design took the next step in skyscraper development using steel frame construction. The Monadnock embraced the newest technologies – central heating, electric lights, and telephones – and the essential ingredient for a skyscraper – the elevator.

Louis Sullivan said that Owen Aldis was one of the men responsible for the modern office building. Aldis understood that natural light was a desirable rental feature and that the top floor would become prime space.  Before the public overcame their angst about elevators and elevation, Holabird and Roche got a great deal taking a top floor space for their offices in the Montauk Building at a low rent.

Aldis believed that a buildings public space must leave an impression.Monadnock staircase
It would add prestige to the tenant and attract the public to the retail space on the ground floor. But one had to temper impression with economy: the expensive aluminum stairways in the north half of the building gave way to less expansive bronze plated cast iron on the upper floors.  By 1902 Owen Aldis had produced and managed almost one-fifth of all Chicago office space.

The Monadnock has had its financial ups and downs, survived threats of the wrecking ball and recovered from modernization. Its current owner presents the Monadnock as it must have looked in 1893 making it a unique and valuable presence in the loop.

The class narrative on the Monadnock Building is by Lauren Blake, Monadnock from NorthShelbi Harden, Dominika Jedryczka and Kevin Stefanowski. Their presentation is edited and has material added. Monadnock History, Monadnock Technology, Monadnock Contemporary

Also posted is a short presentation on the development of the skyscraper. Both presentations provide source material. Development of the Skyscraper

Finally, Chicago Tonight has just aired a segment on the last custom hat maker in Chicago, Optimo, a tenant in the Monadnock. Watch Optimo on Chicago Tonight

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Chicago School of Architecture – Auditorium Building

Chicago experienced extraordinary growth in the 19th century serving as the primary economic link between Eastern capital and Western hinterland resources. Chicago grew as the lake, rivers, canals, and railroads transported grain, livestock, lumber, coal, steel, farm implements, consumer merchandise and people.

Rumors of canal building fueled the city first speculative land bubble in the 1830s. By 1848 Chicago opened the Illinois & Michigan canal, built its first railroad, and established the Board of Trade. Chicago’s post 1848 growth created substantial wealth and capital from commodity trade, manufacturing, and the city’s role as a national entrepôt.

Chicago burnt down in The Great Fire of 1871. While thousands of buildings were lost, the transportation infrastructure that made Chicago the fastest growing city in the world was spared. Rebuilding was slowed by the Panic of 1873 as Chicago and the nation experienced a credit system collapse due to speculation and an over extension of railroad capacity. The central business district was rebuilt in a pre-fire engineering and architectural tradition

By the 1880’s, the economy had rebounded and with it the prospects for real estate investment. Industrial growth had created a new corporate landscape. It was a good time to build company headquarters and facilities (wholesale, retail, storage, back office), to build to lease, and to build for speculation.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, Chicago would emerge as a leading architectural city. Four iconic buildings of the period were executed by firms that define the First Chicago School of Architecture: Auditorium (Adler and Sullivan), Monadnock (Burnham and Root), Second Leiter (William Le Baron Jenney), and Marquette (Holabird and Roche).

sullivan plaque in Auditorium TheatreWe begin with the Auditorium Building, home to Roosevelt University. Developer Ferdinand Peck created a landmark mixed-use structure. He built a theatre and surrounded it with a hotel and rental offices to make it financially viable. The narrative of the Auditorium Building is by Alex Ramsay, Kara Emery, Justyna Johnson, and Brandon Richman.

Auditorium Building exterior hand colored

Auditorium – Adler, Sullivan & Peck

Auditorium – Construction

Auditorium – Building

Auditorium – Highlights

 

In case you don’t get to the end of the Highlights, here are some video clips from the class presentation: Auditorium Building Video Clips

 

 

 

 

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Introducing…

Building Chicago tells a story of the growth and transformation of Chicago’s built environment and urban core. The blog began as a platform for narratives on iconic Chicago buildings by a Roosevelt University honors class, Building Chicago: Commercial Real Estate and the Urban Core offered through the Heller College of Business Administration. The class narratives illustrate Chicago’s commercial real estate history from the late 19th century to the present. The blog has since expanded to discuss the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and the 1909 Plan of Chicago.

Taking the class on a Chicago Architecture Foundation river cruise.

Taking the class on a Chicago Architecture Foundation river cruise.

 Click on any image to enlarge the picture and enhance the focus

Taking the class on a Chicago Architecture Foundation river cruise.

Chicago River cruise.

 

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