Daniel Burnham

Daniel Burnham
Daniel Burnham
Born September 4, 1846(1846-09-04)
Henderson, New York
Died June 1, 1912(1912-06-01) (aged 65)
Heidelberg, Germany
Nationality American
Practice Burnham and Root
Buildings Flatiron Building, Union Station (Washington, D.C.), Postal Square Building
Projects World's Columbian Exposition
Court of Honor and Grand Basin — World's Columbian Exposition
Burnham's plan for central Chicago

Daniel Hudson Burnham, FAIA (September 4, 1846 – June 1, 1912) was an American architect and urban planner. He was the Director of Works for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He took a leading role in the creation of master plans for the development of a number of cities, including Chicago and downtown Washington DC. He also designed several famous buildings, including the Flatiron Building in New York City and Union Station in Washington D.C.



Burnham was born in Henderson, New York and raised in Chicago, Illinois. His parents brought him up under the teachings of the Swedenborgian Church of New Jerusalem,[1] which ingrained in him the strong belief that man should strive to be of service to others.[2] After failing admissions tests for both Harvard and Yale, and an unsuccessful stint at politics, Burnham apprenticed as a draftsman under William LeBaron Jenney. At age 26, Burnham moved on to the Chicago offices of Carter, Drake, and Wight, where he met future business partner John Wellborn Root (1850–1891).

Masonic Temple Building in Chicago

Burnham and Root were the architects of one of the first American skyscrapers: the Masonic Temple Building[3] in Chicago. Measuring 21 stories and 302 feet, the Temple held claims as the tallest building of its time, but was torn down in 1939. Under the design influence of Root, the firm had produced modern buildings as part of the Chicago School. Following Root’s premature death from pneumonia in 1891, the firm became known as D.H. Burnham & Company.

World's Columbian Exposition

Burnham and Root had accepted responsibility to oversee design and construction of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago’s then-desolate Jackson Park on the south lakefront. The largest world's fair to that date (1893), it celebrated the 400-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus' famous voyage. After Root's sudden and unexpected death, a team of distinguished American architects and landscape architects, including Burnham, Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim and Louis Sullivan, radically changed Root's modern and colorful style to a Classical Revival style. Under Burnham's direction, the construction of the Fair overcame huge financial and logistical hurdles, including a worldwide financial panic and an extremely tight timeframe, to open on time.

Considered the first example of a comprehensive planning document in the nation, the fairground was complete with grand boulevards, classical building facades, and lush gardens. Often called the "White City", it popularized neoclassical architecture in a monumental and rational Beaux-Arts plan. The remaining population of architects in the U.S. were soon asked by clients to incorporate similar elements into their designs.

City planning and "The Plan of Chicago"

Initiated in 1906 and published in 1909, Burnham and his co-author Edward H. Bennett prepared "The Plan of Chicago", which laid out plans for the future of the city. It was the first comprehensive plan for the controlled growth of an American city, and an outgrowth of the City Beautiful movement. The plan included ambitious proposals for the lakefront and river and declared that every citizen should be within walking distance of a park. Sponsored by the Commercial Club of Chicago,[4] Burnham donated his services in hopes of furthering his own cause.

Plans and conceptual designs of the south lakefront[5] from the Exposition came in handy, as he envisioned Chicago being a "Paris on the Prairie". French-inspired public works constructions, fountains, and boulevards radiating from a central, domed municipal palace became Chicago's new backdrop. Though only parts of the plan were actually implemented, it set the standard for urban design, anticipating future need to control unexpected urban growth, and continued to influence the development of Chicago long after Burnham's death.

City planning projects did not stop at Chicago though. Burnham contributed to plans for cities such as Cleveland (the Group Plan), San Francisco, and Manila and Baguio in the Philippines, details of which appear in "The Chicago Plan" publication of 1909. His plans for the redesign of San Francisco were delivered to City Hall on April 17, 1906, the day before the 1906 earthquake. In the haste to rebuild the city, the plans were ultimately ignored. The Plan for Manila was not fulfilled, except for a shore road, which became Dewey boulevard, now known as Roxas boulevard.

In Washington, D.C., Burnham did much to shape the McMillan Plan, which led to the completion of the overall design of the National Mall. Going well beyond Pierre L'Enfant's original vision for the city, the plan provided for the extension of the Mall beyond the Washington Monument to a new Lincoln Memorial and a "pantheon" that eventually materialized as the Jefferson Memorial. Inter alia, this involved significant reclamation of land from swamp and the Potomac River, and the relocation of an existing railroad station on the site, which was replaced by Burnham's own design for Union Station.[6]


Much of his career work modeled the classical style of Greece and Rome. In his 1924 autobiography, Louis Sullivan, one of the leading architects from the Chicago School but one who had enjoyed difficult relations with Burnham over an extended period, criticised Burnham for what Sullivan viewed as his lack of original expression and dependence on Classicism.[7] Sullivan went on to claim that "the damage wrought by the World's Fair will last for half a century from its date, if not longer"[8]—a sentiment edged with bitterness, as corporate America of the early twentieth century had demonstrated a strong preference for Burnham's architectural style over Sullivan's.

Burnham and Bennett's plan for San Francisco

Burnham was quoted after his death as saying, "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized." (Moore 1921) This slogan has been taken to capture the essence of Burnham's spirit, although there is no documented evidence that he actually used those words.

A man of influence, Burnham was considered the preeminent architect in America at the turn of the twentieth century. He held many positions during his lifetime, including the presidency of the American Institute of Architects.[9] Other notable architects began their careers under his aegis, such as Joseph W. McCarthy. In 1912, when he died in Heidelberg, Germany, D.H. Burnham and Co. was the world's largest architectural firm. Even legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, although strongly critical of Burnham's Beaux Arts European influences still admired him as a man, eulogized: "(Burnham) made masterful use of the methods and men of his time... (as) an enthusiastic promoter of great construction enterprises... his powerful personality was supreme." His firm continues its work today under the name Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, which it adopted in 1917.


Almost as a tribute to his urban planning ethos, Burnham's final resting spot is given special attention, being located on the only island in the park-like Graceland Cemetery, situated in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. Six mile long Burnham Park (Chicago) is named in his honor.

Because he was the planner and architect of Baguio City in the Philippines, the city's Burnham Park was named after him. In his honor, the American Planning Association named a major annual prize the Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan.[10] An alley in San Francisco, formerly Hemlock Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street, was renamed in Burnham's honor.

Collections of Burnham's personal and professional papers, photographs, and other archival materials are held by the Ryerson and Burnham Archives at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Daniel Burnham Memorial Competition (Chicago) was held in 2009 to create a memorial to Daniel Burnham and his Plan of Chicago. Daniel Burnham Court, a building, is also named after him as is the street, Daniel Burnham Court.

Notable commissions


Burnham's Plan for Manila




Washington, D.C.

Fayette Building
Uniontown, Pennsylvania


In popular culture

  • Make No Little Plans - Daniel Burnham and the American City[13] is the first feature length documentary film about noted architect and urban planner Daniel Hudson Burnham, produced by the Archimedia Workshop. National distribution in 2009 coincided with the centennial celebration of Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett's 1909 Plan of Chicago.
  • The Devil in the White City, a non-fiction book by Erik Larson, intertwines the true tale of three men: H.H. Holmes, a serial killer famed for his 'murderous hotel' in Chicago, Patrick Eugene Prendergast asassin of Chicago's Mayor Carter Harrison Sr. and Daniel Burnham.
  • In the role-playing game Unknown Armies, James K. McGowan, the True King of Chicago, quotes Daniel Burnham and regards him as a paragon of the Windy City's mysterious and magical past.
  • In the episode "Legendaddy" of TV sitcom How I Met Your Mother, the character Ted, who is professor of architecture, describes Burnham as an "architectural chameleon."


  1. ^ The New Church, a Swedenborgian Faith
  2. ^ Carl Smith, The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City, p. 56
  3. ^ "Masonic Temple, Chicago". Old Chicago in Vintage Postcards. http://patsabin.com/illinois/masonic.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  4. ^ "The Commercial Club of Chicago: Purpose & History". http://www.commercialclubchicago.org/purpose/. Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  5. ^ American Memory Digital Item Display - 2007660861
  6. ^ Movie: "Make No Little Plans"
  7. ^ Sullivan, Louis, The Autobiography of an Idea, Press of the American Institute of Architects, Inc, 1924 p. 320-21
  8. ^ Sullivan, Louis, The Autobiography of an Idea, Press of the American Institute of Architects, Inc, 1924 p. 325
  9. ^ "AIA Presidents". American Institute of Architects. http://www.aia.org/history_presidents. Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  10. ^ "National Planning Awards". American Planning Association. http://www.planning.org/awards/. Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  11. ^ "Illinois - Cook County". National Register of Historic Places. http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/il/Cook/state.html. Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  12. ^ Randall, Frank Alfred; John D. Randall. History of the Development of Building Construction in Chicago. Urbana and Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. pp. 286. ISBN 0252024168. http://books.google.com/books?id=gYLlF61yeYEC&pg=PA286&lpg=PA286&dq=%22boyce+building%22+history+500&ct=result#PPA286,M1. Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  13. ^ "Daniel Burnham Film". The Archimedia Workshop. http://www.thearchimediaworkshop.org. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Daniel Burnham — Daniel Hudson Burnham (* 4. September 1846 in Henderson, New York; † 1. Juni 1912 in Heidelberg) war Stadtplaner und Architekt. Er machte sich einen Namen als Planer für die Gestaltung von Chicago, als leitender Architekt der Chicagoer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Daniel Burnham — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Daniel Hudson Burnham Foto de Daniel Burnham …   Wikipedia Español

  • Daniel Burnham — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Burnham. Daniel Burnham Daniel Hudson Burnham FAIA (4 septembre 1846 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Daniel Burnham Memorial Competition (Chicago) — Contents 1 Burnham Memorial Design Competition 2 History 3 Site 4 Funding 5 Selection Jury …   Wikipedia

  • Daniel Hudson Burnham — (* 4. September 1846 in Henderson, New York; † 1. Juni 1912 in Heidelberg, Deutsches Reich), war Stadtplaner und Architekt. Er machte sich einen Namen als Planer für die Gestaltung von Chicago, als leitender Architekt der Chicagoer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Burnham \x26 Root — Burnham Root Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Burnham y Root fue el nombre de la empresa formada por John Wellborn Root y Daniel Hudson Burnham, siendo la más famosa del siglo XIX en Chicago . Durante sus dieciocho años de colaboración, Burnham y… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Burnham — ist der Name der Orte in Großbritannien: Burnham (Buckinghamshire) in den Vereinigten Staaten: Burnham (Connecticut) Burnham (Illinois) Burnham (Kalifornien) Burnham (Maine) Burnham (Missouri) Burnham (Montana) Burnham (Pennsylvania) Burnham… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Burnham Park (Chicago) — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Burnham Park (Chicago) Tipo Municipal Localización Chicago, Cook County, Illinois Coordenadas …   Wikipedia Español

  • Daniel — (del hebreo דָּנִיֵּאל) fue un profeta bíblico cuyo nombre significa Dios es mi juez . Según lo que aparece escrito en la Biblia, Daniel formaba parte de la tribu de Judá que había sido capturada y permanecía en Babilonia cuando Nabucodonosor… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Burnham Park (Chicago) — Infobox park park=Burnham Park image size=250px caption=Northerly View of Burnham Park from Promontory Point (05/28/06) type=Municipal location=Chicago, Cook County, Illinois coordinates=coord|41|50|7|N|87|36|26|W| size=598 acres (2.4 km²) opened …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.