• Izzy Kapetanovic


Updated: Aug 24

Daniel H. Burnham (1846-1912) was a renown architect and urban designer who had left a lasting legacy on Chicago's architecture and worldwide. He, along with some of his contemporaries, was associated with the Chicago School or the Commercial Style architecture. This style is characterized by steel frame with terra cotta facade and large plate glass windows. Many of the remaining buildings designed by him are National Historic Landmarks. Burnham had a central role behind master plans for the development of several cities, including Chicago and Washington DC. He was also instrumental in landing the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago World's Fair) to Chicago and away from New York City and was the Director of Works for the Exposition. (As a footnote, Burnham's pivotal role in the World's Columbian Exposition is depicted in detail in a non-fiction dramatic bestseller book The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.) Some of Burnham's famous buildings outside of Chicago include the Flatiron building in New York City and the Union Station in Washington DC. Burnham was quoted and lived by his saying: "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized."

The Rookery Building (209 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL), designed by Burnham and his partner, John W. Root was completed in 1888 and for some time housed their offices. Its name derives from the old City Hall building at that location which was occupied by shady, acquisitive politicians inside and crows and pigeons on outside. The "floating raft foundation" or "grillage foundation", crisscrossing iron rails embedded in concrete, supports two weight bearing walls atop of Chicago's swampy land. The design consist of iron framing combined with masonry bearing walls and red marble, terracotta and brick facade. The facade is ornate with motifs resembling classic Roman, Venetian, and Moorish styles.

The neo-gothic Fisher Building (343 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL) was commissioned by paper magnate Lucius G. Fisher and completed in 1896 by D.H. Burnham and Company. It is the oldest remaining 18-story (2 stories were added in 1907) building in Chicago. The steel frame construction supports glazed terra cotta and revolutionary 75% glass exterior leading to its "building with no walls" description. Its facade is decorated with aquatic motifs.

The Santa Fe Building (224 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL), also known as the Railway Exchange Building, was completed in 1904 in a Roman and Greek classical architectural style resembling the 1893 World Exposition design. The white glazed terra cotta with large and bay windows cover the steel skeleton frame. Upon completion, Burnham moved his offices to the building and there he created the 1909 Plan of Chicago, the Burnham Plan. The building is readily recognizable by the large illuminated Motorola logo on its roof, one of its present occupants. Presently, the building houses the Chicago Architecture Foundation (http://www.architecture.org/), a non-profit cultural organization aimed to promote Chicago as a center of architectural innovation. (As a footnote, I highly recommend their educational Chicago tours, especially their popular River Cruise.)

Peoples Gas Building (122 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL) was completed in 1911 by D.H. Burnham & Company in a neo-classical style. Like other building being designed by D.H. Burnham & Company, the steel skeleton and steel cantilevers instead of exterior walls support the building's weight and it has many windows. The facade is a light brown applied masonry.

The Continental and Commercial Bank Building (208 S. LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL), a huge block long Classical Revival style structure, was designed by Burnham and was his last architectural commission. It was completed in 1914, two years after his death. True to the style, it includes large columns, pilasters, lion's head, and other classical motifs.

The Chicago Symphony Center (220 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL), Georgian Style home of the renown Chicago Symphony Orchestra was completed in 1905 by Burnham and Company.

The Marshal Field and Company flagship department store building (111 North State Street, Chicago, IL), sadly Macy's at State Street Store at the present, was completed in 1892. The 12-story granite building takes up an entire city block and is the third largest store in the world. It is known for its iconic Louis Tiffany 6000 square foot mosaic dome ceiling in the 5-story balconied atrium and two huge 7 ton cast bronze exterior clocks.

Burnham Center (111 W. Washington Street, Chicago, IL), originally known as Conway Building, a classic Chicago style (neo-classical) 22-story skyscraper was completed in 1913. It was developed by the Marshall Field Estate and named after Field's birthplace, Conway, MA. It's white terra cotta facade covers the steel structure. It resembles the Flatiron Building (1902) in New York City, also designed by Burnham. Both buildings are 22-story skyscrapers with rounded corners, many large windows, Beaux-Arts facade decor and influenced by Roman classical architectural style.

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©Izzy Kapetanovic

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