Friday, July 10, 2009

LaSALLE STREET. North from Jackson Blvd. A glimpse of the past

Standing near the corner of LaSalle and Jackson, between the Federal Reserve and the Merchant's Bank, I seem always dogged by half told stories. Histories just beyond reach. And suffer the inexplicable "need to know." I'm sure that Daniel Burnham is close, but can't quite see....

Original Ornament. The Rookery. John Wellborn Root. 1885


William Peirce Anderson (who knew Daniel Burnham), Architect of the buildings that flank me as I look north to the Rookery, would surely have regretted not having met Burnham's first partner, John Root. Something never understood is how Root's expression of Chicago School Architecture passed so completely from Daniel's vocabularly.

But in the longer run, even that matters little. For those near to him, the "Plan" or even the "Style" was always secondary to Daniel Burnham, the man. For Anderson. Even for Ed Bennett.

Anderson knew Daniel well before that "Plan." Before Daniel became gout ridden, overweight "Uncle Dan," Friend of Presidents. Before the legend of his accomplishments over- shadowed the power of the man himself. For the 13 years he worked for him and then for next 14 years, as he, literally, built The Vision, Peirce Anderson's ever present mentor and inspiration remained Daniel Burnham. It is possible that Daniel's wife Margaret showed Peirce the photograph, below, taken when Daniel was 19. And this is how Anderson might like to remember him. At the beginning. All determination and energy.


Daniel Hudson Burnham in 1865

And this is how, maybe, we should remember him too. Grateful for the Legacy, of course and the 1909 Plan of Chicago, but even more grateful for the man. And the simple proof that a plan, a grand plan, can exist. And that there can be dreams to inspire the next generation. Even in Chicago. In 2009.
Credit for Daniel Burnham's portrait belongs to Thomas S. Hines' BURNHAM OF CHICAGO, p10, published by the University of Chicago. And highly recommended.
Good things are happening at the Marquette Building. See CHICAGO SCULPTURE in the Loop.

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