Thursday, March 11, 2010

DANIEL BURNHAM. 1903. 1904. or 1905

So. After the 1893 Fair, for Daniel Burnham, it was New York Architect, Charles Atwood. The new Designer for D.H. Burnham and Company.

On the plus side:
Charles Atwood had produced an instantly recognized "permanent" Landmark at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 with the Fine Arts Building. One so respected that, even locally, Julius Rosenwald backed its preservation. (With cash.)

Next, Charlie had personally designed Cornelius Vanderbilt's New York townhouse. Also the New York Homes for the Webbs' and the Twombleys' -- two of Cornelius' married daughters. (Sweet.)

Now, Cornelius besides just being rich, controlled half a dozen railroads headquartered in Chicago. Atwood designed the Fair's Railway Station. And Daniel Burnham could never be accused of shortsightedness. The commissions for both Union Station in Washington DC and Union in Chicago were not so very far away. Surely Daniel was scheming. Charles should have been a significant asset

He'd studied at Harvard.

And had worked for Ware and Van Brunt in Boston. Ware became the first professor and head of the first architectural curricula at MIT (alma mater to Sullivan/ Jenney/ Hayden/ Shepley/ Rutan/ etc). Van Brunt was the first to translate LeDuc's "Entretiens" to English. Talk about credentials that could capture the imagination of the Chicago architectural community. (No matter what the preference.)

And maybe most of all, speculating, if I were Daniel, looking at the Webb/Twombly work I would have been reminded of John Root's William Goudy House. And had the thought that maybe the enthusiasm of the of the Burnham and Root partnership might return.

Those first years (despite the Financial Panic) looked promising. Atwood's late reinterpretation of Richardsonian Romanesque at Marshall Field and Company (Washington at Wabash) --the (very thin-skinned) Reliance Building, epitome of the Chicago School,-- and the remarkable Fisher Building -- this was real architecture.

Daniel Burnham's office, even after the Fair, was, clearly, a continuing and significant player in the development of the Chicago School. The Reliance Building pre-dates Sullivan's Schlesinger and Meyer by four years. The Stock Exchange belongs to the era of the Burnham's Great Northern, not his Reliance. But, in addition, Burnham also became a significant player on the national level, where this Beaux-Arts thing was beginning to gain real traction. (It all seemed like a no-brainer. )

On the cons:

Atwood's opium thing. And the worst depression to precede the Great Depression.

Atwood was fired from Burnham's Office and died shortly thereafter in late 1895. (Rumored at the time, to have felt no pain)

But the tradition of the Chicago School however remained strong in Daniel Burnham's office through the last years of the nineteenth century and into the early years of the twentieth. 1903 or 1904 or 1905 to be exact. (See Previous Post). When a new generation of kids began to fill the offices of architects and take power (from the old guys) all across the country (not just on the East Coast). A generation, who had discovered (some years earlier) that it was just no longer happening in the US -- and that you needed an education in Paris France to be the cat's meow. Which returns us to the Railway Exchange. Peirce Anderson. Fred Dinkelberg. Chicago School on the outside. Beaux-Arts on the inside. The real moment of transition in Chicago Architecture.

A moment, that for the moment, is lost. Not only to memory.  But in real time.


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