Sunday, August 1, 2010

D. H. BURNHAM & CO. Charles Atwood.

The COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION OF 1893. Brown City. White City.
Architect Charles Bowler Atwood was born in Charlestown Massachusetts in 1849. He studied at Harvard and learned "the trade" in the Boston offices of Ware and Van Brundt. He designed the W. H. Vanderbilt mansion (that's the railroad Vanderbilt) for Herter Brothers, and continued working for the Vanderbilts on his own account.

Daniel Burnham brought Atwood to Chicago to replace John Root, whose death in January of 1891 left Daniel (and Chicago's 1893 World's Fair) without a lead designer. By April of 1891 Atwood, under Burnham's direction, had begun sketches of the Fine Arts Building. Additionally, between the spring of '91 and autumn '92 Atwood designed the Exposition's Peristyle, the Terminal Building and all other structures not assigned to other architects. (Also in 1891, Atwood was at work on the new Marshall Field & Company store at Washington and Wabash.) Frederick Dinkelberg (later a Burnham designer in his own right) was hired as Atwood's assistant.

(Nice mustache!) Prior to January of 1891, the World's Columbian Exposition had been conceived as "American" Romanesque, polychromatic, and set in Olmsted's artificially "natural" landscapes. The Fair of 1893 was Classic, White, and Formal. From our viewpoint in the 21st Century the White City, as-built, looks "old fashioned." During the late 19th Century, however, Classicism was viewed as international and very much in fashion -- and Beaux Arts was the Future.

JOHN ROOT. Scheme for the Peristyle at the Chicago World's Fair.

CHARLES ATWOOD.  The Peristyle at the Chicago World's Fair.

JOHN ROOT.  Scheme for the Fine Arts Building at the Chicago World's Fair.
CHARLES ATWOOD.  The Fine Arts Building at the Chicago World's Fair.

I will not discuss here the change in stylistic direction. (Let's decide the War in Afghanistan, first) But it is of equal magnitude, (for example) to Mies' proposal to replace Charles Ives Cobb's Beaux Arts Federal Building with something of the New Chicago School. And has equal ramifications.


My introduction to the 1893 Chicago Exposition was on South Shore Drive (in a Buick Roadmaster -- and probably on my birthday) heading north  to the Museum of Science and Industry. The derelect "Pinta" was still docked in Jackson Harbor. (Link Here) My father said it was "from the Fair." Interesting. But the real highlight of the day was the U-505 propped on blocks, waiting to cross the Drive. To its new home. Alongside Atwood's Fine Arts Building.

Credits Due Donald Hoffman's excellent "John Wellborn Root."


Continue at

No comments:

Post a Comment