Friday, January 28, 2011



Daniel Burnham had spent the week prior to the Morton's "celebration" at Arbor Lodge (see previous post) with John Wanamaker in Philadelphia. His next engagement would be with the Ryerson's at Lake Geneva. Mr. Burnham was keeping quite a social schedule with the country's elite and moneyed powerbrokers.

.... but how many times might he have heard this? "No, his family has no money. They aren't really anybody. And he isn't particularly well educated. (In fact, he failed the Harvard entrance exams)  He's an architect. But he is very bright and Margaret loves him very much......."

There was no business partnership in Daniel Burnham's life more important than his marriage to Margaret Sherman, whose family's social standing allowed a lifetime of connections and remarkable architectural commissions.

How could this not be "the 800 pound gorilla in the room!" Was Daniel simply the solid, happy, confident architect who comfortably fit into Margaret's privileged life as a matter of course? Or was he driven, larger than life, to ever greater accomplishments by the need to "perform" for a social class that may well have considered him "hired help" if it hadn't been for his happy marriage?

With Daniel Burnham, its seems, there are always more questions. A lot more questions than I would have guessed nearly 2 years ago, when on a lark, I began blogging D.H. Burnham and Co.

For a glimpse at turn of the century life on Lake Geneva -- link here.  For a peak at Arbor Lodge -- link here.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011



I recently came into possession of  PHOTO 136 - a single sepia toned photograph without title or dialogue - accompanied by a question mark.  And the understanding that it had something to do with Daniel Burnham.

Photo 136

So. What's this?? Looking closely, it is a motley, multigenerational, turn-of the century crew with varying degrees of wealth and education. The picture was taken in hot sun, (coats on at the insistence of the photographer) following a big dinner --- and one glass of wine too many for more than a few! (Back row, center, thinks this little party is the cat's meow.) (Where are the wives?)

Charles Moore, in "Daniel Burnham, Planner of Cities" solves part of the mystery with a title for this photo: "Celebrating Paul Morton's entrance into President Roosevelt's Cabinet at Arbor Lodge, Nebraska City." Moore's text dates the photo in July of 1904. But Burnham is not included in the picture -- although he did attend the two day "bash" arriving via special train (Arbor Lodge is near the Sante Fe mainline) and horse drawn stage from the station

Paul Morton

Paul Morton, the reason for this party, is standing in the second row, sixth from the left. He had just been named Theodore Roosevelt's Secretary of the Navy. Arbor Lodge, the neo-classical home of Paul's brother, Joy is the backdrop for the photo. And some backdrop it is -- a 52 room mansion designed by Jarvis Hunt for Joy and his wife. (Joy -standing to Paul's left - founded Morton Salt.)

It would hard to find a family (excluding the Shermans and the Allertons) who had a more profound affect on Daniel Burnham's fortunes than the Mortons. Paul Morton became President of the Sante Fe Railroad (Burnham Commission: The Railway Exchange). As Secretary of the Navy, Morton oversaw the Philippines (Burnham Commission: Plan of Manila.) And later, Morton became President of New York Equitable Life Insurance (Burnham Commission: the Equitable Building.) The Morton's also gave their full and considerable weight to Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago. ( And Burnham gave his considerable talent in return.)

So. PHOTO 136.

It shows Chicago's Mortons in a frozen moment of wealth, power, and influence -- throwing one helluva party at the old homestead in Nebraska. And through this photo we get a vicarious peak at how things got done in turn-of-the-century America.

What it doesn't show .... is Daniel and Margaret... in the Morton's sunroom, (summer is only half through)  amid the potted palms and tiffany glass (biggest piece west of the Mississippi)planning the following the Ryerson's on Lake Geneva.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Daniel Burnham's Mantel

What does the architect who has been responsible for the Columbian Expostion, the Plan of Chicago,, and fifty years of groundbreaking architecture put on his mantel?





A pot of pussy willows. (Cincinnati Rookwood?  A gift of the Schmidlapp's?) Drawings by the children.  A portrait by Anders Zorn.  And a sculpture by Augustus Saint Gaudens.  Placed with some care.  But not too much.  Without hint of axis, symmetry or pretense........... 

Sitting in that little chair, Daniel would have been dwarfed by his accomplishments...  not to mention the fireplace!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


D. H. Burnham & Co.

Following the 1893 Exposition, D. H. Burnham & Co's work consisted almost entirely of  major commissions. Almost. In 1914 Peirce Anderson found time for this little Lake Bluff Cottage commissioned by Stanley Field.

The Stanley Field Residence (Credit Charles Moore's "Burnham Planner of Cities.")

Four years earlier,  D.H. Burnham & Co also found time for  the Chicago Thread Factory (later listed as "owned" by the Marshall Field Estate) in Monticello, Indiana. 

The Chicago Thread Company (Credit W.C. Madden's "Monticello")

A good client could expect exceptional service -- even a favor or two.  But what drew D.H.  Burnham & Company to central Indiana in 1894 to design the Tipton Bank?  And which staff member was responsible?


MONTICELLO is a great little book -- if you're Hoosier, a Farmer,
a German Catholic (lotsa Englehardts and Kundrats here),
a Burnham fanatic or just always curious...