Saturday, February 26, 2011

BURNHAM AND ROOT meet the Harvey Girls.

How does the Chicago firm of Burnham and Root gain an 1885 commission for a hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico?  Well.  Maybe something like this.

With the founding of the Union Stockyards in 1865, Daniel Burnham's father-in-law, John B. Sherman, consolidated a working relationship with nine of the most important railroads serving Chicago. Among them was the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. Although the financing for the CB&Q came from the east, Operations were located in Chicago. The President of the CB&Q was James C. Peasely. That's Chicago southsider James Peasely, member of the prestigious Calumet Club (an 1881 Burnham and Root Commission obtained primarily from some newly obtained Prairie Avenue connections). So with good personal recommendations (the Shermans), and a proven track record (the Calumet) Peasely could, with all confidence, award Daniel Burnham and John Root the CB&Q stations in Illinois and the company offices in Chicago.

During these years, two promising CB&Q employees would have shown up on the radar. William Barstow Strong, future president of the Acheson, Topeka, and Sante Fe Railroad. And Fred Harvey -- that's the Fred Harvey, founder of The Harvey Company -- who thought that railroad passengers deserved hot meals and a little respect. Peasely didn't think much of Fred's idea for hospitality services for the passengers. Strong, on the other hand, did.

So as the ATSF rails were laid New Mexico, Bill might have called on Dan saying that Fred wanted to build a hotel......a nice with Harvey Girls and all. And Dan said that he and John would like to draw it for him.  And Bill said that would be just fine.


Fred Harvey later went on to hire Mary Colter, one of the first female architects in the country.  Burnham worked with Colter at the Harvey Concessions in Chicago's Union Station.  Colter was called a "chain smoking perfectionist"  Perhaps her most famous work is at the Grand Canyon.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

DANIEL BURNHAM. Cincinnati, Ohio

In 1885, a young Daniel Burnham and an even younger John Root attempted to build their architectural practice by entering Design Competitions.  It was not so long from then that Cincinnati really was the "Queen City of the West."   Winning a competition in Cincy would be good for prestige and business. 

Burnham and Root Competition Entry
Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce
Credit  Donald Hoffman's Architecture of John Wellborn Root

Unfortunately they lost.  Henry Hobson Richardson "took the cake."  (No pun  intended)

Henry Hobson Richardson Competition Winner
Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

Burnham, though, was by no means done in Cincinnati.  The Fourth National Bank, Fifth National Bank, Union Trust, and Shillito's were , major commissions.  My favorite later Burnham work in Cincinnati is Peirce Anderson's Schmidlapp Memorial Library, now the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Schmidlapp Memorial Libray
Eden Park, Mount Adams, Cincinnati, Ohio

The Schmidlapps and the Burnhams remained lifelong friends.

Researching this article I came across some excellent source material written by my History of Architecture Professor at the University of Cincinnati, J. William Rudd  ((You may not remember me, Mr. Rudd.  I was the one in the back row (in the tie-dyed t-shirt) trying to finish my calculus homework while you fumbled with the overhead projector --- never mind the year.))  Thinking back on it, I'm amazed at how much of the course "stuck".  A belated thank-you is very much in order. Very much.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Every Chicagoan knows what buildings make Chicago home. Sears Tower, of course. Marina City. And the Hancock Center. Trump Tower shows up on the skyline radar more and more often. But always, the skyscrapers are followed by Marshall Field's, The Field Museum, LaSalle Street, Union Station, the buildings on Wacker Drive, and the wall of South Michigan Avenue.

Surprisingly, this second tier of buildings, and major contributions to the implementation of the Chicago Plan came from the same hand. Marshall Field and Company, the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago Union Station, the Continental Bank, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Continental and Commercial Bank, and the Insurance Exchange were all designed by Peirce Anderson. Anderson was also responsible, in conjunction with Edward Bennett, for building placement on Wacker Drive near the Michigan Avenue Bridge. And he contributed to the Michigan Avenue Wall with the People's Gas Building and early work on the Straus Bank.

Anderson was D.H. Burnham's senior designer from 1899 until 1908. From 1908 until 1912 Anderson was Burnham's design partner. Following Burnham's death Anderson became the design partner at  Graham Anderson Probst and White.

Anderson's work didn't stop in Chicago. He worked with Daniel Burnham to produce the Plan of Manila (and recommended William Parsons for its implementation. He also recommended fellow Ecole student Edward Bennett for Burnham's efforts in San Fransisco). He worked with Burnham on the Plan of Cleveland and the McMillan Plan for Washington DC. Important out-of-state architectural commissions included the Equitable Building and 80 Maiden Lane in New York and Washington DC's Union Station. Anderson was tireless.

Anderson's careful selection and organization of design staff allowed the considerable work at Graham Anderson Probst and White to flow uninterrupted even after his final illness and death.

Peirce Anderson's architecture is well known in Chicago. Perhaps lesser known, is that Anderson also designed a clock. At the corner of State and Randolph.


Anderson's attention to detail was legendary.  The clock is no exception.  A matching twin is located at State and Washington.

Anderson was born on this day, February 20, in 1870.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

DANIEL BURNHAM. 1870 - 1876

From Treasure City to Prairie Avenue

During the last three decades of the 19th Century, there was no finer address in Chicago than South Prairie Avenue. Marshall Field, George Pullman, and Phillip Armour were among the most famous residents. And right in the middle, resided Daniel and Margaret Sherman Burnham (See Notes Below). Marshall Field (and later, his estate) awarded Daniel Burnham commissions ranging from his department store on State street to the Conway Building on West Washington. Less familiar names also resided on the Avenue. Wirt Dexter, for example, was General Soliciter and Counsel of the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad. (The CB & Q awarded several important commissions in 1882 and 1883 to the young architectural firm of Burnham and Root.) Connections made in the early years of Prairie Avenue lasted Burnham a lifetime.

Burnham and Root appear to have drawn 9 residences for the elite on South Prairie Avenue. (You'll forgive me if I drool over these commissions just a little.) Who were these people? (Each one must be a story in his own right.) Who, for example was Ozro Clapp, his second important Prairie Avenue client? He seems to have made a name for himself. HERE. And HERE. OOPS.

Daniel Burnham returned to Chicago from his Nevada mining adventure (see previous post)  in 1870. In 1871 he went into his first architectural partnership with Gustave Lareau -- who up and disappeared during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. By the winter of 1872 Daniel and gone to work for Carter Drake and Wight. where he was introduced to architect, John Root. The following year Burnham and Root became partners and the following year the partnership had acquired the commission for the Prairie Avenue Residence of John B. Sherman. Two years later, Burnham had married Sherman's daughter and had moved to the Prairie Avenue house that he and Root had designed. 

From "busted" in Treasure City, Nevada to "at home" on South Prairie Avenue in less than six years.... I am an architect. I'm supposed to be blogging Burnham's architecture. But piece by piece I'm seeing a life the "reads like fiction."  Burnham and Root's understanding of Ruskin's architectural theory and their justification of a Charles the First aesthetic in Chicago ---- has just been delayed another day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

DANIEL BURNHAM. Treasure City Nevada.

Daniel Burnham's 1869 prospecting trip to Nevada has pretty well captured my imagination. (So, let's file the architecture for one more is, after all,  Sunday)   It is easy to imagine Burnham, in a white coat, suit, and hat  driving a white automobile on Michigan Avenue (showing Stannie White the sights).  Not so easy to see him (even at age 23) with a pickaxe on the side of Treasure Hill  in White Pine County, Nevada .

Daniel Burnham was by no means alone in Nevada. In the summer of 1869 the Union Pacific Railroad carried more than 10,000 passengers from Chicago to Elko, Nevada.  Wells Fargo carried them on to Treasure City in an expresss overland stage.  Forty-niners had reached California either by arduous packwagon or via ship around Cape Horn.  The White Pine Rush of 1869 allowed direct and convenient access via trans-continental railroad. The ladies arrived in hats and jewels.

For more details on the White Pine rush link here  For a view of Treasure Hill today, link here   For a map showing White Pine silver claims in 1869, link here  For an 1869 reprint of the Nevada Overland Monthly, link here

Elko, Nevada was Treasure City's closest railroad stop on the Union Pacific's transcontinental route --an alternate (and shorter) route was to Salt Lake City and then south via Wells Fargo Overland Stage.  Link here   for a glimpse at Salt Lake in 1869.  No golden domes on this horizion -- Assembly Hall wasn't completed until 1882. 

And one more thing -- transcontinental railroad equipment was in its infancy. To see Union Pacific's top of the line locomotive,  Link here .  Talk about changes......    Forty years later,  Daniel Burnham did this

Daniel is rumored to have headed back to Chicago on a cattle drive. (See previous post)  1869 was a peak year for driving cattle via overland trails.  The railroad that carried Daniel Burnham to Nevada was about to change the cattle industry forever -- and transform Chicago to "Hog Butcher of the World."  Link here

Friday, February 11, 2011

DANIEL BURNHAM. Manifest Destiny

In the mid eighties, I believe, on some kind of whim, without plan or destination, I drove north on US 93 from Las Vegas as far as Ely, Nevada. White Pine County. It was the most distant, godforsaken, hopeless place I had ever seen. By contrast (and some 100 years earlier) Daniel Burnham made the trip to Ely with some real expectations -- and characteristically -- a plan.

In a Chapter titled "The Long Childhood" Thomas Hines mentions Daniel Burnham' s "Nevada adventures and misadventures." And how "political and financial defeat had met him in the West."

In 1869, just 20 years after the Mexican War gained much of the American West as US Territory, Daniel Burnham left Chicago to prospect for silver in White Pine County Nevada. Nevada would have been "news." recently obtaining statehood. But more importantly, the California Goldrush of 1849 and the Comstock Lode of 1859 had proved that fortunes could be made in the new West (big fortunes). And the newly completed Union Pacific connecting Chicago to San Francisco made Nevada accessible.


Would Daniel Burnham have heard the words "Manifest Destiny" at the kitchen table of his parents home on the shores of Lake Erie? Had they discussed the Mexican War? Matthew Perry? Vera Cruz? Maybe. Maybe enought to spark young Burnham's imagination? Maybe.  But, surely, Daniel Burnham understood "Progress." And surely he understood that this trip would be one of the last great adventures in the disappearing American wilderness -- sweetened by the (possible) acquisition of some serious cash.


The "prospecting" scheme appears to have been hatched by Col. Cummings (can that be Col. Cummings of Fort Dearborn...earning his reputation during the Black Hawk Wars and cholera epidemic of 1832?) and financed by longtime friend Edward C. Waller (son of hugely successful attorney Henry Waller -- who just happened to be in Europe while son Edward was chipping away in Ely). The story is that Daniel and Edward returned to Chicago -- dead broke-- with a cattle drive. An interesting story, but it is doubtful that Edward Waller was EVER broke. Financed by his father, Edward went on to become a VERY successful Chicago real estate developer -- conceiving the Rookery (a Burnham and Root commission in 1888) and becoming an important patron of Frank Lloyd Wright.

A ride on the first transcontinental railroad. An adventure in the backwoods mountains of Nevada. A chance to see the disappearing west (one Buffalo Bill Cody could only recreate at the Columbian Exposition of 1893). Cowboys. Indians. A cattle drive to Chicago. An enduring friendship. And maybe, even, first hand stories of Fort Dearborn, Black Hawk and the founding of Chicago?

A plan that didn't quite play out? Well, yes. But, defeat? I think not.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Daniel Burnham was born on September 4, 1846.  He formed a businesss partnership with John Root on July 5, 1873 and married Margaret Sherman on January 20, 1876.  Root died on January 15,1891. His life with Margaret was long and happy.



Burnham continued to practice architecture until his death on June 1 1912.  Among his first major office building commission was the Montauk Block.  Among his last, was the Continental and Commercial.

From the Civil War to World War I.  Through revolutions of technology, transportation, communication and style.  Daniel Burnham faced a lifetime of challenge and change.  So. In perfect hindsight, who could blame 23 year old Daniel for trying his hand in a Nevada silver mine.  1869, after all,  looked to be a propitious year.


In fact....... who could have resisted?


Sunday, February 6, 2011


I'll admit it. 

Imagining internationally known architect Daniel Burnham..... chasing cutting-edge astronomer George Ellery Hale..... on the shores of turn-of-the-century Lake Geneva .....for a potential Architectural commission in Pasadena..... (for the Wilson Observatory, no less).... sent me "back to the books."  To reorganize what I know and find out what I don't. 

The results surprised even me: We know surprisingly little of Daniel Burnham.  (In the City that invented architecture)   Even the basics.  A complete list of commissions would be a nice start.  ((I learned of the "Stewart" not from Hines'  authoritative "Burnham," but from T W Leslie's "ArchitectureFarm")).  Which buildings were built. (Which were not) Their date.  The address (not too much to ask).  Which buildings are extant. Golleee.  Maybe a little about each one. The clients. A picture. A drawing.  Credits as to design and staff.  What we have is conflicting information and second hand opinion reprinted as fact.  (Trust me).

I have blogged every Burnham Building that remains in Chicago's LOOP -- starting with what I know and adding to that.  (Most Burnham builidngs are not landmarked and have been "updated" with critical components removed).  And, of course, except for that once...... I have been polite.

But it seems that it is time for a change in strategy -- to really understand Daniel Burnham.  Going outside the LOOP.  Starting with what we don't know.  More Burnhams have been destroyed than remain. The list below is a partial compilation of downtown Chicago's "lost" Burnhams --demolished -- and for the most part removed from memory.   

Merchant's Loan and Trust
Adams Street at Clark

First National Bank of Chicago
Monroe Street at Dearborn

Goddard Building
Monroe Street at Wabash

Hill Building
West Van Buren

Society Brand Building
416 South Franklin

Stewart Building
108 North State Street

Art Institute of Chicago
Van Buren Street at Michigan Avenue

Rialto Building
Van Buren Street

Calumet Building
111 South LaSalle

Rand McNally Building
La Salle at Adams

Central Market
State Street at Market

Chicago Herald
158 West Washington

Chicago Daily News

Grannis Building
North Dearborn Street

115 West Monroe Street

111 West Jackson Boulevard

Keersarge Building
Jackson and Dearborn

Ashland Block
Clark Street at Randolph

Masonic Temple
State Street at Randolph

Women's Temple
LaSalle Street at Monroe

Majestic Hotel
Quincy Street at Dearborn

Peacock Cafe
114 West Madison Street

Great Northern
20 West Jackson Boulevard

Now.  How to begin?  NOT A CLUE.  But I've been told that its " in the details."


Friday, February 4, 2011

DANIEL BURNHAM. An Observation

By 1891, 23 year old George Ellery Hale (1868 - 1938), son of the Developer of Chicago's Reliance Building  (link here) had talked the "old man" into building him a little Observatory out back of his Burnham and Root designed mansion on South Drexel Boulevard.


Two years later, George saw the 40" refracting telescope at the Columbian Exposition.  By 1897 (with a little help from Charles Yerkes)  Hale had found a permanent home for this world class telescope at the Yerkes Observatory (Designed by Charles Ives Cobb) on the shores of Lake Geneva.  Link HERE to see the Yerkes.

But in 1904, when Hale founded the Mount Wilson Observatory (near Pasadena Ca), he called on Daniel Burnham to prepare the designs. Link HERE to see Mount Wilson today.

From Prairie Avenue to the Calumet Club.  From  Drexel Boulevard and Lake Geneva to Manila and back. To the San Gabriel Mountains.  Daniel Burnham missed no opportunities.