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.

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