Sunday, April 17, 2011


Joseph Worcester 1836-1913

Daniel Burnham left Chicago in 1863 to study at Thomas Worcester's Swedenborgian School in Waltham Massachusetts. Here, he met Thomas' son, Joseph, who would become his teacher, mentor and lifelong friend.

Daniel's time with Joseph was short -- less than two years. But when Daniel returned to Chicago (after that little side trip to Nevada) he knew he wanted a career in architecture. But this post is not about Daniel Burnham. It is about "Uncle Joe."

Joseph Worcester was born in 1836 in Waltham Massachussetts. He graduated Harvard studying divinity (and architecture and drawing at Lawrence Scientific School) where he had been strongly influenced by William Morris , John Ruskin, William Wordsworth, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Emanuel Swedenborg.) In 1864 he left Waltham to visit the San Francisco Bay area (traveling via schooner, rounding Cape Horn) . He returned to stay --after a trip to Europe -in 1867.

The Swedenborgian Church under Joseph Worcester's leadership became the center of the Bay Area's arts community. Worcester's own views on architecture significantly advanced the Arts and Crafts movement in California . Names that fall within Worcester's Circle include Bernard Maybeck, A. Page Brown, Willis Polk, Julia Morgan, Phoebe Hearst, William Keith, John Muir, Frederick Law Olmsted.

Worcester sat on Boards that reviewed the architecture and master plans for Berkeley and Stanford. And, with Willis Polk, Worcester encouraged Daniel Burnham to submit a Master Plan for the City of San Fransisco. And if not for that Earthquake.....

In 1888 ideas were afoot to match New York's Statue of Liberty at the mouth of San Francisco Bay. Daniel Burnham REALLY wanted that commission.

In 1892, when Daniel Burnham was nearly buried in Chicago's Columbian Exposition, he still found time to correspond with "Uncle Joe" regarding the architecture of the new Swedenborg Church in San Francisco.

Edward Bennett was from California, educated at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris with a gift from Phoebe Hearst (where he met Peirce Anderson) . Bennett worked with Burnham, Worcester, and Polk on the Plan of San Francisco.  Peirce got Washington DC.

H.H. Richardson left Lawrence Scientific in 1860 -- where he might well have been Worcester's classmate. (Unconfirmed). Worcester's Papers at Berkely include photographs of Richardson's work at Trinity Church in Boston.

Joseph Worcester's major life achievements were still in the future when he taught young Daniel Burnham, fresh from Central High. But a man of this intellect, optimism, confidence and creativity --and Faith -- could certainly have shown him "possibilities." 

Daniel may not have been "educated" in Waltham.  But he knew the way.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011


               When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
               And the great star early droop’d
               in the western sky in the night,
               I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

               O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
               Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
               And thought of him I love.

               Walt Whitman  1865

Walt Whitman.  Credit Novel House Inn.


Every generation has its War. Mine was Viet Nam, though I never fought. My father's was World War II, though he never spoke of it. It was some years before I found that my parents belonged to the "Greatest Generation." And that there were personal stories in the words "Bataan" and "Corregidor" I only knew that I lived in a very comfortable suburban home with oak trees in the back yard, maples on the street and a sandy beach just over the hill. And that in the basement, in the storage room, on the top shelf, there was a Japanese ceremonial sword in a velvet box.

The lessons of war seem not to pass from generation to generation. They simply and quietly define those who learn them, live with them. And are lost by sons and daughters.


Daniel Burnham volunteered to fight in the Civil War when he was 15 years old. How could he not? Chicago was alive with Union Patriotism and the Underground Railroad. His father's wholesale drug business was booming. (What better wartime business than drugs?) Talk of war was everywhere.   Ten thousand Confederate soldiers were imprisoned at Camp Douglas.  (Three times that amount were rumored at Andersonville.) And Lincoln, after all, was from Illinois.

Edwin Burnham, Daniel's father, "de-enlisted" 15 year old Daniel, by reason of age.   And by the time Daniel was of draftable age, Elizabeth, his mother, had sent him to Thomas Worcester's Swedenborgian School in Waltham Massachusetts.

I don't know if Daniel was in Chicago when Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Or when Abraham Lincoln's draped coffin was carried from the Illinois Central Station on Randolph Street to City Hall.

But whether he saw it, or read of it, these tragedies, doubled by the Great Fire that soon destroyed his home town, would leave scarred memories for a lifetime.

President Grant. The Panic of 1873. Railroads. The election of Rutherford B. Hayes. Western expansion. Reconstruction. For the next twenty years the Civil War and its denouement shaped the country. These are the years when Daniel Burnham honed his craft. And imagined possibilities.

This is when Daniel Burnham "began."  And we should not be surprised, if we look closely, to see echoes from this time past in his  planning, architecture, aspirations and morality.


I've completed the photography for a second look at D.H. Burnham and Company's  Fisher Building -- to be featured in future posts.  But, there is always "one more mystery."  Reviewing the varied work of Charles Atwood, the Burnham design partner credited with Phase I of the Fisher, I am unsure if Atwood was a versatile and prolific architect, in control of his work  -- or if assistants Peter Weber and Fred Dinkelberg repeatedly covered for him.  Right up to the end.  I'd be glad for any of your thoughts.  Contact me HERE with fact or opinion.  Thanks.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


After leaving the Garden City Institute, Daniel Burnham was enrolled in Chicago Public Schools. He attended Jones to finish his elementary education, and went on to Central High, at the corner of Monroe and Halsted. At Central, Burnham made lifelong friends (and business connections) including Nevada prospecting partner Edward Waller. (We'll hear more about him when we blog the Rookery).Link here for the state of the CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS in 1879 and before. ( It looks like one of the Swedenborgian Snows may followed Daniel from the GCI to Central.) 

CENTRAL HIGHHalsted Street at Monroe. Credit CPS.

While researching Daniel Burnham (while researching anyone, for that matter) I look for things we might have in common -- Chicago, for example. But the Chicago of Daniel Burnham's youth bears little resemblance to my Chicago.  We are separated by 6 Wars and  Fire.  Chicago in the late 1850's was preparing for War with the South.  Stephen A. Douglas (of the Lincoln/Douglas debates) had recently donated a portion of his Oakenwald to the University of Chicago.
OLD UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO. Cottage Grove near 34th
Archival Photographic Files, [apf2-05352], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.
Look at those towers!  The Building was done by W. W. Boyington.  John Root couldn't resist a good tower either.... look at Lynn Becker's post describing Burnham and Root's Church of the Covenant. 

CAMP DOUGLAS AND THE OLD UC. 35th  near Lake Shore
Archival Photographic Files, [apf2-05364], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

By 1860 Camp Douglas had been established to train new Civil War recruits.  By 1861 the Camp had become more a prisoner of war camp for captured confederates.  Link HERE for more on the Lincoln/Douglas debates.,


I highly recommnend the University of Chicago Archival Photographic Files....but only when you've got some time!  Link HERE.


We're in the process of proofing, refining and obtaining permissions for the publication of  our newest project.  Preview the work here.

The Parthenon Frieze

Photography by Gregory H. Jenkins AIA