When one thinks of an iconic American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright immediately comes to mind. But one architect had equal impact — if not more — on the design of the American city: Daniel Burnham.
Burnham built some of the first skyscrapers; directed construction of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, which inspired the City Beautiful Movement, a philosophy of architecture and urban planning in the 1890’s and 1900’s that introduced beautification and monumental grandeur in cities; and created urban plans for Washington D.C., Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Manila — before urban planning existed.
Here are five highlights of Daniel Burnham’s career.
1. Burnham and his business partner John Wellborn Root were the architects of the Masonic Temple Building in Chicago, one of the first American skyscrapers. The building was completed in 1892, and measured 21 stories and 302 feet. It was supposedly the tallest building of its time, but was torn down in 1939.
2. Burnham and Root were consulting architects at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. After Root’s death in 1891, Burnham oversaw and completed construction for almost 150 buildings on over 600 acres of land. In less than two years – with the help of some of America’s preeminent architects and designers – Burnham developed “America’s most spectacular world’s fair of the 19th century.” The fair played a key role in the development of the modern American city.
3. D.H. Burnham and Company completed designs for over 200 buildings, including some which are significant in American architectural history: the Flatiron Building in New York City (1902), the Field Museum in Chicago (1920), Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia (1909), and Union Station in Washington, D.C. (1907).
4. Burnham’s interests in parks and city planning came to the forefront in 1901 when he became the chairman of the Senate Park Commission in Washington, D.C. His team’s plan for the nation’s capital was a revision of Pierre-Charles L’Enfant’s original plan from 1791, and included an extensive park system, a redesign of the National Mall area, and the construction of Union Station.
5. Burnham designed four skyscrapers in Cincinnati between 1901 and 1905:
The Bartlett Building, located at Fourth and Walnut streets, was built in 1901 for Union Savings Bank, and is Cincinnati’s first skyscraper. The building was expanded in 1914, has 19 stories, and stands 239 feet tall. It was once the tallest building in Ohio for three years until the completion of the Fourth and Walnut Center. Since 2014, the Bartlett Building is the home of the Marriott Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel.
The Tri-State Building at 432 Walnut Street was built in 1902 for streetcar operator Cincinnati Traction Company, has 15 stories, and measures 215 feet in height.
The Fourth National Bank Building at 18 E. Fourth St. was built in 1904. From 2003 to 2005, the building was renovated and converted into lofts, which sold between $200,000 to $380,000 each.
The Clopay Building — now known as the Fourth & Walnut Center — at 105 E. Fourth St., was built in 1905. The name “Clopay” was a combination of the words “clothing” and “paper.”
Interested in learning more? Join writer and antique expert, Frank Farmer Loomis, on July 15, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for Preservation Triumphs in the Queen City to examine Burnham’s architectural style up close at one of Burnham’s buildings: the Marriott Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel. Lunch will follow at the hotel’s restaurant, which is named in Burnham’s honor. Registration is $59 (lunch not included in fee).
Register online at uc.edu/ce/commu, click Current Courses, Cincinnati Local, or call 513-556-6932