Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Interpretive Digital Essay : The Plan of Chicago
The Plan of Chicago
Chicago in 1909
Planning Before the Plan
Antecedents and Inspirations
The City the Planners Saw
The Plan of Chicago
The Plan Comes Together
Creating the Plan
Reading the Plan
A Living Document
The Plan of Chicago

The Plan of Chicago of 1909, more familiarly known as the Burnham Plan—after its principal author, architect and city planner Daniel H. Burnham—is one of the most noted documents in the history of city planning. This interpretive digital essay analyzes the Plan and its place in the evolution of Chicago's built environment.

The essay is divided into three major sections, each of which consists of three parts. The first section, Chicago in 1909, looks at the city in the years leading up to the creation and publication of the Plan. Its first part, Planning Before the Plan , deals with the city's early planning history. Antecedents and Inspirations reviews the precedents that Burnham and his fellow Chicago planners followed, including earlier work by Burnham. The City the Planners Saw surveys Chicago's physical, social, and cultural environment in the first years of the twentieth century.

The second section, The Plan of Chicago, focuses on the production of the Plan and what was produced. The Plan Comes Together traces the sequence of events that culminated in the Merchants Club's hiring of Burnham to prepare a plan for an improved Chicago. Creating the Plan describes the complex process through which the planners gathered information, reached conclusions, wrote a text, drew illustrations, and published the book that is the Plan of Chicago. Reading the Plan analyzes the contents of that book.

The final section, A Living Document , examines the Plan's post-publication history. Promotion describes the extensive campaign to gain official and popular support for the Plan's recommendations. Implementation explains how these recommendations were and were not followed as the city continued to evolve. Heritage reflects on the Plan's continuing influence to this day in how others have viewed and understood Chicago.

To read any of the nine parts of the three sections, click on its title in the large rectangular box to the upper left. This box appears on every page of the essay.

This interpretive digital essay was produced through a collaboration between Northwestern University, the Chicago Historical Society, the Newberry Library, and the Art Institute of Chicago. The editor of the essay and the author of its text is Carl Smith, Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English and American Studies and Professor of History at Northwestern. Brian Dennis, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Computer Science at Northwestern, contributed to the conceptual design, technical development, and portions of the multimedia implementation. Academic and Research Technologies of Northwestern constructed the site under the leadership of Architect for Media Technologies Harlan Wallach, in coordination with Architect for Scholarly Technologies William Parod and Architect for Distributed Learning Jonathan Smith. They were assisted by Academic and Research Technologies staff members Will Beckley, Jeremy Brunjes, Stefani Foster, Lauren Holliday, and Christopher Wallace. Robert Taylor, Director of Academic and Research Technologies, supported their efforts. Research assistance was provided by Sarah Ansari, Jenna Carls, Kimberly Kocek, Andrew Kurland, Kathryn Schumaker, and Milena Zasadzien. Their fellow Northwestern students Sherri Berger, Kathryn Burns-Howard, Abigail Masory, and Courtney Podraza offered additional timely help. Special thanks are due to R. Russell Maylone, Curator of the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections at Northwestern.

Sarah Marcus, Project Director for the Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago, managed content and research at the Chicago Historical Society. She was assisted by Scanning Technician Aimee Marshall, Research Specialist Lesley Martin, Senior Photographer John Alderson, Photographer Jay Crawford, Paper Conservator Carol Turchan, Reference Center Librarian Deborah Vaughn, Circulation Assistant AnneMarie Chase, Rights and Reproduction Coordinator Rob Medina, Research Assistant Tom Perrin, and Research Center Pages Justin Huyck and Dan Scholzen. Editor Gwen Ihnat reviewed the entire text, as did James R. Grossman, Newberry Library Vice President for Research and Education and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Chicago. Russell Lewis, CHS Executive Vice President and Chief Historian, supervised the project as a whole.

The contribution of the Art Institute of Chicago was led by Jack Perry Brown, Director of Libraries, and coordinated by Ryerson and Burnham Archivist Mary Woolever, assisted by Digital Imaging Technician Patrick Rogers, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Archival Access Lead Project Archivist Annemarie van Roessel, and Secretary Shirley Mahoney.

Wilmont Vickrey, Founding Principal of VOA Associates, generously furnished critical logistical assistance. Dennis McClendon of Chicago CartoGraphics similarly shared his remarkable expertise. Several superb maps and other visual content he prepared for the print version of the Encyclopedia of Chicago are employed here. Jane S. Smith provided indispensable moral and intellectual support from start to finish.

Burnham Library of Architecture. The Plan of Chicago, 1909-1979: An Exhibition of the Burnham Library of Architecture, the Art Institute of Chicago, December 8, 1979 through November 30, 1980. 1979.
Condit, Carl W. Chicago, 1910-1929: Building, Planning, and Urban Technology. 1973.
Condit, Carl W. Chicago, 1930-1970: Building, Planning, and Urban Technology. 1974.
Draper, Joan E. Edward H. Bennett: Architect and City Planner, 1874-1954. 1982.
Hines, Thomas S. Burnham of Chicago: Architect and Planner. 1974.
Mayer, Harold M. and Richard C. Wade. Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis. 1969.
Moore, Charles H. Daniel Burnham: Architect, Planner of Cities. 1921.
Schaffer, Kristen. "Fabric of City Life: The Social Agenda in Burnham's Draft of the Plan of Chicago." Introduction to Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett, Plan of Chicago, ed. Charles Moore. 1993.