Scraping the Skies

Daniel H. Bumham
Daniel H. Bumham

September 4, 1846
Architect Daniel H. Bumham was Born

What makes you walk by one building without noticing it while another compels you to stare in wonder and welcomes you to explore the rooms inside? Daniel H. Burnham might tell you the answer has something to do with a grand vision, “Make no little plans; they have not magic to stir men’s blood . . . Make big plans; aim high in hope and work . . .”

Born September 4, 1846, Burnham joined architect John Wellborn Root to establish one of the most famous architectural firms in U.S. history. Together they changed the shape of our cities’ skylines by aiming higher than anyone dreamed.

What is the tallest building that you have been in? Burnham and Root pioneered the construction methods that made modern skyscrapers possible.

After Root died, Burnham took over Root’s job as chief architect of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition, a kind of world’s fair He created a temporary city with grand boulevards, lush gardens, and classical building exteriors. U.S. architects were so inspired that they incorporated similar elements into their own designs.

Burnham, along with architect Edward Bennett, also developed plans for a real city. The Plan of Chicago in 1909, with its system of parks and recreation areas, set the standard for urban design. Walk through your own town or city and find the buildings that were created with “magic to stir men’s (and women’s) blood.”