Elizabeth's Reviews > The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City

The Plan of Chicago by Carl Smith
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Jul 02, 2009

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bookshelves: 52-in-2009
Read in July, 2009

The Plan of Chicago by Carl Smith (pp. 172)

The Plan of Chicago discusses the classic 1,650 page, two volume city planning document of the same name published by Daniel Burnham, Edward Bennett, and the Commercial Club of Chicago. Carl Smith tells the story of the over 300 individuals who came together over almost two decades to influence the growth and development of Chicago.

While only 172 pages and supported with numerous illustrations and turn of the century photos, Smith’s work is a dense read. The early chapters often read like Genesis as Harris tells of the city’s civic leader who came together to influence the content of the document.

Smith’s analysis of the primary work is interesting in its discussion of founding fathers such as Wacker, McCormick, and Moody. He clearly gets across the point that The Plan of Chicago isn’t a Burnham written document, but a Burnham influenced document that is the culmination of a group of men and some women who felt that the development of Chicago needed a guiding hand by those who had a shared interest in seeing it prosper.

What you won’t get out of this book is a solid understanding of how the original document resulted in the Chicago of today. Harris himself says this might be too daunting of a task, but would be interesting. He does go into the influence the document has had on later important Chicago planning works, but that’s largely contained in the last five pages.

The book is interesting probably only for the most hardcore lovers of Chicago architecture and history, but is most likely support reading for graduate students in Urban Planning fields.
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