What's missing from the Burnham Plan centennial

Folks around Chicago are getting ready to observe the centennial of Dan Burnham’s 1909 “Plan of Chicago.” We’ve all heard about it, but who has actually read it?

Not me, so I figured I would borrow a copy from the Chicago Public Library.  Not the 1909 original, of course, but there were reprints in 1970 and 1993.   But although CPL has several copies, apparently none of them circulate.  No problem, this is a 1909 document, so it should be free of copyright.  But as far as I can tell, nobody has placed it on-line.  Sounds like a good project for the Plan of Chicago Centennial Initiative

I did spend a little time reviewing a noncirculating copy.  There’s all kinds of wonderful stuff, but I focused on the final chapter.  “Legal Aspects of the Plan of Chicago,” by Walter L. Fisher, is where issues of financing are discussed.   Except for the railroad terminals, there was no indication of funding by anything other than the real estate tax, applied equally to land and improvements.  Fisher did note that, in some places, public authorities could acquire more land than needed for the improvement, and sell the surplus to help capture some of the benefit, but this wouldn’t be feasible in Chicago.

Thanks to Robert Piper for alerting me to this project.

2 thoughts on “What's missing from the Burnham Plan centennial”

  1. Dear Mr. George-

    Look no further, the complete Plan of Chicago is on-line as part of the On-Line Enyclopedia of Chicago, as is an excellent essay by Carl Smith:



    The 1970 and 1993 reprints are excellent and duplicate the plan in its entirety. A number of Centennial Partners are working together to publish more economical version of the plan for purchase by a larger audience and the focus of region-wide study groups.

    I would also encourage you to visit http://www.burnhamplan100.org for more information about plans for the upcoming Centennial.


    Laurie Scott

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.