The Architecture of Daniel H. Burnham

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Daniel H. Burnham was a very influential American architect in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s. He helped rebuild Chicago after the Great Fire, helped develop the modern skyscraper, and helped revolutionize urban planning. His plan to redesign Chicago still influences designs today of modern cities, and his “Flat Iron” building is still one of the most well-known buildings of the twentieth century.

Daniel H. Burnham was born just outside of New York City on September 4, 1846. When Daniel was nine years old, he and his family moved from New York to Chicago, Illinois where he would finish out his childhood and graduate from a public high school. In his early years of adult hood, Daniel applied for college but was rejected. After that, he worked as a retail salesman, mined for gold in Nevada and even tried running for a seat in Illinois’ State Senate.

In his early twenties, Burnham started working as an apprentice for William Le Baron Jenney, a leading architect in Chicago. In 1872 Burnham moved from Jenney’s firm to Carter, Drake, and Wight Firm, where he worked as a draftsman. During this time, he met his future business partner, John Wellborn Root. After a year of working at the Carter, Drake, and Wight firm, Burnham and Root started their partnership, and business flourished after the Great Chicago Fire. They were the main firm that helped rebuild Chicago, and from 1873 to 1891 they designed and helped construct 165 private residences and 75 buildings of varying purposes. Many of their buildings were heavily influenced by European designs. Exteriors were derived from the lavish yet simple ideas of ancient Greek and Roman monuments. Due to the high demand of office space in central Chicago, the firm adapted more modern desi...

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... cities could be and they helped revolutionize urban planning. Even today his ideas about urban and regional planning “remained influential as a way to accommodate work, home, and recreation in close proximity to each other” (Gale Encyclopedia).

Works Cited

"Burnham, Daniel Hudson." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. 1999. Retrieved April 10, 2011 from

Daniel H. Burnham. (2011). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from

Daniel H Burnham. (2011) Flatiron Building. Retrieved from

Sullivan, Louis, The Autobiography of an Idea, Press of the American Institute of Architects, Inc, 1924. Retrieved April 10, 2011 from
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