Chicago Beginnings


The million strong settlers of Chica-guwa at the turn of the 19th century shortly after the world fair were inspired to do greatness by a few good men. In chapter 8 of "Forever Open, Clear and Free: Daniel Burnham makes a Plan," the political organization between the state and federal legislature was orchestrated by the successful architect. Burnham began the work of persuading the merchant and railroad communities to come together by publishing and speaking about his plans. Even though Chicago’s narration is a century old, the words hold true today. The lakefront parks & museum causeway create a vibrant public space, the still beautiful center of our city. Prophetically, the developmental sprawl of skyscrapers, towers, commerce, residence, and culture wind their windy ways back to that heart of the city.

“This is the greatest day, barring none, in Chicago’s history. It marks a new era. It is the beginning of the making of Chicago. It will be remembered later that it was this day which gave the city the most beautiful waterfront in the world.”

~ Charles Wacker ~ July 21st, 1919

By 1930 Soldier field was built, and rebuilt larger after a decade; the Art and Field Museums came up; Buckingham fountain was promenaded; absorbed Lincoln Park was made public; boating clubs were moved away from the public waterfront… All this was made possible by the high hopes, noble works, and logical diagraming of Burnham’s first plans.

 

Title: Burnham & Addams:

What were their contributions to Chicago?

Star-date: 20170616

Location: 41.6597782, -87.985758

 

On May 27th 1933, FDR opened a Chicago fair lighted by the star Arcturus exactly 240 trillion miles away, so that its light had left the star at the time of the first Columbian Exposition opening in 1893. It was a spectacular extravaganza. There were boobs and bobs. More than 50 million people came to visit Chicago after the Magnificent mile first laid its foundations…

A dark-side also shadows all this fame. Other heroes remain under-sung. Jane Addams of the Hull House, for example, whose social foundations became the hope and light for thousands of immigrants to the USA, and especially for women and children. In "What would Jane Say?" the white-male dominated power structure is critiqued. Business elites, tycoons, and railroads move with self-interest; they have looted the public by not paying taxes and playing politics. Jane Addams voice brings institution building, advocates acculturation for the migrated masses to Chicago, and better housing and school conditions…

The sociological and educational endeavors carried out by the Hull House are worthy of another post altogether. Such are the great ethical and social undertakings of Addams, a woman well beyond her time.

The Hull House could boast of the most refined ‘intellectual accoutrements’ in Chicago in the early 20th century: art, music, debates, lectures, day-care, civic clubs, naturalization classes, homemaking, hygiene, cooking, bookbinding, pottery, metal-working, printing, and of course the modern-day bastion of the “bohemian-bourgeoisie,” the coffee house. These weave together the fabric of a tightly knit social capital, a functional network for Chicagoans new and old.

It seems the divide between the two schools of thought: Addams and Burnham is one of building the physical infrastructure for the people on one hand, or building institutions, creating welfare, and developing a community for all people on the other.

The museums and parks created through Burnham’s plans are still open to the public at large (2017), celebrated tourist attractions. A century ago, they were called 'elitist clubs.' Naturally, the injustice of initial decades had more to do with a psychological change in the social consciousness of Chicagoans, and Americans at large, than with great city planning.

Addams work at the Hull house brought perspective to the plights of the peoples’ housing, sanitation, public baths, water, neighborhood development, economic conditions, and an ability to organize at various levels of society. Today, extending from the Hull House network of knowledge, advise, and support confronting the most pressing issues of her time, from women’s suffrage to slavery, equal rights, and immigration, social justice work still continues.

In conclusion, both perspectives of development: the physical places and green spaces are necessary along-side human and institution building. Together they welcome the masses to Chicago, a sanctuary city...


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