The Burnham Plan Centennial - Bold Plans, Big Dreams

About the Centennial

The Plan of Chicago

Images & Quotes from the Plan of Chicago

One hundred years ago, Daniel Burnham, Edward Bennett and the Commercial Club of Chicago established a bold new plan for the Chicago metropolitan region.

Daniel Burnham is best known for his admonition to “make no little plans.” He studied the great cities of the world and developed an approach to urban planning that was distinctive in being comprehensive, systematic and regional. Language from the 1909 Plan provides principles that continue to guide planning and development in the Chicago region today.

The Plan focused on six major physical elements:


improving the lakefront


developing a highway system


improving the freight and passenger railway systems


acquisition of an outer park system


arranging systematic streets; and


creation of a civic center of cultural institutions and government.

Following the Plan's focuses, the Centennial identified its own six principles to guide the region in 2009 and beyond:




transportation tied to good land use


public transit and freight


ecosystem and energy


connect people to opportunity; and


one region, one future.


Results of the Plan

Burnham and his associates conceived the Plan of Chicago as a blueprint for action, and promoted it widely and effectively to business, civic and government leaders, and even to eighth graders through the Wacker Manual. In 1909, the civic leaders behind the Burnham Plan launched an extensive marketing campaign that lasted for decades. Results included North Michigan Avenue, Wacker Drive and Chicago’s spectacular lakefront parks, and regional forest preserves.

photos of metropolitan region

In this tradition, 2009 has been a moment in time to reinvigorate public interest for Burnham’s vision of the region, and reinvest in legacy projects that will enhance our quality of life in the next century. [Green Legacy Projects]


The Centennial of Burnham and Bennett’s monumental volume generated a variety of important contributions to Chicago’s planning literature, including The Plan of Chicago Centennial Edition, Lambda Alpha International's The Plan of Chicago @ 100 and the illustrated history Beyond Burnham. [MORE]

Without Bounds or Limits

This on-line exhibition presents a selection of original drafts, letters, meeting minutes and images related to the Plan of Chicago, from the collections at the Ryerson & Burnham Archives at the Art Institute of Chicago. [MORE]

Make Big Plans

image of Daniel BurnhamThe Make Big Plans online exhibit starts with Burnham's vision for the modern metropolis and graphically documents how city living changed in the decades following the Plan of Chicago's publication. This Web gallery was adapted from a 10-panel exhibit curated by the Newberry Library and hosted by more than 60 public libraries in the three-state region .  [MORE]

The Burnham Plan Centennial
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