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An online and photo-panel exhibit created by the Newberry Library for the cnetennial of the Plan of Chicago

City and Region

The Heart of Chicago and Its Arteries

Burnham and Bennett lavished attention on "The Heart of Chicago." Most of the plan's magnificent illustrations depicted its proposed reconfigurations of the central lakefront, the Loop, and the Near West Side. Burnham and Bennett emphasized the "heart" because they believed that the region's health depended on a vibrant civic, commercial, and cultural center. Over the course of the 20th century, the trends that favored decentralized urban regions challenged this model. That Chicago's central business district remains vital is a feat that many credit in part to Burnham and Bennett's vision.

Jules Guerin, "Chicago. View, Looking West, of the Proposed Civic Center Plaza and Buildings, Showing It as the Center of the System of Arteries of Circulation and of the Surrounding Country," Plan of Chicago, plate CXXXII. Chicago History Museum

The monumental civic center that Burnham and Bennett planned at the intersection of Halsted and Congress Streets was never built. The arteries radiating out to the neighborhoods and suburbs did materialize, but with a twist Burnham might not have appreciated: this site is the famous (or infamous) Circle Interchange of the Dan Ryan, Kennedy, and Eisenhower Expressways.