History, Reviews

Review: Smith, Plan of Chicago

jacket imageArt and architecture critic Kevin Nance wrote a noteworthy review of Carl Smith’s recent book, The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City for the January 7 Chicago Sun-Times. Praising the book for shedding new light on one of the most influential documents in the history of urban planning, Nance writes:

Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Chicago Plan is a primary text of the city’s architectural and urban planning circles, but it’s also a little like the Dead Sea Scrolls: a rare and exotic document that most people have heard of, many people know little about and even fewer have actually read.
Enter author Carl Smith, whose The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City is a concise and reader friendly introduction to the visionary and ambitious plan that helped shape much of the windy city as we know it today.

Nance’s article even offers some first hand testimonial from the experts:

“I’m very impressed with the book as a very accessible history of the plan and the conditions that led to its origin,” says Chicago cultural historian Tim Samuelson. “I’ve heard readers of the book talk about how happy they are to get some in-depth grasp of why the plan happened.”

And as Nance notes, Smith’s book also delivers a thorough examination of the developers of the plan themselves, “including various members of the Commercial Club, which sponsored and later aggressively marketed the plan. [Smith] explains their complicated motives, which included the fear that the burgeoning immigrant populations (and their growing involvement in the increasingly militant labor movement in the city of the Haymarket riots and the Pullman district) posed a looming threat—one that could perhaps be blunted if Chicago were more livable and beautiful.”
Smith was also interviewed by Steve Edwards on WBEZ’s Eight Forty-Eight radio program on January 16. The audio feed is available.