Architect Daniel Burnham (1846–1912) was the director of works for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair) in 1893. The exposition was also home to the first World’s Parliament of Religions, an interfaith congress that was organized by another Swedenborgian, Charles Carroll Bonney (1831–1903). The World’s Parliament of Religions marked the first formal meeting of religious leaders from East and West, including the Hindu Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), who was a key figure in introducing the Hindu philosophies of Vedanta and yoga to the United States.
Burnham took a leading role in the creation of master plans for the development of a number of cities, including Chicago and downtown Washington, D.C. He also designed several famous buildings, including the Flatiron Building in New York City and Union Station in Washington D.C.
“Initiated in 1906 and published in 1909, Burnham and his co-author Edward H. Bennett prepared “The Plan of Chicago“, which laid out plans for the future of the city. It was the first comprehensive plan for the controlled growth of an American city, and an outgrowth of the City Beautiful movement. The plan included ambitious proposals for the lakefront and river and declared that every citizen should be within walking distance of a park. Sponsored by the Commercial Club of Chicago, Burnham donated his services in hopes of furthering his own cause.
Plans and conceptual designs of the south lakefront from the Exposition came in handy, as he envisioned Chicago being a “Paris on the Prairie”. French-inspired public works constructions, fountains, and boulevards radiating from a central, domed municipal palace became Chicago’s new backdrop. Though only parts of the plan were actually implemented, it set the standard for urban design, anticipating future need to control unexpected urban growth, and continued to influence the development of Chicago long after Burnham’s death.”
Watch a trailer for a full-length documentary about the architect, Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City, or check out the creepy-and-true The Devil in the White City, which intertwines Burnham’s story of innovation with the dark story of killer H.H. Holmes.
Read about other well-known Swedenborgians and Swedenborg’s cultural influence.