Burnham and Root

  • American

Burnham and Root was an extraordinary Chicago architectural firm established by Daniel H Burnham and John Root. Burnham and Root are notable for engineering the skyscraper and starting the City Beautiful architectural movement. - AsNotedIn

Notable Position Person From To
Architect Charles B Atwood
Principal John Wellborn Root 1873 1891
Architect Walter C Root 1879 1887
Principal Daniel H Burnham 1873
Architect in Training William J Brinkmann
Architect Dwight H Perkins 1893
Theordore Wells Pietsch 1891
Draftsman, Superintendent of buildings for the 1893 World's Columbia Exposition George C Nimmons 1897
Themes with Burnham and Root


Y/M/D Description Association Composition Place Locale Food Event
Y/M/D Description Association Composition Place Locale Food Event
Architect Reliance Building Chicago
Architect Sydney Kent House Chicago
Architect Pacific National Bank Building Tacoma
Architect Society for Savings Building Cleveland
1874/00/00 John B Sherman house built at 2100 S Prairie (demolished 1936) Architect BF Goodrich Company Showroom Chicago
1879/00/00 Old Stone Gate of Chicago Union Stockyards built Architect Old Stone Gate of Chicago Union Stockyards Chicago
1883/04/00 Milwaukee Club narrows down the designs for their new club building to two proposals: one from Edward Townsend Mix and one by Burnham and Root. Edward T Mix will ultimately supervise the construction of Burnham and Root's design. Architect Milwaukee Club Milwaukee
1885/00/00 Pearson house is built for lumber baron, James H Pearson. Architect James H Pearson House Chicago
1885/00/00 Daniel Burnham and John Root receive commission Architect Rookery Building Chicago
1888/00/00 Offices of Burnham and Root Architects Rookery Building Chicago World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago
1890/00/00 Construction begins on the ten story, steel framed, Mills Building in San Fransisco. Architect Mills Building and Tower San Francisco
1891/00/00 Built Architectural firm Keokuk Union Depot Keokuk
1891/00/00 Built Architect of north half of building Monadock Building Chicago
1893/05/01 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago opens with a ribbon cutting ceremony at Festival Hall Architect Jackson Park Historic Landscape District and Midway Plaisance Chicago World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago


In 1871, following the devastating Chicago fire, which destroyed much of the city, John Wellborn Root went to Chicago, summoned by architect Peter Wight, who had recently become junior partner of the firm of Carter, Drake, and Wight. Wight installed Root within the drafting department. It was there that Root met Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912) and in 1873, these two men formed one of the greatest partnerships in the history of modern architecture. Although their early years were lean, the firm gradually acquired various important commissions. Root, serving as chief designer of the firm, was primarily responsible for much of the firm's originality in building design and function.

During the 1880's, Chicago experienced great building activity. It was within this decade, that the firm became responsible for many of the city's most outstanding public and commercial structures. Early Burnham and Root works in Chicago include the Moutauk Block, 1881-82, the Rial to Building, 1885-88, and the renowned Rookery Building 1885-88, erected during the transition from masonry to skeletal construction.

Burnham and Root became nationally prominent and contributed to a vast number of building designs in other American cities, including San Francisco, Cleveland and Kansas City. In Kansas City, the firm furnished plans for the Midland Hotel, begun in 1886 at Seventh and Walnuts (demolished). That same year, a competition was held for the design of the second Kansas City Board of Trade Building. Architects from all over the United States submitted plans which were subsequently awarded to Burnham and Root. On the building's completion in 1888, the Board of Trade was the first large building and earliest fire-proof structure in the city (razed 1968).

Additional Kansas City designs executed by the Chicago firm included the Y.M.C.A. Building constructed in 1887 at East Ninth and Locust Streets (razed 1973). The American National Bank was under construction from 1886-88 (demolished). In 1887-88, the James L. Lombard residence on Norledge Avenue was erected. That same year construction began on the Grand Avenue Station, commissioned by the Kansas City Belt Railway (demolished).

Other exceptional structures of Burnham and Root in Chicago and elsewhere, included the San Francisco Chronicle Building, 1887-90, the Rand-McNally Building in Chicago, 1888-90, and the Fidelity Trust Company, in Tacoma, Washington, 1889-91. Chicago's Monadnock Block, 1889-92, was one of Root's most challenging designs. The Honadnock, combining various Egyptian influences, was the last of the great line of load-bearing masonry structures and remains one of the most impressive designs in the evolution of large modern office buildings. The immense Masonic Temple Building, erected in 1890-92, and scaling twenty stories, was the largest of Root's works.

During the planning for the World's Columbian Exposition which was incorporated in Chicago in 1890, John W. Root was chosen as Consulting Architect with Daniel H. Burnham selected as Chief of Construction. Roots untimely death in 1891, forced the Exposition's plans to be completed by Burnham with the fair's eventual opening in 1893. The death of John Wellborn Root brought to a close, a major period of architectural innovation in America. - NRHP Registration

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