Burnham and Root

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Works Monadnock Building, at Chicago, Illinois, 1889 to 1891.

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Burnham and Root

(John Wellborn Root b. Lumpkin, Georgia 1850; d. 1891; Daniel Hudson Burnham b. Henderson, New York 1846; d. Heidelburge, Germany 1912)

John Wellborn Root was born in Lumpkin, Georgia, and raised in Atlanta. When Union troops occupied Atlanta in 1864, Root went to Liverpool, England to study at the Clare Mount School. In 1866, he returned to the United States and in 1869 he graduated in civil engineering from New York University. For the next several years, he worked in a series of offices in both New York and Chicago.

Daniel Burnham was born in Henderson, New York in 1846. He studied at the New Church School in Waltham, Massachusetts and received private tutoring. He worked for William Le Baron Jenney in his Chicago office for a short time. After several failed attempts in other businesses, he eventually joined the firm of Carter, Drake and Wright.

Burnham and Root first met in 1872 in the Chicago offices of Carter, Drake, and Wright where both worked as draftsmen. In 1873 the two established a partnership that successfully utilized the idealism of Root and the pragmatism of Burnham.

During their eighteen years together, Burnham and Root designed and built private houses, office buildings, apartment buildings, railroad stations, warehouses, schools, hospitals, and churches. Burnham developed and managed the office organization while Root headed the design department.

Although the firm had a steady supply of residential commissions, their most memorable works are a series of 'big buildings for big business'. Their best known buildings have been celebrated for the inclusion of pioneering structural components, the detailed treatment of surface, and the handling of interior and exterior volumes.

After Root's death in 1891, Burnham concentrated on town and area planning. Burnham died in Heidelburg in 1912.

Adolf K Placzek. Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects. Vol. 1. London: The Free Press, 1982. ISBN 0-02-925000-5. NA40.M25.

Dennis Sharp. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Architects and Architecture. New York: Quatro Publishing, 1991. ISBN 0-8230-2539-X. NA40.I45. p33.

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