Session at the 108th College Art Association of America Annual Conference

Lindsay E. Shannon, North Central College and Mary Ruth Springer, Jacksonville State University 

Since the Great Fire of 1871, Chicagoans have contributed to their city’s vast urban development from the commercial downtown to the city’s beloved neighborhoods. By the time Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett completed the Plan of Chicago for the Commercial Club in 1909, civic leaders, elected officials, and philanthropic and charitable organizations were already shaping the city’s built environment. Whether elite clubs or self-made Chicagoans, civic-minded people have played an influential role in mediating the forces that have contributed to the city’s urban development. Such entrepreneurs, activists, philanthropists, and politicians as William Ogden, Jane Addams, Marshall Field, Martin Ryerson, Charles Wacker, Angeline Jackson, and the Daley family have contributed to Chicago’s built environment alongside community groups, for better or worse. From Ogden’s railroads to Addams’s Hull House to Yerkes’s “L” to Weinert’s Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument to Burnham’s lakefront to the OBAC’s Wall of Respect to Millennium Park, the city’s continual transformation has been substantially shaped by its citizens. From “hog butcher of the world” to “the city that works,” Chicago’s urban biography challenges historians, artists, architects, and preservationists to read the city as a product of capitalism, philanthropy, social reform, tourism, and sustainability. This session invites a wide range of papers on how Chicago’s built environment is shaped by civic debate, political involvement, environmental factors, philanthropic patronage, and more. Topics may range from the historical to the contemporary, including buildings, monuments, public art, parks, housing developments, and urban renewal projects.