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Professor's Book Chosen for Chicago Read

"One Book, One Chicago" tabs Carl Smith's book on the Burnham Plan.

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September 8, 2009 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University's Carl Smith, the author of a book on Daniel Burnham and the remaking of Chicago at the turn of the 20th century, is the talk of the town.

"The Plan of Chicago:  Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City" is the fall 2009 selection of the "One Book, One Chicago" program, sponsored by the Chicago Public Library. 

Smith, the Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English & American Studies and professor of history in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will speak about the book at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Harold Washington Library Center, Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, 400 S. State St., Chicago. The lecture is free and open to the public.

"One Book, One Chicago" encourages all Chicagoans to read the same book simultaneously with related events, discussions and exhibits taking place around the city.

Smith traces the creation, promotion, implementation and heritage of the 1909 "Plan of Chicago," often called the Burnham Plan, after its principal author, legendary architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham. Burnham lived in Evanston from 1886 until his death in 1912, and among his firm's many buildings is Northwestern's Fisk Hall.

The "Plan" proposed many of Chicago's defining features -- lakefront parks and roadways, the Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier -- emphasizing that commercial cities can be both beautiful and functional.

Published in 2006, Smith's "The Plan of Chicago" received the Lewis Mumford Prize for Best Book in Planning History from the Society of American City, Regional, and Planning History.

Smith is also author of "Chicago and the American Literary Imagination, 1880-1920" (1984) and "Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman" (1994). Working in collaboration with Northwestern's Academic and Research Technologies group, he is curator for the Chicago History Museum's online exhibitions The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory and The Dramas of Haymarket.