Shortly after completing his work on the McMillan Plan for Washington, D. C., Burnham won his next planning commission. George K. Nash, the governor of Ohio, appointed Burnham, Arnold M. Brunner, and John M. Carrère to prepare a scheme for a civic center in Cleveland. The project was prompted by the city’s need for a new federal building, city hall, public library and railway station, as well as the desire to reinvigorate its ailing lakefront.
In conceiving the arrangement, Burnham, Brunner, and Carrère took cues from the plans for the World’s Columbian Exposition and the National Mall in Washington. Like these precedents, the Cleveland plan shows public buildings arranged symmetrically around a long rectangular space, here to be planted with grass and trees. The buildings feature a cohesive neoclassical architectural vocabulary, uniform cornice heights, and axial alignments. The railroad station anchors the narrow end of the rectangle nearest the lake. The scheme also articulates an idea that would inform the Plan of Chicago: that civic buildings should be grouped together and prominently placed, separated from other building types such as office buildings, churches, schools, and manufacturing facilities. This strategy lent symbolic importance to the public buildings and, by extension, emphasized the centrality of both government and civic responsibility to urban life.
Brunner, Arnold. “Cleveland’s Group Plan.” Proceedings of the Eighth National Conference on City Planning, Cleveland, June 5-7, 1916. New York: National Conference on City Planning, 1916. http://urbanplanning.library.cornell.edu/DOCS/brunner.htm
Wilson, William H. The City Beautiful Movement. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.
Leedy, Walter C., Jr. “A "City Beautiful" Mall for Cleveland.” The Gamut 8 (1983), n.p. http://www.clevelandmemory.com/speccoll/gamut/1983w/ctt/gamut2.html
“Cleveland Group Plan,” in Plan of Chicago (Chicago: The Commercial Club, 1909), p. 25. The Newberry Library, Case folio W 999 .182