Geurin, Proposed Boulevard to Connect the North and South Sides of the River (1909)

Jules Guerin’s view of the boulevard that would become North Michigan Avenue (later popularly known as the Magnificent Mile) is strikingly similar to the photograph of the Paris’s Avenue Bois de Boulogne (previous image). But it did represent a departure from earlier plans that reflected the coming of the automobile. The avenue was to be a double-decked roadway as it crossed the Chicago River, an application of one of the more distinctive—and as it turned out, successful—principles of Burnham and Bennett’s plan for central city circulation. To hide unsightly commercial traffic, the plan called for the construction of an upper roadway that would be devoted to pedestrian and light traffic, while commercial vehicles and cross traffic would be diverted safely out of view to a lower deck. The well-ornamented upper deck would thus be open to pleasing and expansive vistas. Guerin’s rendering suggests that the extended Michigan Avenue (north of the Chicago River it would obliterate the former Pine Street) should be framed by uniform facades of modest height. The actual boulevard, as developed after 1920, instead became a showcase for the skyscraper. Nevertheless, the double-deck plan was executed for a stretch of several blocks essentially as Burnham and Bennett drew it up.

 

Julies Geurin, “Proposed Boulevard to Connect the North and South Sides of the River; View Looking North From Washington Street,” from Plan of Chicago (Chicago: The Commercial Club, 1909), pl. CXII. Chicago History Museum, ICHi-67353