Proposed Twelfth Street Boulevard

This dramatic illustration, which appeared in the Plan of Chicago, showcased Burnham’s radical proposal for the reorganization of the city’s network of passenger travel lines. The Plan called for a widening of 12th Street (Roosevelt Road today) and a concentration of passenger terminals that would front on it. The caption notes that intersecting with this portion of 12th Street would be a diagonal thoroughfare that would extend to the proposed civic center complex. Consistent with the planners’ desire to hide the more unsightly aspects of transportation facilities, the passenger station complex would be built on two levels (as in Pittsburgh), with the tracks and platforms on the lower level, and attractive terminal buildings opening onto street level above. Twelfth street was also to be built on two levels, with commercial traffic hidden below. Such an arrangement would allow rail passengers, perhaps newly arriving in Chicago, to be introduced to the city via one of Burnham’s signature sweeping sightlines.

The railroads that would be served by the new south station resisted moving their operations to this new facility, and without the backing of the railroads political support for it evaporated The city council did vote in favor of the widening of 12th Street (later Roosevelt Road), which was completed in 1917—though on one level only. However, this vision of Burnham’s remained mostly incomplete, for neither the diagonal boulevard nor the complex of passenger stations were ever constructed.

“Chicago. Proposed Twelfth Street Boulevard at Its Intersections with Michigan Avenue and Ashland Avenue,” from Plan of Chicago (Chicago: The Commercial Club, 1909), pl. CXXI. The Newberry Library, Case folio W 999 .182