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A Culture of Civic Leadership

At the time of the publication of the Plan of Chicago in 1909, Chicago was yet a young city by the standard of most major metropolises around the world, including American urban centers such as New York and Philadelphia. The historical forces shaping the city through the nineteenth century–the Great Chicago Fire and the rebuilding of the central city that followed; rapid industrial expansion and economic development; and unprecedented population growth–gave Chicago’s wealthy elites opportunities to take on roles of civic leadership. Prominent men and women turned their economic resources, professional and personal networks, and standing in the community to promote a wide range of social and cultural organizations, as well as bricks-and-mortar civic enhancements, in the later years of the nineteenth century. Their civic leadership helped pave the way for a large-scale municipal improvement projects like the 1909 Plan of Chicago.

 

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