Among Burnham and Bennett’s inspirations for the Chicago they envisioned in the Plan of Chicago were a number of European cities that had been laid out on a baroque grid system in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Of these, Berlin was one of the earliest, in particular a section, known then as Friedrichstadt, developed in the late-seventeenth century under the authority of Friedrich Wilhelm, “The Great Elector.” The central north-south artery of this section of the city was Friedrichstrasse, which was intersected by east-west thoroughfares such as Unter den Linden. This image, from a late nineteenth century greeting card, emphasized the order and symmetry of the Friedrichstadt section of Berlin in a view north up Friedrichstrasse from the old southern customs gate, Hallesches Tor, which had also been also known as Belle-Allianceplatz for several decades in the nineteenth century.
Berlin was an inspiration not just for Chicago, but also for several other cities that would build versions of a baroque street grid in later centuries. Friedrichstadt features prominently in Eugéne Hénard’s “Theoretical Diagram of the Streets of Berlin” in his Etudes sur les Transformation de Paris, which Burnham and Bennett saw fit to reproduce in the Plan (p. 91).
City views like this one were most accessible to middle- and working-class people, the vast majority of Berlin’s nineteenth-century population, in the form of postcards. This card reads, in the lower left, “Greetings from Berlin.”
See also: A Metropolitan Highway System
Girouard, Mark. Cities and People: A Social and Architectural History. New Haven: Yale, 1985.
Morini, Mario. Atlante di Storia Dell’Urbanistica (Dalla Preistoria all’inizio del Secolo XX), Milan: Editore Ulrico Hoepli, 1963.
Mumford, Lewis. The City in History. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1961.
Schulz, Günther, and Andreas Matschenz. Stadtpläne von Berlin 1652 bis 1920. Berlin: Verlag Gebr. Mann, 2002.
Berlin Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt (Senate Department for Urban Development and Environment), “Stadtplanerische Konzepte (City Planning Concepts)”: http://www.stadtentwicklung.berlin.de/planen/stadtplanerische_konzepte/leitbild_friedrichstadt/
“Hallesches Thor und Belle-Allianceplatz.” Postcard, Berlin, ca. 1890s. Private collection