Study for Edens Superhighway at Cicero Avenue

Since Burnham’s time, countless numbers of impressionistic “studies” such as this 1940s rendering of the proposed Edens Expressway have been produced by city planners, architects, and planning consultants for the state, county, and city officials and legislators who would underwrite the cost of expensive infrastructural projects. Such views, in contrast with technical engineering diagrams, helped make the proposed projects comprehensible and attractive to the general public. The sketch, prepared by the Cook County Highway Department, depicts a stretch of the superhighway as it passes over Cicero Avenue and the North Branch of the Chicago River in the Forest Glen neighborhood. Many characteristics of this now familiar type of highway were cutting edge when this drawing was created. These include grade separations to eliminate direct intersections and a grassy median that divides opposing streams of traffic. The pastoral aesthetic of the rendering emphasizes mobility and freedom from the congested city that expressways were expected to provide to metropolitan residents. The Edens Expressway was among the nation’s first limited access superhighways. As in the previous photograph, the representation of modern, streamlined roadways conveyed a human mastery of the landscape. Costing more than $22 million, the expressway’s six lanes of traffic stretched sixteen miles from northern Chicago to the Lake-Cook county line when it opened in 1951.



Chicago Plan Commission. Proposed Expressway Development Program (Initial Stage). Chicago, Chicago Plan Commission, 1943.

Foster, Mark S. From Streetcar to Superhighway: American City Planners and Urban Transportation, 1900-1940. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981.

Jackson, Kenneth T. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the Unites States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Jakle, John. “Landscapes redesigned for the Automobile.” The Making of the American Landscape, ed. Michael P. Conzen. London; HarperCollins Academic, 1990.

Kramer, Eugene. Planning and Building Expressways in the Chicago Area: A Brief Description of the Governmental Apparatus. 1958. Chicago: Chicago Area Transportation Study, 1958.

Lewis, Tom. Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life. New York: Viking Press, 1997.

McShane, Clay. Down the Asphalt Path: The Automobile and the American City. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.



Melosi, Martin V. “Automobile in American Life and Society: The Automobile Shapes the City”. University of Michigan.

“Study for Edens Superhighway at Cicero Avenue.” McNally and Quinn Collection. Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago