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Responses to the Plan

The City Beautiful movement in general, and the Plan of Chicago of 1909 in particular, influenced planning in cities large and small across America. Civic centers figured prominently in nearly all these plans, but so did a regional perspective that sought to improve transportation networks and manage growth. Further, by the 1920s, the City Beautiful approach gave way to a more practical orientation, as the sheer cost of beaux-arts monuments and the rise of the automobile moved planning in new directions.

This evolution in planning is illustrated in the cases of Seattle (1911), Minneapolis (1917), and New York (1929). Like Chicago, each city had grown quickly in a relatively unregulated fashion, spurring concern among elite reformers about the effects of a dirty, overbuilt, unplanned city on problems ranging from public health to public order.

Virgil Bogue’s Plan of Seattle (1911) envisioned a grand civic center and an extensive set of transportation plans. But potential costs and a clause in the plan suggesting it was binding frightened voters, who rejected it by nearly a 2-1 margin. In Minneapolis, Edward H. Bennett’s Plan of Minneapolis (1917) sought to connect a beaux-arts civic plaza and the city’s Lake District, itself to be a vast park, with a grand diagonal boulevard along which future development could be channeled. The plan’s grandiosity foretold its fate; the public found the plan excessive in scale and cost for its Midwestern sensibilities. By the 1920s, the City Beautiful movement had waned, but regional needs remained as the automobile emerged as the most potent force on the built environment. The Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs (1929), authored by a committee chaired by Frederic A. Delano, involved shaping infrastructure to make an already sprawling metropolitan region more efficient and coherent. New York’s regional plan emphasized, for example, additional bridges and tunnels to link boroughs and municipalities, and the preservation of broad natural areas in between communities. In broad strokes, much of this plan would indeed be implemented. The City Beautiful vision of European elegance had given way by 1929 to what many call the “City Practical,” a planning philosophy guided more by technocratic expertise than by aesthetics.



Bennett, Edward H., and Andrew Wright Crawford. The Plan of Minneapolis, Prepared Under the Direction of the Civic Commission. Minneapolis: The Civic Commission, 1917.

Berner, Richard C., Seattle in the Twentieth Century. Seattle: Charles Press, 1991.

Blackford, Mansel G. The Lost Dream: Businessmen and City Planning on the Pacific Coast, 1890–1920. Columbus, OH, 1993.

Bogue, Virgil G., Plan of Seattle: Report of the Municipal Plans Commission Submitting Report of Virgil G. Bogue, Engineer, 1911. Seattle: Lowman & Hanford Co., 1911.

Danielson, Michael N., and Jameson W. Doig. New York: The Politics of Urban Regional Development. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.

Fishman, Robert. The American Planning Tradition: Culture and Policy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Freestone, Robert, ed., Urban Planning in a Changing World: The Twentieth Century Experience. London: E & FN Spon, 2000.

Hall, Peter. Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988.

Gordon, David L.A. “The Other Author of the 1908 Plan of Chicago,” Planning Perspectives, 25, 2 (April 2010).

Lanegran, David A. The Lake District Of Minneapolis: A History of the Calhoun-Isles Community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

Johnson, D. A. Planning the Great Metropolis: The 1929 Regional Plan of New York and its Environs. London: Routledge, 1995.

Oredson, Vincent. “Planning at City: Minneapolis, 1907-17.”  Minnesota History 33 (Winter 1953).

Peterson, Jon A. The Birth of City Planning in the United States, 1840–1917. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

Reagan, Patrick D. Designing a New America: The Origins of New Deal Planning, 1890-1943. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.

Wilson, William H., “How Seattle Lost the Bogue Plan: Politics versus Design,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 75, 4 (October 1984).

Wright, Tom. “The Regional Plan Association: A Civic Planning Model for New York,” The Urbanist (Vol. 526, August 2013).



Bennett, Edward H., “General Plan of Minneapolis, Minnesota showing a complete street and park system, prepared for the Civic Commission of Minneapolis, 1917.” The Minnesota Historical Society.

Bennett, Edward H. and Andrew Wright Crawford. “The Plan of Minneapolis, Prepared Under the Direction of the Civic Commission.” American Libraries Digital Archive.

Bogue, Virgil G. Plan of Seattle: Report of the Municipal Plans Commission submitting Report of Virgil G. Bogue, Engineer, 1911. Seattle: Lowman & Hanford Co., 1911. Accessible on

Delano, Frederic A. et al, Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs, Vol. 1: The Graphic Regional Plan: Atlas and Description.;view=1up;seq=13

Minnesota Historical Society, “Collections Up Close: The City Beautiful.”

Official Website of the Regional Plan Association: