One hundred thirteen years ago yesterday the Chicago Plan was feted at the Congress Hotel as yesterday’s blog indicated. That great plan, as was mentioned, was the product of the great firm of Daniel Burnham, who offered all of his firm’s resources, including the talent of Edward H. Bennett, giving the plan to the city without charging for its creation.
|Chicago Tribune, 1/10/1942|
Today in 1942 Edward Probst, the last remaining member of those glory days died at his home in River Forest.
In gearing up for the intensive, all-consuming effort that Mr. Burnham put into the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, the architect appointed Ernest R. Graham, as his chief assistant. At the close of the fair Burnham was forced to downsize and consolidate his operations. As part of this process he selected Mr. Graham as his sole partner, Charles B. Atwood as his chief designer, and E. M. Shankland as his chief engineer.
This worked for over a decade, but by 1908 with Atwood dead and the work clearly taking a toll on Burnham, under the direction of Graham the office was divided into three departments: design, working plans, and superintendence. Edward Probst was put in charge of the second of the three departments, having served as chief of the Drafting Department for four years. Probst had been with the firm for close to ten years at this point. He was born in Chicago in 1870 and began his architectural career in 1893, working in the drafting room of Robert G. Pentecost.
Sally A. Kitt Chappell wrote in her amazing Architecture and Planning of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White . . . “Good at details, Probst had the reputation of being an exacting ‘task master.’ He oversaw three department heads: George Hubbard, in charge of plumbing and heating; Joachim Giaver and later Magnus Gundersen, in charge of structural engineering; and William Stevens, in charge of architectural drafting.”
|The Merchandise Mart of 1930, arguably the greatest work produced by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White (JWB Photo)|
When Daniel Burnham died in 1912 his sons joined with Ernest Graham to form Graham, Burnham & Co. Five years later Daniel and Hubert Burnham formed Burnham Brothers. Far more successful was the other half of the original Burnham partnership—that composed of Ernest R. Graham, Peirce Anderson, Howard Judson White, and Edward Mathias Probst. For nearly 50 years this was the largest architectural firm in the world.
Upon the death of the last surviving partner in 1942, Edward Probst’s son took over what was left of the firm. Versions of the firm survived until 2006 when the once grand alliance, at this point under the direction of Robert Surman, finally closed its doors.