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In the decades after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Daniel Burnham and John Wellborn Root changed the character and aesthetics of architecture in Chicago. The two met while working as apprentices at the Chicago architecture firm of Carter, Drake, and Wight. In 1873 they started their own firm.

While their early buildings were primarily homes for wealthy clients, they soon established themselves as designers of tall buildings. Using innovative “floating” raft foundations to compensate for the poor soil conditions in Chicago and complex hybrid structural systems, their buildings pushed the limits of materials and technology available in the late 19th century.

The partnership ended prematurely when Root contracted pneumonia and died in 1892 while working on plans for pavilions at the World’s Columbian Exposition. Architectural historians still speculate about the innovative structures Root might have designed had he lived past the age of 41.