"When Barack Obama takes the oath of office Tuesday, he'll look down the National Mall (left) and toward an echo of a historic landscape that once stood not far from his house on Chicago's South Side: The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, called "the White City" (below) for its spectacular ensemble of temporary, Beaux-Arts buildings
The fair, masterminded by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, was a milestone in the history of urban planning, as well as a reaction to the soot-covered, "Gray City" of skyscrapers that had just arisen in the Loop and drawn criticism for blotting out the sky and clogging streets with traffic
Around a watery basin, Burnham and his fellow planners drew together large, low-slung exposition halls that shared a common height and classical vocabulary. Flanking one end of the basin was a domed administration building. Rising out of the other end was a colossal gilded statue, "The Republic," meant to symbolize national unity.
If that now-vanished tableau and its dazzling combination of architecture, water features and sculpture sounds like the portion of the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, it is no coincidence."