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Charles Mulford Robinson.

Report of Charles Mulford Robinson for Fort Wayne civic improvement association online

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be restricted to genuinely retail garden produce business, and
that an architect be retained to make plans for an artistically
designed covered walk, with stands on either side, that shall
be an ornament to the neighborhood, in keeping with the city's
official quarter, and worthy of the municipal proprietorship.
With little white pillars and a red tiled roof, for example, it
could be made very attractive ; and by the free use of concrete
exceedingly easy to keep clean. Such a walk would make a
not unpleasant promenade, after market hours, on stormy, or
hot sunny days, from the City Hall to Washington Street.

As to the cost, the city has the land, with no need
at present to use it for , other purposes; the one-story
shelter would require little capital to build, and the rental
of the stalls should pay the interest, and a profit besides.
As to size, I think that in cities the retail public market has



56 Fort Wayne Ck'ic Juiproi'cinoil . Issociafioii

seen its best days. 'I'his has l)ecn tlic experience of more than
one munici]:)ahty — the use of the teleplione, the relatively low
prices offered in larg-e private markets, the Inisier lives of
women, tlie distance which wage earners are now likely to live
from the market, liaw all, no doubt, proved contributing" fac-
tors to this result. I dn not l)elieve that it would be wise to as-
sume heavy munici])al expense for the ])rovision of a large re-
tail ])ublic market.

The bulkier and wholesale public market business, how-
ever, continues as a trade necessity. If it can be located within
a reasonably convenient distance of the business section, and
yet not directly in its path, there is very great advantag'e.
For the accommodation of this I suggest the gradual prepara-
tion of the land, which is already city property, on the north
side of the St. Mary's river, across the Van Ruren Street
bridge. A pumping station occupies a few square feet, and all
the rest of the large area is now vacant.'

There may be immediate objection that the tract is too far
away and that it would be an admirable park site for the north
side. With reference to the latter point, the section north and
east of it is less than half a mile from T.awton Park, which has
been already developed as a park, which can be very much
better developed than it now is, and which, being of larger
size, is far preferable as a park. 1"he section southwest and
northwest of the tract is within a half mile of Swinney Park,
regarding which the same comments apply. The subway be-
neath the Lake Shore tracks would be as useful an approach
to the market as it could be to the park. The city cannot turn
all its property into parks, and when we come to discuss the
general ])ark ])ossibilities we shall see why other pieces of
property are preferable to this for additional park purposes.

As to market availability, other cities have found a con-
siderable advantage in locating such a market on a railroad line,
as this site is. In distance, it is only three-quarters of a mile
from the Court House, which, for the suggested wholesale
business, is close enougli to the center of the city, excellent



Fort Wayne Ck't'c Fiiif^roT'CDiciif .Issocialion 57

streets connecting it. Bounded by railroad and river on two
sides, its location is such as not to injure the neighborhood.
It is most accessible to leading coiuitry highways north and
west, and is as readily reached by all other country roads as
is the present site ; and as there naturally would be included in
it a provision for enough retail business to satisfy the local de-
mand, it is worth while to note that the proposed location is in
the sort of a home section that would be most likely to value
a public retail market. In short, this site would locate the
market where there never can be a neighborhood objection to
it, on a site sufficiently convenient to the merchants, who would
be its principal patrons, on a site of good size, and on one
publicly owned, and for which other equally good public use
cannot readily be found.

The preparation of this site, if undertaken all at once,
would be costly, liut a beginning will not cost nnicli, and after
that the work can go on gradually, liefore this Luul can be
put to use for anv purpose — i. e., before the city's considerable
investment here can be made to give returns in any way — a
dyke will have to be built. Common business sense suggests
that this be done. When the dike has been constructed, the
city can throw the ground open for dumping, and in a wonder-
fully short time the site will be found ready for the market.
With its development for that purpose, and the growth of
population in its neighborhood, there is no question that a local
retail business in garden produce would be done there. /\nd
to such extent as it is done there the present market will be
relieved.



58 Forf JVayiic Civic Improvement Association

RESIDENCE Streets.



Fort Wayne's residence streets are better than its busi-
ness thoroughfares. This does not only mean that they are
pleasanter to see, as should be expected, but tliat they arc bet-
ter adapted to their purpose. The poor rule of ])l:itting- nearly all
streets to a unif(jrni width, regardless of the traffic they are
likely to carry, has persisted with them as it has elsewhere ;
but it does less harm in the residence section than in the busi-
ness. This is because for residence purposes the streets are
almost always wide enough from lot line to lot line, while by
means of parking— that is, putting grass between walk and
curb — the roadways can be narrowed as much as desired.

Generally speaking, the city's residence streets are well
paved and their pavements are kept fairly clean. The recent
activity in sidewalk building has given them good walks,
though a mistake has been made in constructing" walks that in
many cases are too wide. On West Jefferson Street, for
instance, a six-foot walk — which is the walk of usual width
for a residence street — would have been sufficient. Some




An interesting photograph of a street in Toronto, in which on one side the walk is given a strip

of parking and on the other is next the curb. Though in the picture the perspective is

misleading, the distance from lot line to curb is the same in either case.

IVhich side of the street is handsomest ?



Fort Wayne Civic hnprovcuicnt Association 59




A sample of tree-lopping on a street in Fort Wayne



6o fori Jl'iiyiir Civic hiipro^'einciif Association

money could tluis have been saved and a better looking street
would have been secured. It is a rare residence street that
needs a paved sidewalk of more than six feet width, (jn
Jackson, and a few other streets, the walk has been laid next to
the curb, and such space as was left for street lawn has been
thrown into lot lawn. This is a mistake in jnds^ment that one
rarely hnds nowadays. The aesthetic loss must be obvious to
anybody who compares such a street with one havint;" a rib-
bon of greensward along each curb. lUit objection to the ])lan
is not based on a])pearance alone. The walk's location next to
the curb leaves pedestrians with no i)rotecting barrier from
mud and dust; and the addition which is seeminglv made to
private i)ro])erty is subtracted from public propertv. With the
exception, however, of these faults, the parking strips on the
residence streets of Fort Wayne are excellent. I have not often
been able to dismiss them with so little comment.

Idle trees are, and ought in even larger measure to be, the
glory of a city's residence streets, lint in I'^ort Wayne they
show the want of responsible and consistent care. For the best
street etTect they should be evenly and generouslv
s]iaced, they should on any clearly defined street
unit be of a single variety; they should have that
l)rotection from linemen, advertisers, disease and pests
which only niunicii)al control and expert knowledge
can insure. One of the most important actions Fort Wayne
can take, to make the city better to live in and to look at, is to
secure a comix-tent forester. He may act under the Board of
lAiblic W^orks, under the Park Commission, or in a separate
bureau ; but in any case his position ought to be absolutely
divorced from politics. Ordinances, it may be added, will not
save the trees, unless there is an official fearlessly and wisely
to enforce the ordinances.

The residence streets are marred by multitudes of poles.
( )f course to considerable extent this must be exjiected. but
in Fort Wayne there is not much need of it. The cit\'s alkw
system is so complete and excellent that llie wires can well



Fort U'iiyiic Cii'ic Tiuf^roi'cincut .Issocidtioii C)\

be carried throui;li tlicni. Tf this liad no other advantage, it
would at least save the street trees. Many trees of slow but
beautiful natural growth have been ruined by topping, in order
that they may not interfere with wires. But in the life of the city
the wires strung over the streets on poles present a temporary
condition, and it is foll\- to destroy the relatively permanent
Ijcauty of trees that the convenience of the moment may be
satisfied. Further, the side parking, in its prevalence and very
excellence, gives opportunity, even where there is no alley, for
burying" wires at relatively little cost, since it becomes unneces-
sary to rip up pavements. The southern section of Fairfield
Avenue in particular is a noble street, so handsomely paved and
curbed, and so enriched with beautiful lawns representing heavy
private expenditure, that it is absurd to allow it to be marred
by great poles burdened with countless wires. Incongruous,
too, on this street is the cheap and flimsy method of suspending
the street lights. They should have good standards.

Private lawns contribute particularly to the beauty of
Fort Wayne streets because of the general absence of front
fences and a considerable absence of line fences, in front of the
dwelling line. This is one of the charms of the city and is
to be encouraged and made even more universally the rule.
Omission or removal of fences is a simple thing for the house-
holders, saving rather than costing money, and in the act lies,
in American cities, one of the secrets of beautiful street and
city making. The humblest homes, even though lawns be un-
planted save with grass, gain a certain simple dignity that is
pleasing", if they be set back from the walk and left unenclosed
l)y fences. Back of the front building line, there may be all the
privacy one wants : and with Fort Wayne's deep lots quite as
much garden as most city dwellers have inclination and time
to care for.

It is a pity that with deep lots the houses are so often put
close to the street. On some of the older thoroughfares they
are almost at the walk line. Apart from the greater comfort
and attractiveness for those who live in the dwelling, if it be



62



I' art Wayne Civic Improvement Association



located well l)ack from the street, there is the greater beauty
imparted to the thoroughfare by the increased width such ac-
tion seems to contribute to the street ; and the appearance of
greater size and consequent value given to the property itself.
For when the house is close u])on the street the passer is prone
to assume that shallowness of lot is the explanation.

This setting- of houses forward when lots are deep is not,
however, an unusual phenomenon. And it has had always the
same meaning, which is one of sinister import to the city where
it is fotmd. It means a tendency to use for additional housing




Simple homes dignified by a selling of unenclosed fronl lawns. A sireet in Fori Wayne.

the back of the lot with alley frontage. Tenement and slum
conditions have their worst development under such circum-
stances, as the investigations lately made in Washington and
St. Louis conclusively prove. The beauty of the one city and
national interest in its development, and the unusual civic
pride and spirit of the other, were no i)roof against the creation
of breeding spots of disease and crime in the houses on the
backs of lots. Removed from the cleansing glare of pub-
licity, they become difficult to watch and control.



Foi't JVay>ic Civic Improvement Assoeiation 63

So long- as alleys are used for legitimate alley purposes —
that is, for what may be briefly summarized as the backdoor
service of street-fronting houses and buildings — they are a
valuable feature of the city plan. When dwellings are con-
structed to face on them, they become a serious menace. The
President's Homes Commission, reporting on Washington's
alley conditions to President Roosevelt, said : "By far the best
way to do with alley houses is to do away with the alleys by
converting them into minor streets." The commission calls at-
tention not only to the difificulty of supervision, but to the dan-
ger of having "scattered through the heart of the city" and
"really in very close contact with the best residences of the
city," the sort of population that is most likely to be found in
alley dwellings. As to the means of converting alleys into
minor streets, the legal and economic aspects of the question
and the examples of England and Germany in handling a like
problem, I shall do best to refer you to the long report of the
Homes Commission — to be obtained free on application — with
its full discussion. The danger may not seem to you serious
yet in Fort Wayne ; but it threatens and is sure to develop if
not checked.

Turning from the general to the particular, I shall re-
serve most of my suggestions for special residence streets to
that portion of the Report which will deal with the parks and
their connections. The jog in Lewis Street, where Hanna
crosses it, is unsightly and even dangerous ; but can be quite
easily corrected if action be taken promptly. The jog in Fair-
field Avenue at Brackenridge crossing is very unfortunate, a
long handsome street seeming to terminate as one goes north,
in the hideous brick wall of a two-story building. If one gets
around the corner of that building the avenue stretches at-
tractively on again. Such instances as these should give back-
bone to city officials in refusing to accept, in the new additions,
streets that do not properly connect with existing thorough-
fares. The beauty and convenience of the community as a
whole should be recognized as paramount to the profit of in-



64 r'ort Wayne Civic Improvement Association

dividual landholders. The more progressive cities are now, in
the better appreciation of city-planning, quite commonly tak-
ing such a stand. But this only applies, I should hasten to add,
to streets, as that term is usually understood. It does not apply
to those semi-public "Places" that, in their very informality
and picturesqucness, may lend charming distinction to a resi-
dential section.

At the intersection of East Creighton and South Hanna
Streets, the location of the Lutheran church is very fine. The



1




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A church [in Massachusetts' that has tittle garden space, but has made that little beautiful
with planting.

view through Creighton Avenue of its slender spire is one of
the best things in Fort Wayne. It conveys a suggestion that
has wide application and should be heeded. But generally
speaking, the churches of Fort Wayne have not that attractive
landscape setting which usually can be given to even the sim-
plest church on the commonplace lot, and which ought to be
given if our religion means anything.



Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association 65

The school yards, too, should be better developed. They
are scattered throughout the residence district and, as the
most numerous and most widely distributed bits of public
property, should set an example of adaptation to purpose, of
neatness, and of so much beauty as is compatible with their
use for play. In area, most of the Fort Wayne school yards are
too small ; and it should be reflected that if they are not large
enough to g'ive play space to the children, they are hardly worth
their cost. Economy would suggest, in such case, their elimin-
ation altogether — a backward step in popular education which
no city, however poor in purse or spirit, now considers — or
making them adequate. Just as authorities have determined
the minimum amount of cubic air per pupil which a school
room should provide, so it is agreed that at least thirty square
feet per pupil should be given in the school grounds. The
compactness with which Fort Wayne is built, comprising as it
does a general playground argument, makes particularly neces-
sary the adequacy of the school yards.

In the more outlying districts, the school yard should be
large enough for school gardens. A great deal is being done in
this direction, often under conditions less favorable than at
Fort Wayne ; and a great deal of helpful material has been
printed on the subject, including publications by the United
States Department of Agriculture. In fact the Association of
City and Town Superintendents of Indiana issued some years
ago a pamphlet on the subject which is full of suggestion.

Not only should the school yards as a class be larger, but,
I have said, they should be pleasanter to look upon. The fine
High School, for instance, is a striking example. What citizen
would put up a house of such value, or even a good looking
factory, and not improve the grounds? There should at the
very least be shrubs on the Lewis Street corners, and on either
side of the Lewis Street entrance. I append photographs giv-
ing an idea of the setting of a high school in Cambridge, Mass.,
and this is a fair example.



66



Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association



In Chicago, $150,000 is being expended tiiis year simply
in the adornment of schoolyards. Flowers and shrubs are
placed around the borders and against the building, where they
trespass on no play space. But it may be added that the work,
which has been in progress there for years, is exceedingly
popular with the children themselves, a rivalry in beauty of
grounds growing up among the schools that have been thus
improved. That there is set an example and stimulus to the




High School Grounds, Cambridge, Mass.



neighborhood, that the school becomes an inviting center and
that the child unconsciously learns to appreciate beauty, are
facts that need no telling. It is a curious circumstance that
among the smaller public buildings of Fort Wayne the fire-
houses are set in more attractively-kept lots than are the schools
— though the latter are supposed to stand for and to raise the
comnuuiity's ideals of culture.



Fort ]]'aync Civic Improvement Association



67



Very beautiful is the residential tract developed east of
Hoagland Avenue, between Pontiac and Killea Streets. Here
a lovely grove was not ruthlessly cut down, that bare lots
might be created, and characterless streets put through to be
])lanted laboriously with stripling trees. But with only a little
thinning the grove was left to make for city homes an ideal
setting and to offer in its beauty and success an example to
owners of other such tracts. To an inspiring but almost dan-




High School Grounds, Cambridge, .Mass.



gerous extent the development of the City Beautiful and
Pleasant lies with the owners of such residential tracts, as
from time to time these come into the market. That they
should do as was done in this case, and as seems now to be
promised in the new Lakeside district, cannot be too strongly
urged. In fact, the charming curving way, with its varying
play of light and shadow — now so little known in Fort Wayne
— cries out for development.



68 Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association

IMPROVEMENT OF THE PARKS.



Discussion of P'ort Wayne's parks, playgrounds and park
approaches, may properly be divided into two sections. In the
first we will consider the improvement of what Fort Wayne al-
ready has in this line ; in the second, the additions that are
needed in order to develop out of the present isolated units a
system.

It is well to recognize at once the two-fold function and
character of this kind of city property. Most persons will say
that a park is designed to be beautiful. So it is, but its purpose
is also actively to serve. Passive beauty alone must not be the
end sought in the system as a whole, and in an industrial city
particularly — much more, for example, than in a capital city —
there is need that the park system furnish recreative facilities.
So the "improvement" of existing park lands ought not to deal
simply with their landscape development.

Moreover, in presenting many suggestions as to the latter,
I would have it understood that these are not to take the place
of a carefully worked out landscape design. That is a neces-
sity for every park, however little or however large. The
smallest and least expensive park in Fort Wayne occupies land
worth a considerable sum of money. No intelligent citizen
would consider the construction of a house having the money
value of one of the parks without first securing from an archi-
tect a plan to build to. Yet it were better to do that than to at-
tempt to make a park without a competently ]irepared design.
For the house might have to satisfy only himself, while the
park should satisfy the best taste of the whole community ; and
if a door, or window, or partition in the house proved unsatis-
factory, it could be more quickly changed than can a great
tree, or a lake, or forest or meadow land. Finally, in a score or
so of years the house might be replaced ; the park is built for
centuries. To create a landscape is as technical a process as to



Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association



69



build a house ; and if one does not attempt the latter in happy-
go-lucky fashion, even for himself, one certainly should not
thus attempt the former for his own and following generations.
The suggestions I shall make have as their purpose, then, the
showing that present conditions are not by any means ideal,
that it isn't unnecessary and isn't too late, to secure careful
study and expert design, which may guide for many years to
come.




Sheep and shepherd on a park meadow.

Beginning with Swinney Park, and approaching it by
Washington Boulevard, the entrance is disappointing and un-
worthy. You are driving out a beautiful residence street
which is to terminate, you are told, in the principal park.
Suddenly the fine street is blocked by some trees and bushes,
which grow directly across it and only partially hide the view
of a stretch of low waste land beyond the practically invisible
river. As you search for the park, you see a road that leads



70 Fort Wayne Civic luiprovcment Association

off somewhere to the left, and surmise that thither may He the
way. But the fact is, you are ahxady in Swinney Park. You
ought to know this and dehght in it. A dreadful suggestion
has been made that an electric sign be thrown across the end
of the street at this point, with the words "Swinney Park"—
why not, rather, "This Is It," with a pointing hand? — so that
one may know it. P>ut tlie right thing to do is to create there a
beautiful park-landscape, picture, that will not require a label.

That waste land across the river, flooded every spring,
has almost no other value than as a background to such a pic-
ture. The city should get it, should make of it a park meadow
— browsing sheep would add life and interest to it in the sum-
mer and would keep the grass cut for nothing a year — and with
wildllower border the meadow and river could meet. Then
there would not be need to block Washington Boulevard with
an ineffectual screen of shrubs. There would be at once a sense
of openness and spaciousness, a real park scene, at the street's
end. And two tall trees — spruces, perhaps — standing on either
side of the boulevard terminus, would frame the picture and
mark the entrance. Then the road that curves away to the
left would not seem, as now, an insignificant by-path ; but
would take its rightful place as obviously a park drive.

Further within the park, the lake, which ought to be a
landscape feature of great beauty, fails now to please. What I
shall say of this lake applies as well to that in Reservoir Park.
Did you ever see their like in nature — or anywhere outside a
barnyard? A pool with canal-bank shores is not the proper
landscape ideal — not even with an island in it. I have seen
children make a sort of mud-pie island in the middle of a
water-filled excavation in the seashore sand, and then stick a
few twigs on the island, with an effect quite like that at Res-


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Online LibraryCharles Mulford RobinsonReport of Charles Mulford Robinson for Fort Wayne civic improvement association → online text (page 4 of 8)