Charles Mulford Robinson.

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

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ervoir Park. Now, the Park Commissioners are not the ones
to blame. They are serving the citizens with self-sacrificing
interest, and undoubtedly in their study of the parks have al-
ready made to themselves the criticisms here submitted. But
they are not landscape architects ; their lives have been given

Fort Wayne Civic Improvement dissociation yi

to other subjects; their duties are properly administrative.
The people have no right to hold them responsible for land-
scape failings if they are not given the money with which to
retain expert advice and with which to make the purchases
needed to round out park properties. A shore line, of which
the irregularity shall be emphasized by the planting; where the
neatness of water lapped greensward shall alternate with the
charming forgetfulness of wading iris, and with the shadows
of willows and overhanging shrubs — such a shore line, broken

A natural looking shoreline in one of the parks of Boston. This has all been planted.

by bays that are pictures in themselves, and with an island that
speaks of romance and seclusion, these are not things that suc-
cessful business men can create offhand with the aid of day
labor. Trustees of a library are not expected to write, even
though granted stenographers, the poems which the public go
to the library to find.

One of the purposes of a park is "to provide relief and re-
pose to city-wearied senses." Yet at the south end of Swinney


Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association

Park, the trains that arc constantly thundering past are uncon-
cealed. And not only that, but they are on an embankment
which has the effect of placing them on a stage, and so of
making them an even more dominant feature than they other-
wise would be. This is destructive to "relief and repose."
Neither railroad nor park is to be given up, but the railroad
can be hidden by planting. At Edgewater Park in Cleveland,
precisely a like condition was presented, and I append a photo-
graph to show how it was met. There is no necessity that the
railroad should be seen from Swinney Park.

How the railroad is effectually screened at Edgewater Park in Cleveland.

At the north end, where, in the shadow of big trees, the
murmuring river in its sweep around three sides resistlessly
calls one to the shore, the view presented is of a near oppo-
site bank cluttered with rubbish and outhouses. If one goes
across the river to investigate conditions, he finds that the
most unsightly of the properties front on Main Street, and are
lots of such shallowness that better development could hardly
be expected, while the money value of the narrow, steeply
sloping strip of land must be relatively slight. To acquire and

Fort Wayne Ck'ic hnpvoveinent Association


make beautiful that river bank would, therefore, confer benefit
in more than one direction. It would substitute beauty for
wretchedness in a park outlook, it would redeem a section of
Main Street for which there is no other hope, and it would
bring the park into touch with Alain Street.

In general, it may be said that the opposite bank of a park
bordered stream as narrow as the St. Mary's river is scenic-
ally just as important as the near bank. It is the frame to the
picture — indeed it. more than the park in which one stands, is
the picture, the open stream putting it in clear view and making

An island in Wade Park, Cleveland, that is a tangle of wild rose and other bloom.

it the thing one looks at. Setting out to create a beautiful gal-
lery, one would not think that the lovely rug under one's feet
would excuse bare or hideously daubed walls. The hanging of
the walls with beautiful pictures is certainly no less import-
ant than the rug. So in a park, not the place on which one
stands so much as the thing one looks at, counts. Yet at
Swiimey Park there seems to have been little thought of the
outlook. For the park's sake, to preserve to it the beauty which


I'oji H'ayiw t'ivic Iiiiprovcniciil .Issocialioti

is its riglit, the park boundaries should lie over the crest of
the further shore, not where Main Street alone is border, but as
far as the river circles. For the most part, such addition
would now cost very little.

A mean little iron-girder foot-bridge leads from the grove
to the opposite tableland. From a section of West Main
Street from which one could almost throw a stone into Swin-
nev Park, one must now, if he would enter the park by vehicle,
drive a full mile. 1^) a ra])i(ll\' (k'vcl()])ing section of the city.

The frame of a Iandscape_picture, Swinnetj Park, Fori Wayne.

this is not the degree of accessibility which the park invest-
ment warrants. If one will walk, he can enter the park at
closer distance by the iron foot-bridge — and in so doing fancy
that he is crossing a moat to enter a dungeon. But such is not
the impression which a park entrance ought to convey. That
a new bridge, and one which is wide enough for driving, is
needed here, is manifest. A suggestion that it might be of
concrete, I cannot endorse with enthusiasm. Concrete bridges
are essentially architectural compositions and any formalism

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here, where one terminus would be a quiet residence street
and the other a shadowy wood, could be only a false note.
The required length is not great, and a rustic-seeming wooden
bridge is practicable and probably would blend better with the

With good city planning a few years ago, the streets at
the end of the foot-bridge, in the bend of the river south of
West Main Street, would have been given high-class residen-
tial development. Even now the conditions will no doubt be
greatly improved with the building of an attractive and ade-
quate entrance here to the park, with the acquirement for park
purposes — as proposed in discussing the Washington Boule-
vard approach — of the low land at the apex of the triangle,
and with the development of Bluff Street. For, with the little
tract thus park-bordered on three sides, protected absolutely
from encroachment of any unwelcome kind, it will become
a natural extension to the high-class residence section to the
east of the river. That section is already finding itself cramped
and needing such place for overflow. This tract, too, is in
convenient touch with a business street on which is a direct
car line to the center of the city. With the suggested changes
the tract should furnish home sites that will be greatly

As to Swinney Park, we should note what a bridge ade-
quate for driving will mean to the park, if placed here. It will
mean that persons entering the park by Garden Street or
Washington Boulevard and circling through the grove will
not need to leave it as they entered, simply retracing their
steps. There will be created a loop drive. Having taken the
present park circuit, they can cross the bridge, turn south
again, via Mechanic Street, to the suggested low meadow,
skirt its northern edge by a short link to be constructed, and
so join Blufif Street which, bordering the river and almost a
parkway already, joins West Main at the west end of the
bridge. As a drive is now being developed on the river's east
bank, from Washington Boulevard to Berry Street — one of

76 Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association

the best things ever done in Fort Wayne — and is almost sure
to be carried as far as Main, both banks will here be protected
and a complete park-loop drive thus established.

With all these changes, Swinney Park would be quite re-
made from a landscape point of view. Rut its function is not
simply to be looked at, nor to give pleasure only to those who
drive. It has, or ought to have, an active recreative function.
There are two admirable playground sites. One is at the
south end of the park, near the Garden Street entrance. This
is bright and sunny ; the tract is an independent composition,
so that no apparatus placed here would be an intrusion on the
shaded picture in the river bend, and the location is very close
to the homes— the latter point an important one in providing
for little children. Here, too, there are admirable sites for
tennis courts. The grove also presents a playground possi-
bility ; but m}' suggestion would be the encouragement there
of a quieter and less artificial kind of play. For example, the
outdoor gymnastic apparatus, the popular chute, or slide, for
little children ; even, in my judgment, the sand boxes, should
be relegated to the south end site. But what a place is this for
luncheon under the trees, for games of Prisoners' Base, or
Hide-and-go-seek among one's friends, for listening to stories
of fairies or robbers, for confidences, for reading, for solitary
walk ! I-'or these delights the grove presents a unique and
unusual attraction.

I suggest, then, that the equipped and directed playground
be located at the southeast end of the park ; and that in the
grove there be constructed a rustic refectory, which will har-
moniously blend with the surroundings. The building might
be so constructed that the piazza, or a section of it, would on
occasion constitute a bandstand, and speaker's stand, the tall
trees in the surrounding grove being columns of a natural audi-
torium and their interlacing branches its vaulted roof. The
refectory would serve as shelter in sudden storm ; the lights,
suspended from its exterior walls, would make possible the
removal of the hideous pole which now serves as standard;

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/S Fort JVaync Civic Improvement Association

the toilet facilities of the building would eliminate other of
the park's objectionable features, and the plain wholesome
food, the hot tea and coffee, the cool temperance drinks, would
simplify picnics, and thus increase their number. The rental
of the concession should pay at least maintenance and interest
charges on the building. This being so, all the convenience
and comfort the building brings would cost park and public

My conception of the use of this part of the grounds is
that many a family picnic would gather here ; that thither
would come, from tlie formal playground, children tired of ex-
ercise, to eat their lunch, play in the shade and listen to stories ;
that children from the West Main Street section — to whom
this portion of the park would be much nearer than would the
playground proper — would find here opportunity for play in
the old-fashioned sense, with no great walk to the parallel bars
and giant stride if they sought for exercise. This would be the
place for other moods than those to which sunshine, bright
flowers, and moving apparatus appeal. For young and old, to
come here would mean, not getting tired, but getting rested ;
and even in their play the children here would scatter rather
than crowd, while the older folk would assemble in small
groups. As we study the parks of Fort Wayne we shall note
their unusually excellent distribution, such that none is obliged
to serve the whole community, catering to far gathered thou-
sands, but each can pre-eminently draw from and serve its
own neighborhood — as this plan suggests that Swinney Park
should do.

I have spoken of Swinney Park at greater length than I
shall discuss the other reservations. It is larger than any other,
has been the most developed, and is the most popular, and so it
has served well to illustrate in its shortcomings and possi-
bilities of a greater usefulness, the universal need of expert
planning. Some of the things said of Swinney Park apply also
elsewhere; but L shall make a few specific suggestions,

Lawton Park, which is next in size and completeness of

Fort IVayiie Civic Iin[>rovcuicnt Association 79

development to Swinney, is, I consider, more radically wrong.
The adopted plan of development is the most expensive that
can be given to a park. No city but a very large and rich one
could afford to transform forty acres into a garden and ade-
quately keep it up with bedding plants. Yet that is the goal
which Fort Wayne, with its meagre park allowance and great
park needs, has set itself. Necessarily there is failure.

The railroad, which a hedge of poplars, planted six or eight
feet apart on the west side of North Clinton Street, would
easily hide, is in full sight ; the three driveways are laid as
straight as engineering could make them, with no grace of
curving line, no suggestion of loitering, no invitation to note
the border — only the unworded but positive injunction, "Watch
the road, and get out of the park as quickly as possible ;" the
small iron bridge that crosses Spy Run is almost as bad as is
])ossible ; the rockery, which is designed to be an accent at
the end of the bridge, is hidden by untrimmed trees ; and even
Spy Run is neglected, to appear according to season as an
unfortunate ditch or as a roistering intruder. Nor, finally, is
the adopted style of development, even though perfection were
attainable, that which would best serve the neighborhood.

Lawton Park ought to be replanned, on an entirely differ-
ent scheme. A loyal and public-spirited citizen, having the
means and inclination to benefit his fellows, could hardly do
for Fort Wayne a better or more popular thing than to make
possible the sort of development Lawton Park ought to have.
It is trite to say that in so doing he would build himself a mon-
ument to which the years would add only worth and beauty.

The first thing to be done would be to extend the area
of the park to the river, from Spy Run Avenue to North Clin-
ton Street. In the seeming this would bring the park very
near to the center of the city, for entrance could then be ar-
ranged at almost the ends of the bridges on Clinton and Spy
Run Avenues, doing away with the necessity of traversing
those unattractive and narrow streets in order to reach the
park. North of the river, those streets have a width of only

8o Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association

fifty feet — too little for the normal traffic of such thorough-
fares, and totally inadequate to bear pleasure driving besides.
The extension of the park to the corner of Clinton and Fourth
Streets, adding a block only three hundred by one hundred
and fifty feet, is indeed so prime a necessity, even if there be
no change in the park's style of development, that the city
ought to do this whether or not there be dream or possibility
of better things. The acquirement and addition to Lawton
Park of that little block is to be counted, in fact, one of the
most obvious of Fort Wayne's civic improvement needs.

But with the addition of the low, flooded, marshy lands
that now lie between the park and river — lands to which only a
long lapse of time or large expense can give commercial value
— there would open an alluring possibility of many isled
lagoons, of a beautiful and unusual, and withal most central,
people's park, lovely at every hour, but a veritable dream of
beauty on a moonlight night. What other Indiana city would
offer to its people such a pleasure ground, and with what rea-
son Fort Wayne could then make claim to the title of City
Beautiful !

The lagoons of course involve a dam in the river just be-
low. This would be of the adjustable type— such, for example,
as the beartrap, the needle, etc. — which, lying on the river bed
at high water, can be lifted when it is desired to raise the
water's level. There is no serious difficulty as to that. And
with the park extended to the river, there would virtually be
added to its area not only the river area, in itself a large and
useful addition, but the tract of land which the city already
owns on the east side of Clinton Street, across from the ball
grounds, for very little expense would extend the latter hold-
ing to the river. Thus would Lawton Park be brought within
almost a quarter of a mile of the Court House, and made useful
and beautiful.

Regarding the land which the city now owns east of
Clinton Street, its greatest civic usefulness would lie in its de-
velopment as an athletic field. Two other uses have been pro-

Fort JVayjie Civic Improvement Association 8i

posed : As a market site, for which purpose I understand that
it was bought, and as a children's playground. For the latter
use it seems to me unfitted by location. Most of the children
would have to be sent a considerable distance to reach it, and
the journey would lie through streets from which children are
best kept out. Those approaching it from the south would
have to cross the railroad, while children coming from the
north — to whom Lawton Park would be much more accessible
— would have to skirt a railroad and cross the river. At Des
Moines, a plat very similarly situated — but much more at-
tractive with its big trees, and fully equipped by the city with
apparatus and with an unusually good rest house — has now
been abandoned because, owing to such location, the children
would not, or could not, go to it. For the market purposes
the tract's location is better adapted. But no railroad touches
it ; to place the market here will be to draw into the now con-
gested business streets that sort of teaming which most im-
pedes traffic and most litters highways ; it will be to add seri-
ously to the congestion on fifty foot North Clinton Street, and
on a bridge that is too narrow now for sidewalks, and thus to
impose a greater barrier to the general use of Lawton Park.
It will mean, too, the abandonment, for the sake of a market,
of the idea of that larger, more beautiful, and more useful
park which would include the river.

But the development of municipal athletic grounds on this
tract is unaffected by these several objections to other uses and
has much to recommend it — especially, as I have already sug-
gested, the circumstance that this use would practically annex
it to Lawton Park, should the latter be extended to the river.
In an industrial city, provision for healthful outdoor exercise
for employees is a real necessity, advisable for economic and
social reasons as well as for those affecting health. With the
increased specialization of labor, which is more and more lim-
iting employees to piece work, in which throughout the long
day a single group of muscles is exercised by the worker, there
is great need of a chance for mechanics, clerks, and workers of
all sorts to play baseball and other games, and to use the sim-

82 I'ort Ji^ayuc Civic Improvement Association

pier g-yninastic apparatus, that may bring all muscles into play.
'i1iey should not only be able to do this freely, but to do it
without sense of obligation to any philanthropic association or
sect. In the aggregate these men, many of whom own their
homes, pay directly or indirectly a considerable sum in taxes.
These go for all kinds of purposes, some of which little affect
them, and they can properly demand that from the park ap-
propriations a share be set aside to provide expressly for their
needs. This demand employers might well endorse, for there
results from such provision, with its social and moral as well
as muscular benefits, an unmistakable increase in the efficiency
of labor.

Indeed, there should be consideration of the growing and
significant frequency with which manufacturers, in seeking lo-
cation for their plants, now add to the subjects of their in-
quiries a question as to the municipality's provision of parks
and recreative facilities. In more than one case a city has
gained a great establishment because it made better showing in
this respect than did its neighbors. If such a recreative field
is to be developed by Fort Wayne, as it certainly ought to be.
there manifestly could be no more conveniently and harmlessly
central a site for it than on this ground, which the city already
owns, east of Clinton Street.

With reference to Lakeside Park there is little to say,
since it still awaits development. The most serious immediate
problem is the location of the street car line, in its proposed
extension to Walton Avenue. My judgment is that
the line should be extended directly out Columbia
Avenue. In doing this, a ])retty concrete bridge, with
sidewalk provision, should re])lace the present structure.
The plan of thus extending the tracks reduces to a
minimum the cutting of the park ; it involves one curve in-
stead of two — an advantage which is not to the company alone
— and it leaves free, for parkway development, the portion of
Lake Avenue which extends from Crescent Avenue to the
projected boulevard, one hundred and twenty feet broad, that

Port ll'ayiic Civic Iinprovciiiciil .■Issocicifioii 8:^

the owners propose to dedicate from Lake Avenue to the Driv-
ing' Park. If the Lake Avenue hnk be kept free from car
tracks there can be developed a fine parkHke drive — a mile
long — from the Columbia Street bridge via Edgewater, Cres-
cent and Lake Avenues, and the new boulevard, to the Driving

That drive, which now requires the doing of so little for
complete realization, is an end worth striving for. The Edge-
water Avenue section of it constitutes, or should be prompt-
ly developed to constitute, a parkway approach to Lakeside
Park. As such it will practically be an extension of the park,
carrying it to the Columbia Street bridge. To this end the
dyke bank should be sodded, as now has been done much of
the way; the corners of the avenue rounded into sweeping
curves ; and on top of the dyke the walk or promenade made
readily accessible and given here and there a seat. The whole
effect, both on and below the dyke, is Holland-like and very
beautiful, and is one of the most charming features of Fort
Wayne. As it is proposed to deed to the Park Board land
lying on Lake Avenue, between the present park limits and
the projected boulevard, the whole course, from Columbia
Street bridge to the wide boulevard, will lie through park
lands. Concrete plans for Lakeside Park will of course include
bathing facilities.

My opinion has been asked regarding the park availability
in this connection of the Driving Park tract. With the de-
velopment of Lakeside, and the extension and replanting of
Lawton — which seems to me a great deal more important than
the acquisition of new and independent areas — this section of
the city would have such admirable park provision that there
would be no real need of an expenditure for additional parks.
Of course a gift of the tract might, on the other hand, be
gratefully accepted, as providing for a future when streets and
homes are likely to fill the field now north of it. The vacant
ground inside the track might be put to use as golf links, but
that development could perhaps be arranged while the park

^4 For/ IVayne Civic Improvement Association

Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association 85


Port Wayne Civic I>iif^ro:'ciiiciit Association

Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association 87

is still in private ownership. As the property is comparatively
"close in," and can be reached by a five-cent fare, the attempt
would be worth making.

Around on the south side of the city is the newly acquired
Weiser Park. This also is undeveloped. It is a beautiful grove
of twenty-two acres, well located in respect to the homes, and
admirably adapted for development as a neighborhood park.
Here the family, as distinguished from the individual, from
the crowd, or from the class, should be deemed the iniit to be
served. The park needs extension to the line of the street
north. To stop short of the street, as now, means leaving on
the intervening strip a row of houses which, facing the street,
present only their back yards and back doors to the park.
That is not the right sort of a park boundary. If this extension
be not made, people will be telling in a short time how cheap-
ly it could have been obtained at the beginning, which is now,
and will marvel at the short-sightedness that failed to act.
Development of the park for neighborhood service involves,
among other things, the provision of opportunities for making
fires and simple outdoor cooking. The safest, least expensive,
and most dehghtful way to provide for this is by means of lit-
tle stone or concrete ovens. It will also involve, in time, the
establishment here of a small supervised playground.

The matter of children's playgrounds is an exceedingly,
even an unusually, urgent one in Fort Wayne. There are two
reasons for that fact. First, the remarkable compactness with
which the city has been built. One rarely finds a city which,
with population as small as Fort Wayne's, contains so few

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Online LibraryCharles Mulford RobinsonReport of Charles Mulford Robinson for Fort Wayne civic improvement association → online text (page 5 of 8)