Charles Mulford Robinson.

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

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vacant lots in its inner sections. Indeed, very few cities with
a hundred thousand population are built as closely. This
means that the bulk of the children of Fort Wayne have little
opportunity for play except in the streets — and almost no op-
portunity for group-play, with all the social and educational
benefit that confers. The second reason that playgrounds are
an unusually urgent need in Fort Wayne is the circumstance
that most other cities of equal size already have well organized


Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association

playground systems. In this respect Fort Wayne has been

I recommend that an effort be made to secure the estab-
Hshment ultimately of an equipped and supervised playground
in each of the larger parks. And if in any case there must
be choice between supervision and equipment, I would advise
you that the former is the more important.

Considerations that make the parks of Fort Wayne favor-

Where picnickers boil their coffee. Stove in a park "I Des Moines.

able locations for playgrounds are, first, their admirable dis-
tribution and their comparative nearness to the homes. Not
one of them is remote. Swinney on the west and Lakeside on
the northeast are on the one mile circle that takes the Court
House as center. To the north, Lawton is a quarter mile nearer
still; to the south, Weiser, though two miles from the Court
House, has, like the others, many houses directly at its bound-
ary. In the belt of residences that surrounds the business por-

Fort Wayne Civic Improvcinciit Association 89

tion of the city — a belt that averages a mile and a half in width
— the eastern section alone is not provided with park and play
space. Earnest effort should be made to secure a site there.
The second consideration is that, owing to the compactness
with which the city is built, it would be very difficult to obtain
other adequate play space except at heavy expense. Not only
are the large parks just where playgrounds are needed, but
it would be difficult to find other places for playgrounds.
Third, the parks are already publicly owned and the money
saved through not having to purchase sites can go into equip-
ment and supervision. Nor is the saving only in purchase of
land. A playground, frequented by many children for long
hours, must have toilet facilities, which must be sanitary, and
it should have a shelter. These are the most expensive items
in playground equipment. But in the development of the parks
these will be taken care of. Finally, the spaciousness of the
parks provide, also, for expansion when this is needed.

I have recommended, and shall yet recommend, a large
expenditure for the parks of Fort Wayne, that they may be
brought up to the standard of usefulness they ought to have,
and which such a city as Fort Wayne needs and deserves from
its parks. If, with these expenditures, the commission is un-
able also to develop playgrounds, I suggest that private phil-
anthropy can find in the economical provision of playgrounds
an object that will not want for friends. As has been done in
many cities, the Playground Association can probably obtain
from the Park Board permission to create and maintain a
children's playground at a designated place in each large park.
Eventually, when the success of the experiment, its popularity,
and the need for such provision have been proved — and the
proof never fails — the city may take over the cost of main-
tenance. The growing municipal custom is to put the control
of playgrounds in charge of the Board of Education, on the
theory that the playgrounds are supplementary to the school
system, rounding out the training of the child, developing its
lungs, heart and muscles as the school develops his brain, and

oo Port IJ^ayiie Civic })>iprovcment Association

joining with the school in the development of character and of
social consciousness.

Far to the west of the city, in the rolling mill district,
there is a fine grove of some twelve acres, known as Rockhill
Park, though at this writing not formally received by the city
as a park. It would constitute a good one in a good place ; but
if the city is going to make a jnirchase in this region, a better
tract to buy, in my judgment, is that bounded on the west by
the Lake Shore railroad, on the south by the Pennsylvania, and
on the east by the St. Mary's river. The railroad boundaries
are objections, and the geographical relation of the tract to
the rolling mill is unfortunate ; but neither of these drawbacks
is as serious as the bare statement suggests. The railroads are
on a considerable embankment that can be pierced by a subway,
to obviate grade crossing for entrance. This embankment will
make a clearly defined and, when screened by planting, not
necessarily unattractive boundary, and one which will effectu-
ally shut out any industrial developments that may take place in
the neighborhood. From the north the tract is directly ap-
proached by several pleasant streets.

The positive advantages are conclusive. The purchase of
the tract for park purposes will preserve the beauty of the river
bank opposite the west side of Swinney Park, just as we have
already contemplated its preservation on the north. It will sub-
stitute for two parks close together, and the more important
one with an unprotected boundary, one good sized, adequately-
defined pleasure ground that will serve exactly the same popu-
lation as would the two, and serve them better. For in parks
as in business, consolidation often means, as it certainly in this
case would mean, economy of operation, improvement of pro-
duct, and a larger public usefulness. Moreover, the tract itself is
well adapted for park development. The contour is irregular,
the greater portion of it is timbered with fine old trees, while
at the extreme northwest corner — at the very spot to be chosen
for the purpose — there is a cleared plain, where a well-worn
baseball diamond indicates the ideal purpose for which it is

Port ll^'ayiic Civic Iiiipruvcinciit dissociation 91

Backwater from the river overflows the tract's lower por-
tion at flood seasons, bnt the higher portions are probably not
often affected and a hig-li ledge extends along the tract's south
end quite to the river bank. A foot-bridge should be thrown
from here over to the present Swinney Park. This will great-
ly increase the accessibility of Swinney Park to the west side,
as well as making one pleasure ground of the whole. My
thought is that the driving should be confined to the limits of
the present park, while across the bridge one would be free
from the dust and danger of vehicles and at liberty to follow
footpaths among flowers and ferns, seeking and finding there
a naturalness and romance which Swinney now can never

Of the remaining parks of Fort Wayne, nearly all are
small. The largest is Reservoir. This is in a choice residence
district and is dominated by the high and very steep embank-
ment of the reservoir, which occupies perhaps a third of the
total area. On the west half there is a lake to which may be
applied the comments respecting the lake in Swinney Park. In
fact, the greater conspicuousness of this and the considerable
dependence of the park upon this feature for its landscape
beauty, should add emphasis to former criticism and sugges-
tion. It would be proper also, in the case of Reservoir Park
lake, to enhance its evening beauty with the witchery of lights.
The park is really, with its near border of streets, only a city
square, where a touch of the formal and artificial will not vio-
late good taste. Incandescent lamps on ornamental little
standards, with wires in conduits, may be placed near enough
the water to be reflected in its surface. The park needs as a
whole very careful expert planning. It has admirable possi-
bilities — in fact, it is capable of being made one of the most in-
teresting parks of its kind in the United States, for one does
not often find in a single city square a good sized lake, contain-
ing an island, and then a high hill with an unlimited supply
of water at the top of it.

For the present, pending the preparation of a careful gen-
eral plan, it is enough perhaps to advocate the beautifying of


Fori Wayne Civic Improvement Association

the margin of the lake, the removal of the thronging poplars,
the more artistic lighting of the whole park — this need not ])e
an expensive nndertaking— and the correction of the walk sys-
tem south of the reservoir, hy taking u]) the present walk which
parallels the street and placing it where the well worn diagonal
l)ath "ivcs unmistakable hint that a walk is needed.

investment value to the money

Hayden and McCidloeb
Parks are little ornamental
squares, properly developed
wdth multitudes of flowers.
There would be saving- of
expense, however, and no
loss of beauty, if perennials
aud flowering shrubs were
used to some extent instead
of quite so many annuals.
As the latter require re-
placing every season thej'
result, l)y their deinands
on labor and stock, in the
costliest kind of parks.
Parks of this character are
necessarily s h o av y , but
there should be effort to
give a relatively permanent
expended on them.

These "city squares," as such ornamental open spaces arc
usually called, are a delightful kind of park, but they are also
the most expensive kind. For more important that the cost
of maintenance is the circumstance that through their existence
many valuable building lots are taken from the tax lists. The
added value of abutting property seldom restores the whole of
this loss. But if, in the improvement of a closely built industrial
city, we must forego the ideal of many such open spaces, we
should the more eagerly seek the opportunity to create these

Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association 93

where, at no sacrifice of precious building land, they may yet
perform a similar ornamental service, and perhaps a larger
social service.

In Fort Wayne there exists a remarkable opportunity for
doing this. I refer to the possible creation of pleasant little
outlook points overlooking the river on the dead ends of those
streets that cross East Wayne — as Francis, Harmer, etc., all the
way to Coombs. All these terminate in the bluff, which gives
to them a commanding view up and down the Maumee, and
across to the dyke, while one of them has itself big trees and
is beautiful now. No land will have to be bought. It is a
question simply of a little less paving, or a little less mud or
dust, and of providing some benches, and now and then a pic-
turesque shelter — the thatched outlook at Robison Park is a
suggestion ; of adapting a now perfectly useless bit of public
property to community service, by transforming a dead end
of street into a neighborhood park, where one may enjoy the
view, get fresh air and watch the sunset. Only a little space
would be occupied, but the eye would travel far. It is a city's
turning to account such opportunities as these that give to it
a distinctive charm and make it loved.

With reference to Harmer Street, there is some chance
that its end will be needed as an approach to a bridge, to be
thrown over to the Lakeside section. That bridge ought to be
concrete and, in such setting, of beautiful design. About 500
feet east of its line is the old crossing where took place that
historic massacre of Harmer's Ford, to which, I am informed,
the city really owes its origin. The Daughters of the American
Revolution are contemplating a suitable marking of the spot.
If a beautiful bridge be constructed, I suggest that the chapter
be invited to place the tablet upon it, where it can easily be
seen, and that in recognition of such marking the structure be
known as the Memorial Bridge — so still more increasing the
interest in this locality.

This is not an easy chapter to sum up, for every park pre-
sents a separate problem. But out of the discussion I would

94 Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association

have these facts stand out with emphasis: i. Swinney, Liiw-
ton and Weiser Parks need additions of area to correct their
boundaries. Happily, the needed lands can be obtained at this
time very cheaply. 2. The further development of all the
parks should be in accordance with carefully made plans. 3.
Playgrounds are much needed, but for the present there will
be advantages in developing these in the parks, even if this
has to be done by private initiative. 4. The best ideals of
landscape beauty and social service should obtain in park
development. By no other means is the higher side of the
public life touched so easily, so pleasantly, and in so many

With reference to the latter point, music may be and
should be made a great feature in the parks. In Rochester
the popular taste has now been so developed that rag time
has been eliminated and 30,000 people gather for a strictly
classical program by the park band. Vocal music also, by the
singing societies and massed choirs, is practicable and pop-
ular. In Hartford, park employees are trained to act as do
attendants in a library, calling the attention of visitors to in-
teresting trees and shrubs and birds. In yet other parks, water
fetes and illuminations are a feature ; in yet others skating and
coasting in winter and kite flying, etc., in summer, offer enter-
tainment, while always there remains, as the peculiar park at-
traction, beauty, calm, and silence, to rest city-tired nerves.

The financial aspect of the question of course demands
attention. Some help may be expected from public-spirited
individuals ; but for the most part the improvements described
in this chapter will have to come, sooner or later, from the com-
munity. In this connection, I would call your attention to three
facts: First, one can hardly conceive a more legitimate pur-
pose for a bond issue than is the purchase of park land. In
land the bond has a security which is steadily increasing in
value ; not wearing out as do the school houses, public build-
ings, water works, sewers, pavements, bridges, and other
things for which municipal bonds are issued. As the bonds ap-

Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association 95

proach the end of their life, the land that was purchased with
them will not only be doing a larger public service than at
the beginning, but will be of much greater intrinsic value than
when they were issued. Second, in no municipal expenditure
do taxes seem to the people to give such direct and measurable
returns as in the parks. Third, the effect of adequate park
development on contiguous property is such that through in-
crease in value the city soon receives in taxes more than it
pays for the parks. Consequently, the parks are to be proper-
ly considered as investments. Within a few months, an inves-
tigation of this matter has been made in Madison, Wis. Mem-
bers of the Common Council there questioned the advisability
of some appropriations desired for the parks, and a committee
was appointed to investigate the claim that a city's parks are
really a municipal investment. No study was made of the work
the parks do, of the effect they have on the public health, of
the vistors or new residents they draw to the city. The study
dealt with tax figures only, and there were some local condi-
tions that made it probable that the showing would not be as
favorable as it might be in many cities. The painstaking study
with its quantities of figures has been published in a pamphlet.
The conclusion, however, may be briefly summarized as fol-
lows : Twelve and one-half per cent, is a low average of the
proportion of increase in assessed values which, in the judg-
ment of the committee, has been directly caused by the estab-
lishment of parks, drives, playgrounds, and open spaces in
Madison. At the current tax rate, this increase is now bring-
ing annually into the city treasury almost exactly twice the
annual cost of the parks — this cost including, in the calculation,
not only maintenance appropriations but interest on the invest-

96 I'ort Wayne Civic I mproi'cuioit Association

River Drive and Parkway System.

It was interesting and not a little significant to observe
in the course of my investigations that the improvement of Fort
Wayne was popularly interpreted to mean the j^lanning of a
river drive. But this Report will have failed in its purpose if,
in the many pages it has covered before reaching that subject,
it has not shown that comprehensive improvement of the city
must mean a great many other things as well. There should
not be inference, however, that the other things are more im-
portant than the drive — some of them are not as important.
For in parking the river banks, and putting drive and walk
along their edge, Fort Wayne will be turning to account its
greatest natural asset, and developing its own proper individ-
uality — in which, so far as this is gracious, rests the charm of
every town.

If I may quote once more from one of my own books,
"Modern Civic Art" describes, as a rule so common as to be
almost generally accepted, the principle that the stream hanks
of a community should be reserved for park development, if
their legitimate commercial use permits. Such acquirement
"is nearly sure to be picturesque, potentially if not in fact,
and has certainly the relief of variety ; it is quite likely
to be distinctive ; and it is frequently, until thus taken
charge of, a menace to the health of the community, for
it is probably made a dumping ground, if not an open
sewer, for the neighborhood. On this account, also, while
possessing perhaps the district's greatest chance of beauty,
it is a source of ugliness until redeemed. But the ridges
of its rising banks are likely to furnish a convenient nat-
ural boundary to frame a landscape picture to be here cre-
ated, while the trans-water view, which is always charm-
ing, adds the width of the stream to the apparent park
area without removing an equal tract from the slender
tax lists of the town or from the habitable area of the
crowded city. The reservation affords, too, public access

Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association 97

98 Port Wayne Civic Improvement Association

to a sure current of fresh air, and possibly to a place for
water sports. In short, no inland space cciually contracted
is likely to serve well so many ends."

This presents the general argument. Strong as it is, con-
ditions in Fort Wayne add weight to it in the local application.
For a drive and walk along the river — that is, the parking of
the strip of river bank — would connect the three principal
parks, Swinney, Lawton and Lakeside. Precisely as is the
result in a grouping of public buildings, each of these public
reservations would itself gain from a connection with the
others. Secondly, the parking- of a strip of river bank would,
if carried far enough, bring park acreage and park entrance
close to a long stretch of the city, and some of it would be near
the business section. It would throw half way around the city
— from its southwest corner, just above Broadway bridge, to its
northeast corner, at Walton Avenue bridge, a band of green, in
realization of that parkway ideal which is such a feature of
modern European city planning. Only there the old dry moats
of city walls are utilized, while here the course would be beside
beautiful living streams. Even Washington — where, in
plans to beautify the capital, the nation is now undertaking
river front redemption — has not such a chance as yours.

If the plan is practicable, financially and commercially, it
is certainly desirable. Let us see just what would be re-

Suppose we begin with the little pumping station, just
south of the Broadway bridge over the St. Mary's river.
There is here a small bit of public property, sodded, and com-
manding a lovely view upstream. There is nothing between
the pump house and the bridge except grass and trees — one tree
in particular is a noble one — with the stream on one side and the
street on the other. There is no reason why the city holdings
should not at slight cost be extended to the bridge, with the
result that the trees would not be cut down or have advertise-
ments nailed to them. The drive would take the street, and
so much of the park is easy.

Fort IVayiie Civic Improvement Association 99

At the bridge a street car track comes on to Broadway
and the highway's adaptabiHty as a good park drive departs.
But it happens, too, that the street gradually swings away from
the river, and therefore would be denied parkway honors in
any case. Between the thoroughfare and the river there are
buildings, which some day Fort Wayne will try to get cleared
off; but for the present Broadway might be used for the two
short blocks to Hartnett Street. Hartnett leads to the river
bank, and in a moment one is back to the trees and wild growth,
with the St. Mary's dancing — as never saint-named river ought
to dance — below in the sunshine. From here there is a long
stretch, of a mile or slightly more, to Swinney Park, with no
streets near the river. There is ample room here for a park-
way drive. It would pass back of the greenhouses, and under
trees and through patches of woodland nearly all the way to
the crossing of the Wabash railroad. At times the strip would
be narrow; again, as in the fine grove just above the railroad,
it would widen out. The driveway itself should not be more
than twenty feet — a boulevard would ruin the effect desired —
and at the strip's narrowest points there would need to be on
its east side only land enough to make possible a good screen
of growing things. On its west side, the strip would include
all the land to the river's edge, and between road and river a
romantic footpath should wind in and out among the trees.
The grove south of the railroad, with its thin sprinkling of
heavy timber, possesses park availability for a section of the
city which now has no park near it, but does have many peo-

The railroad, one might expect, would impose an obstacle ;
but it is on an embankment so high that the drive can pass un-
der it by a subway with no difihculty whatever. A dyke will
be necessary probably to keep out flood waters, and there
will be other places where it may be needed ; but Fort Wayne
would show poor spirit, if, with such a chance for a drive, it
hesitated at the cost of an occasional dyke — which need not be
built until the city is ready to build it. Below Taylor Street


Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association

Fort JVayiic Civic Improvement Association loi

private property owners have already attempted to save the
bank with a concrete retaining wall. It would not cost much to
make this look as strong as it probably is, its present appear-
ance doubtless belying its strength.

From here to the Pennsylvania tracks, the way is clear
along the top of the dyke. The drive at this point need l)e no
more than a drive, and as such it is likely — with its connections
and lack of railroad grade crossings — so to open up and give
value to the considerable building tract, that the owners should
find it good policy to give the right of way. Happily, the Penn-
sylvania road also is on an embankment, similar to that of the
Wabash, at the point of crossing; and in like fashion the park-
drive can go beneath the tracks. The elevation here is not
quite as great ; but the clearance to the top of the rail seems
to be about ten and one-half feet, just east of the railroad
pumping station. Thus there would be required a dip of only
three feet. Emerging from the short subway, one would be in
Swinney Park.

As we have seen, the drive from this point to West Berry
street has been already made, and as this is written its exten-
sion to West INIain is probable. Indeed, this can be so easily
accomplished that its execvition may reasonably be assumed.
With its construction there will come, of course, the redemp-
tion of that little triangle, of which the glaring billboards make
— or seem to make — the terminus of Alain Street. The street
leads up to them. Before them the city has cleared a space by
providing a flat triangle, and therein has even put a bench that
one may sit and study them. Behind them, there is the beauty
of leaf and flower and sparkling river — but all that they hide.
The site is strategic, for the beauty that can be given to this
spot will shed its influence far down a traveled thoroughfare.

It is remarkable how far and with what ease the imag-
inary park drive can be built. From the pumping station at

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Online LibraryCharles Mulford RobinsonReport of Charles Mulford Robinson for Fort Wayne civic improvement association → online text (page 6 of 8)