Charles Mulford Robinson.

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

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the city line to West Main Street, by the course suggested, is
well above two miles, and a two-mile park drive on the edge
of a city and penetrating into its built-up sections is a very

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Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association 103

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Fort Wayne Civic hnprovcmoit Association 105

extraordinary and enviable possession. One would have to
seek many cities to find the opportunity's like. But even this is
not all, though for a space beyond West Main Street the course
is not as easy. If, however, for a short distance here there are
real obstacles to overcome, there should be recollection that
the value of this part of the drive far transcends any import-
ance it can have of itself alone — considerable though that would
be. Its great value is as a connecting link, tying together the
river drives, and making one beautiful and extensive system of
the whole. Its cost is properly to be spread over that of the
whole drive — so absurdl}- inexpensive apart from this. The first
difficulty is with regard to the Nickel Plate crossing, the width
of the trackage here making a subway extremely undesirable,
even were there no other objections. I propose that the drive,
crossing West Main Street, shall begin to descend, reaching
below the first bridge a point that would give to it a twelve-foot
clearance beneath the bottom chord of the bridge. As it
descends it is to swing into the riverbed, where it will proceed
by concrete arches on properly supported steel cross-girders,
with brick pavement, until the second bridge has been passed.
Then it will turn up the bank again. At the low level, it would
be beneath high water. On the water side, I would therefore
have a solid concrete coping, three and one-half feet high.
This will not shut out the view, and yet it will be high enough
to preserve the drive from overflow except under such unusual
conditions of high water as may be expected to occur not
more than once in a dozen years, and then for only a day or
two. To dispose of the water on such an occasion, rare though
it would be, there ma\- be left in the coping, if desired, a hole
with a removable plug.

As the idea of this drive involves serious questions in en-
gineering, I called into consultation Mr. Charles Carroll
Brown, of Indianapolis, a consulting engineer of national repu-
tation, to advise me with reference to the effect of such con-
struction in raising the water level, etc. Mr. Brown personally
visited the place, and in a written statement expresses the

io6 Fort IVayne Civic Improvement Association

opinion that, even if the drive is built on a soHd fill, the back-
water of the river under flood conditions will be raised by it
only a fraction of an inch.* It may be added that the Thir-
tieth Street bridge, over Fall Creek, in Indianapolis, has been
so constructed as to permit the carrying out of an exactly sim-
ilar scheme there, when a contemplated boulevard shall be
constructed. It may also be remarked that at Fort Wayne the
.\ickel I'late railroad, far from opposing such a plan, is likely
to welcome its execution because of the further protection thus
given to the bridge abutments. Finally, we should note how
pleasant a way of going this will offer — its openness, as dis-
tinguished from a subway; and the delightful variety lent to
the drive by descending for a brief space below the bank, after
long continuance on its top ; getting close to the water, after
seeing it from above ; and an entire forgetfulness of the rail-
road, in the interest and novelty of the new view that will be

Beyond the railroad's second bridge, where the drive
turns up on the bank again, the way is comparatively clear for
a short distance. The drive would enter a roomy backyard,
would cut off the end of a twelve-foot public alley, and so. fol-
lowing the river bank for six hundred feet, reach the alley
that leads from Van Buren Street to the river, just north of
Superior Street. This would be widened into a park drive, the
distance being about fifty yards, and all the present improve-
ments being of very cheap character. There is nothing here
that should cause a progressive city to hesitate for a moment,
considering the result that will be attained.

At Van Buren Street the way is once more open, the city
already owning the beautiful large tract enclosed in the bend

*He figures the maximum discharge of water at the bridge at
l.'),000 cubic feet per second. Computing the area of the cross sec-
tion at 3,6.50 square feet, he finds the proposed drive, if made solid,
reducing this nearly twenty per cent. The high water velocity,
which he had figured at a little more than four feet a second, is
thereby raised to slightly over four and three-quarters feet a second,
but he finds that to produce this velocity, the back water is in-
creased only part of an inch.

Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association 107

of the river east of this point. My sugg-estion is that the ih-ivc
cut across the southern end, practically following the arc of
Michaels Avenue. Up to this point, it will have proceeded
so far along the river bank that the variation of brief retire-
ment from the bank will be a pleasant change; thereby, too,
the route will be shortened, and the expense of construction re-
duced. But the main advantage is that the broad meadow
will then be left free for use as a children's playground. For
this purpose it is admirably adapted. Its location close to
homes where play space is limited is ideal, while yet it is so
isolated that the shouts of play can never disturb the neigh-
borhood. In any city, it would be hard to find a space more
perfectly adapted for playground purposes, from every point
of view, than is this.

From Ross Street I would have the drive, for the present,
make use of existing Ross and Superior Streets. Happily the
house on the northeast corner of Ross and Superior is so well
set back that a graceful turn can be substituted for the present
acute angle of street intersection, by cutting off the corner
with a curve. As this would considerably increase the attrac-
tiveness of the location of the house, apparently putting it at
the entrance to a park drive, such action should be welcomed
rather than opposed.

As the lots become shallow, beyond Fulton Street, the
houses naturally become smaller and less expensive. For the
most part, beyond Fulton Street, they are one-story frame
houses that, even so, have seen their best days. The ultimate
and logical development will be the city's acquirement and
parking of all this space, amounting to two and one-half blocks,
between Superior Street and the river. Then at Ewing Street
the drive would swing in close to the river. But with all that
Fort Wayne has now to do, my judgment is that this part of
the work can well wait. No such enhancement of values can
be anticipated for these lots as to involve much loss in so do-
ing, and the use of only three blocks of Superior Street as a
link in the river drive will not seriously detract from the drive's

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attraction. But at Webster Street, the river being now a con-
siderable distance from the street, the drive ought to turn n(jrth
on the highway to regain the bank. The lot on the east side of
Webster Street is very narrow at that end, so that but little
private property will have to be crossed to reach Wells wStreet.
and that little is the back of the lot, with nothing more formid-
able than an old lumber shed to present an obstacle. Beyond
Wells vStreet, between Wood Avenue and the river, there is
a little frame dwelling, a coal yard, and a lime, cement and
stone yard — the first industrial occupation of the river Ijank
yet encountered. This will have to be cleared out, and the
drive carried right across to Harrison Street. Thence we
have the aid of Eureka Avenue. The narrow strip between
the avenue and the river should be acquired and cleared, as
should the balance of the tract, to Calhoun Street. The rapid
encroachment on the stream bed which is here taking place,
through filling" in, is an interesting and instructive example of
the unsightly and menacing operations that may be looked for
if such property remains in private hands. Not only would
this dangerous work be thus efifectually stopped, but the drive
would by this means be brought around to Calhoun Street,
whence it can easily be swung along the river through the
vacant land of the one remaining block before Clinton Street
is reached. So would be completed the drive on the right bank
of the St. Mary's.

For at Clinton Street the river should be crossed. The
concrete bridge is here, and though this falls far short of what
it ought to be, it is the only attempt as yet to give Fort Wayne
a beautiful bridge. It needs light standards and sidewalks,
and its width from parapet to parapet is only about thirty-six
feet — or no more than the road itself ought to be. For here
the road carries not only the park traffic but the street traffic
of an important thoroughfare. However, the sidewalks can
probably be swung out on wrought iron brackets with no bad
effect, and the bridge — given better approaches — made very
presentable and serviceable. But quite apart from the fortun-

Fort Wayne Civic hnprovcmciit .Issociatioii 109

ate chance of the presence of a concrete bridge at CHnton
Street, this is the natural point for crossing. Here the pro-
posed river drive reaches, in the athletic field and suggested
extension of Lawton Park, one of the main parks, of which the
greater portion is on the further side. The drive should not
enter the athletic field, and beyond that field the plant of the
Fuel and Lighting Company practically blocks further progress
on the south side. Thus there is not only the pleasant means
of crossing here, but it is desirable to cross here, and there is
no other way of continuing the drive.

With Lawton Park's extension and improvement, as al-
ready discussed, the drive, having crossed the bridge, sweeps
into broad park lands. It issues from the park into Spy Run
Avenue, whence a boulevarded street should carry it to the
edge of the St. Joseph river. Here the land is all open, and the
continuation of a drive along the bank, in southern extension
of that part of Spy Run Avenue which skirts the bank, is not
only easy and desirable, in removing pleasure driving from
crowded Spy Run, but will open up the property, tying to-
gether the several cross streets which now have connection by
Spy Run only, and in its construction removing the danger of
overflow. The relief it would give to Spy Run Avenue is
much to be desired, the street being only fifty feet wide from
property line to property line, and having a car track. It is
already dangerous. This drive would take one to the State
Street bridge, and so across the river.

On the east side St. Joseph Boulevard now extends nearly
the whole way along the river bank. Eventually it should be
carried beside the river the entire distance to the bridge, and
far up stream above the bridge. This will come with Port
Wayne's larger population and demand for long country
drives. But for the present it will be no hardship for one to
continue along State Street to the State Institution, and then
turn south on the boulevard. This connects now with
Egdewater Avenue — of which the development was outlined
in the previous chapter — and so is completed the long river

no Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association

drive to Walton Avenue. Easily secured though it is, the
parkway as proposed is one that the finest city in the world
might envy. It will cost so little and it will yield much.

Before turning from the rivers, to consider Fort Wayne's
further possibilities, a word should be said regarding the
greater use of the streams. With popular recognition that the
rivers ought not to be utilized as open sewers, and that to les-
sen their channels by using the banks as dumps is to invite
flood damage, they tend — their waterpower being valueless — to
become only objects to be looked at. This is good as far as it
goes, for doubtless the persistent and quiet influence year by
year of a beautiful municipal possession is a potent force for
good in the community ; but it does not exhaust the rivers' pos-
sibilities. There is still a potential social usefulness which, if
availed of, would not only cause them to give active pleasure
but through such service would greatly increase their benefi-
cent civic influence.

For social use of the rivers by boating, three things are
necessary: i. The water must be comparatively pure — which
means that the city's sewage must not enter it. On the popu-
lous south and east sides the sewage is now intercepted and car-
ried below the point where boating would begin ; but even this
is not enough. Under the laws of the State, the State Board of
Health may at any time declare that the pollution of the Mau-
mee is a nuisance and menace, and must be stopped. The
sewage of the growing north side is discharged into the river
within the city limits, creating conditions that must soon rob
the Edgewater Avenue dyke of its charm. It is at once nec-
essary to plan for some other disposal of that sewage, and it
will be the part of wisdom not to adopt the makeshift of an in-
tercepting sewer — on whichever side — that will simply carry it
further down stream. True civic economy suggests a com-
prehensive study of the whole situation and the adoption of a
modern disposal plan, which will obviate expenditures for a
system which the State Board of Health may at any time order
undone. 2. The rivers must have in summer a sufficient depth

Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association iii

of water ; and, 3, the Ijeauty of both banks — not of one alone —
must be preserved. The latter requirement is essential, indeed,
to the scenic attractiveness of the proposed drive. Fortunate-
ly, the conditions in this respect are such — assuming the recom-
mended extension of Swinney Park to be secured — that there
need be little anxiety on this score, if the drive is constructed.
Perhaps the most serious danger to be apprehended, if, the
city controlling the land opposite Swinney Park, building-
operations have not to be dreaded, is that bill boards will be
placed on those banks which are not controlled. The adver-
tiser is not usually a respecter of natural beauty, and the board
to which I have already referred — at the east end of West
Main Street bridge — or the board which one passes on the
lovely bank of the old canal en route to Robison Park,
should give warning to the municipality of the importance of
safeguarding any investment it may make on one bank by
securing control of the opposite bank. I note that under State
law (Section 149, Chapter 129, Laws of 1905) the park com-
missioners have power "to prevent the deposit or maintenance
of unsightly or obnoxious material in or along" rivers and
streams, and to "provide for the protection of the banks there-
of." This would seem to bestow the needed authority. In the
case of the St. Mary's west bank, from Bluffton Road to
Swinney Park, where as yet the land is all undeveloped, a strip
should be reserved for a balancing park drive.

The maintenance of a sufficient water level in the rivers
during the dry season might seem a difficult problem, owing to
the torrential character of the streams. But folding dams will
accomplish this readily. The lower of them — if there be more
than one — should be at some favorable point between the
Columbia and Walton Avenue bridges. As I said in discuss-
ing Lawton Park, several varieties of such dams are made, all
of which will lie prostrate in the river bed, allowing the flood
waters to pass unobstructed over them ; while, when the water
is low, they can be lifted — in whole or in part, as the case may
need — to raise the water level. With this done the rivers will


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Fort IVayne Ck'ic Improvement Association 113

be available for canoes, if not for larger boats ; Swinney and
Lawton Parks will be still more closely knit together in social
usefulness — indeed, a motor boat line may be established be-
tween them ; and there will be added a j^owerful new factor
to the pleasure and healthfulness of life in Fort Wayne.
Think what it will mean to you who live in Fort Wayne, to be
able to use the rivers, and to have them sweet and beautiful!

Feaving- now the rivers and turning southward, W^alb^n
Avenue, to which the river drive has brought us, is the only
through cross-town thoroughfare east of Clinton Street. This
is an unfortunate condition, not easily to be corrected,
and it is going to throw so heavy a trafific upon
Walton Avenue that the avenue will not be well adapted
to serve as a park connection. But as a matter of fact, the
distance from the north bank of the Maumee to Weiser Park
is so great, and Weiser will be so slightly developed for driv-
ing, that there will not be much strictly park travel between
the two. Such as there is, however, would naturally take this
one direct way; and the street, which has some elements of
unusual interest— in crossing the river and passing the grounds
of Concordia College — and which is still all undeveloped,
should be treated with its destiny in view. That is to say, to
exceptional degree Walton Avenue ought to be developed with
thought of its community value, rather than as a local thor-
oughfare. Such consideration involves special regard for its
paving, for its tree-planting and parking, and for the prompt
abolition on this street of the railroad grade crossings. Its
distance from the center of the city gives no just indication of
the degree of usefulness it will have.

I have said that Weiser Park is not likely to be a driving-
attraction. Most of the pleasure driving will turn west from
Walton to the residence section. If it uses Pontiac Street it
will pass the beautiful quarter just east of Hoagland Avenue,
and so on to Fairfield.

There is need of a connection that shall be direct an 1
beautiful between Fairfield, in this portion the town's show

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Fort JJ^ayiic Civic Iiiif'roirniciif Association 115

ii6 Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association

residential street, and the system of drives and parks that be-
gins at the St. Mary's river, only half a mile away. In Nutt-
man Avenue the opportunity for this is offered with extraor-
dinary ease. West from Fairfield, the avenue skirts a bit of
beautiful woodland ; at Beaver Avenue it makes a jog, contin-
uing west from there on a line some forty feet south of the
line the other portion of the avenue has followed. For its
whole extent Nuttman Avenue ])asses through territory that is
still practically virgin. By extending the northern section
west on its own line, and the more southern section east on its
line, we shall create a parkway enclosing between its divided
roadways a broad parking strip covered with beautiful trees.
If the width of this parkway were 120 feet, the space might
well be divided as follows : Two feet from the property line a
six-foot walk, then eight feet of greensward ; a twenty-
four foot road, and a middle park strip forty feet wide ; beyond
this the divisions balancing those already named. This would
make a beautiful and worthy connection between the river
drive and Fairfield Avenue, and there is no reason to doubt
that there would result a demand for the property abutting on
it that would at once give to the property a value easily paying
for the improvement through its larger tax returns.

With the proposal of this parkway there is completed the
circuit of the city — and a very noble and beautiful circuit it is.
and attainable now at strangely little expense, considering how
close it lies around the built-up portion of the city. It is an
opportunity well calculated to inspire the citizens to accomplish-
ment, as I believe that it is doing.

It is to be hoped that while the community will construct
the links needed to secure this river drive, private beneficence
may come forward to bestow, on a city which would thus be
jiroving itself so worthy of assistance, the great country drive
and park that lies at its door waiting utilization. This would
stretch along the St. Mary's river, continuing southward the
city drive — widening here and there to enclose wooded picnic
groves, canoeists' goals, bird rendezvous, and lovers' shelters —

Fort ll'ayiic Cii'ic hiiprovcmcnt Association


up one side and down tlie other, from the pumping station above
Broadway bridge to Stellhorn's bridge, under noble oaks the
whole way. It \vould be a unique and beautiful attraction, of
ever growing" interest and value. It offers, at no prohibitive
expense, an opportunity to some philanthropist — or philanthro-
pists, for the drive on each side might be given by a different
citizen — a chance to erect to himself a monument that would
increase in beauty and popular appreciation with the lapse of
time ; to do a really great thing for his city, that would make
his name forever loved and remembered there; and, if it
chances that he has made his money in F"ort Wayne, to do for
the community as it has done for him and his.

In the shadows of Birdland Drive. A park on the river bank '" Des Moines.
Note the beauty of the name as well as of the scene.

The provision of parks and drives through jirivate benefi-
cence, is an increasingly popular expression of civic spirit, but
not often are the conditions for it so favorable as in this par-
ticular case. But let me add a word of suggestion, if any one
contemplates this gift. The donor should make it during his


Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association


HI. Polk ;lCo

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Online LibraryCharles Mulford RobinsonReport of Charles Mulford Robinson for Fort Wayne civic improvement association → online text (page 7 of 8)