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Holyoke (Mass.).

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manent impediment to travel, no matter how much the road
surface may be improved in course of time, but will greatly
add to the cost of maintaining a good road surface. Of
course it is impossible to build a road over a mountain
ridge without having to climb, but there is a great differ-
ence between a road well engineered and one that is laid
out at random like most of the old country roads. Prob-
ably a careful investigation would show that long stretches
of the present roads could be adopted into a well planned
system of main thoroughfaresjeaving out the steepest and
frookedest parts to remain as local roads and providing as
a substtiute for them a moderate mileage of new connec-
tions on reasonable grades and good lines. If such a sys-
tem of well planned highways were adopted, it would make
it possible even before any of the new sections were under-
taken, to do a certain amount of improvement on the exist-
ing roads without risk of wasting money on sections that
are likely to have only a local importance in the future.
No street railway company, if it could help it, would spend
money on locations so unfortunately laid out as most of the
existing roads across the mountain, as witness the private
location purchased most of the way for the line to West
Ilolyoke, and the same class of business reasons are just as
applicable to the spending of city money in constructing
and maintaining good macadamized roads across the moun-
tain. It may be some years before such improvements are
actually undertaken, but that they will be made sooner or
later is as certain as the march of civilization. The only



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306 CITY BEAUTIFUL

question is whether they will be made so as to get the best
results for the money expended or whether they will be
done extravagantly by the gradual piecemeal improvement
of the present imperfect locations.

In any readjustment of these hill roads it should be
borne in mind that an important part of their value, over
and above their necessary use as transportation channels,
lies in their pleasantness due to the trees and other vegeta-
tion with which they are bordered and to the wider land-
scapes through which they pass. It is desirable, therefore,
that they should be laid out wide enough to give ample
space for the maintenance of such bordering vegetation,
that some regard should be paid to agreeableness of line and
grade and of surroundings, and that under favorable condi-
tions the permanence of exceptionally fine views from them
should be ensured by the public control of the foregrounds
over which the views pass.

Improvement and Maintenance of Ways.

While the proper location of the main thoroughfares
is of the most fundamental importance, because its effect
never ceases, the convenience and attractiveness of the city
at any given time is much more immediately dependent
upon the temporary physical condition of streets, as to pave-
ment, sidewalks and accessories. In these regards, while
Holyoke is probably better off that, the average, it does not
strike the casual observer as strikingly different from other
American cities of similar size and prosperity, in all of which
there is much room for improvement.

Street Surfacing.

" Leaving aside the question of street surfacing, the
proper handling of which depends upon perfectly well-
known engineering consideration and the success of which
is therefore mainly a matter of straightforward good ad-



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CITY BEAUTIFUL 307

ministration within the limits permitted by municipal fin-
ance, there are two matters of detail which markedly affect
the appearance of the streets and w r hich deserve special
reference. ' '

The first is that of street trees.



Street Trees.

The presence of trees in the streets and their mainten-
ance or neglect may be left, and in many communities is
left, to chance and private initiative. If this policy is pur-
sued the inevitable result, with the growth of a city, is the
gradual disappearance of street trees following a long peri-
od of raggedness and shabby decline. Halfhearted and un-
systematic efforts on the part of the municipality may pro-
long the period of decline, arrest it sporadically, or sporadic-
ally establish new rows of shade trees, but if satisfactory re-
sults are to be secured the matter has to be taken up serious-
ly and systematically with a fair counting of the cost, be-
cause here as elsewhere it is impossible to get something for
nothing and under the arduous conditions to be found in the
city streets any trees worth the having can be permanently
maintained only by systematic and somewhat costly care вАФ
and that care must be directed not so much to immediate
conditions and results as to conditions and results years in
the future, because the principal returns from any experd-
itures on streets can be obtained only after a long period.
It takes about twenty years before planted trees begin to be
really fine, and their lifetime thereafter, if wise precautions
have been taken in planting and caring for them, is apt to
be anywhere from twenty-five to a hundred years or more.
The return is an annual one, and it is obvious that the big-
gest returns on any investment in the planting and mainten-
ance of street trees are to be secured only when steps are
taken to secure those returns during a long period of years
after the time the trees have reached a respectable size.



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308 CITY BEAUTIFUL

The usual methods are such that city street trees begin
to go to the bad long before they reach the period of their
full value, and by far the major part of the expected return
upon the investment is entirely lost.

In street paving the customary American policy of put-
ting down a good pavement and then disregarding the main-
tenance work which might greatly extend its life is acknow-
ledged to be a wasteful policy, but in any case the pavement
is at its best in the beginning and it is only a matter of rate
of depreciation. Tn the case of street trees, on the other
hand, under good and systematic management they improve
in value steadily for two or three generations, and the lack
of adequate measures for insuring permanently good con-
ditions for them not merely cuts down the period during
which returns will be received on the investment, but cuts
it down at the big end, where the value of the annual re-
turn wcrikl be the greatest.

In every city there are many streets where it would
cost more to establish and maintain good and long-lived
trees than they would be worth. In some streets it pays
best to maintain cheap quick-growing trees for a few years
at a time, in some streets no trees at all, in some streets
trees of a compact small-growing habit, in others trees of
great height and spread like the American elm. These
questions can be intelligently decided only after full con-
sideration of such questions as the width of street and side-
walk, the present and prospective character of occupancy
and amount of travel, the character of the subsoil and ex-
posure, and the possibility and estimated cost of establish-
ing and maintaining successfully certain alternative styles
of street tree plantations.

To handle this street tree problem in a businesslike way
each street or distinct portion of a street ought to be taken
up on its own merits, in relation to its surroundings and
conditions, and after reasonable inquiry into the facts and
consultation with the abuttors by hearings or otherwise it



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CITY BEAUTIFUL 309

should be decided what definite policy it will best pay to
adopt in regard to trees in that street during the next fifty
or seventy-five years, considering the probable results of
the proposed policy and facing the necessary cost fairly and
squarely.

General recommendations as to the street trees, without
such specific businesslike inquiry in each case, are danger-
oue; but we are inclined to think that in a great many in-
stances such inquiry would lead to the adoption of some-
thing like one of the three following conclusions:

Either (A) that on account of the narrowness of the
street ,or the existence or expectation of flat-houses or com-
mercial buildings with their windows close to the edge of
the narrow sidewalk, making the dense shade of the street
trees objectionable, or of adverse growing conditions and
high estimated cost of successfully maintaining trees, it
will not pay to maintain trees in the street under considera-
tion, and that any existing trees may be allowed to remain
without much expenditure for care until they prove to be
in the way or until they become shabby, when they should
be removed. Or (B) that it will pay to make the most of
the existing trees in a given street and to supplement them.
In such a case it will generally pay to remove a consider-
able number of the existing trees, as they are very generally
growing much too crowded for the best results, and as some
of them are diseased, and it will generally be desirable to
fill in numerous gaps in the planting, to take measures for
improving the soil or irrigating the trees or both, to prune
out dead and diseased wood on trees worth doctoring, to
protect the trees against barking by horses and injury by
insects and other pests, and to provide for subsequent re-
newals in case of death or injury. Or (C) that it will pay
to establish a complete new plantation of a specified kind of
trees, with proper detailed provisions for their permanent
successful maintenance.

Perhaps in the majority of cases conclusion (A) may



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310 CITY BEAUTIFUL

be reached. Practically that is about what the present pro-
cedure appears to correspond with in most instances. But
it does not seem wise to drift into that policy without a
deliberate decision that it is the best thing to do under the
circumstances in each particular case. There must be in-
stances where conclusions (B) or (C) would be reached if
the case were fairly considered, and where the necessary
money for carrying out the proper policy would be at once
forthcoming either from the abuttors or from the general
tax levy or otherwise if the situation were squarely faced
and fully understood. But one thing is certain, that a city
cannot permanently have street trees worth the having un-
less somebody does a lot of systematic and intelligent work
toward maintaining them, and that much work cannot be
done unless the money is put up for it.

In the city of Hartford a detailed inventory of street
trees has been taken. The valuation placed on the individ-
ual trees, although of necessity somewhat arbitrary, is gen-
erally accepted by the interested abuttors as fair. A perfect
specimen of the best species of tree, properly placed and free
from disease or injury, with a trunk having a cross section
area of one square foot, is reckoned as worth $75, but the
average street tree scales down considerably below this
value in the inventory. *

On any residence street lined by rows of beautiful,
large, healthy trees, one to every fifty foot lot, it w T ould
be hard to find any abuttors who would be ready to accept
$75 as adequate personal compensation if a telephone com-
pany, for example, should propose to cut down all the trees
in the street; and it would be difficult to win the consent
of most of the abuttors to such a devastation even for a
much larger cash consideration. This method of looking at
the subject perhaps gives as fair an idea of the real value
to the abuttors of well grown street trees as can easily be
got and it suggests that the Hartford method of valuing
the trees is probably conservative. We have figures cov-



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CITY BEAUTIFUL 3II

ering about three quarters of the city prepared on the basis
above described and the total value of the public invest-
ment in street trees in that area reaches the sum of about
$450,000.

We cite this instance because few people realize that
the shade tree business, if the city is going into it at
all, is a big and serious business and that if adequate re-
turns are to be secured on the investment the business has
got to be handled in a businesslike way and with a reason-
able and proportionate relation between the annual expend-
iture for protection, maintenance, renewal, etc., and the
total value of the result aimed at.

If, on the other hand, the city decides that it does not
want or cannot afford anything better than ragged rows of
crowded trees, gradually starving and dying off before they
reach their prime through lack of adequate food w T ater and
air and through untreated injuries to 'their bark, limbs and
foliage, it may reasonably let the matter go along in the
usual half-hearted way with the usual results.

Overhead Wires and Poles.

Next to shade trees the most conspicuous objects in the
streets are the poles and overhead wires, and it is needless
to say that, unlike the trees, they do not ordinarily improve
the aspect of the city. It is hardly necessary to refer to
this subject at length. Every one agrees that it is desirable
to get rid of the poles and overhead wires as much and as
rapidly as is economically reasonable. The difference of
opinion comes as to when the reasonable period for putting
the wires underground has arrived.

The companies maintaining the wires will not remove
them to conduits except under pressure, and it is up to the
public to put on the screws without being unfair. It is
quite impossible to judge when the pressure is unduly great
by the squealing of the victim; some managers make a loud
outcry on general principles whenever the word " conduit' '
is mentioned.



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312 CITY BEAUTIFUL

It is essential to take the matter up thoroughly, to as-
certain the facts, not merely by asking the companies but
by the employment of competent experts representing the
city, and after due consultation with the companies to fix
upon a definite plan for removing overhead wires and street
poles in given districts at given dates, taking due legal meas-
ures to enforce compliance.

Few realize the great importance of this matter as
affecting the appearance of the city because custom gradu-
ally blunts our sensibility to the effect of the wires and poles.
They are like an irritating little noise to which one gets so
accustomed as not to notice it at all until it ceases ; then one
suddenly become aware of a grateful refreshing quietness.

The important though subconscious part played by the
disorderly tangle of overhead wires, cross-arms and poles
in decreasing the agreeableness of Holyoke was strongly
brought home to us on the last day of our visit as follows:
Standing on one of the canal bridges we felt vaguely re-
minded of some very pleasant scones in The Hague and
other Dutch cities. There was the canal, not quite pellucid
but considerably cleaner than the average canal in pictur-
esque Amsterdam ; there were green banks along its sides
with occasional trees here and there upon them; beyond
were factories, not unpicturesque in outline; and on a neigh-
boring street corner was a really beautiful mass of tree foli-
age happily illuminated by the sun. And yet. somehow, it
was very different from the Dutch scene whch it called to
mind; something gave it a slovenly, sordid aspect; the trail
of the serpent was over it all.

It was only by going slowly through the mental pro-
cess of a painter who would attempt to render the beauty
suggested by the scene without its depressing quality, that
we came to realize how much the picture suffered by the
disfigurement of the pure soft sky with sharp streaks of
wire and ungainly poles and harsh bunches of cross-arms.

The only thing the eye can rest upon in a city that is



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CITY BEAUTIFUL 313

not necessarily controlled by man, either for good or for
bad, is the sky; and while we are most actively conscious of
the objects on or near the ground, with which we have im-
mediate practical concern, our feelings of pleasure or de-
pression are largely dependent upon the subconscious effect
of the ever-present sky, whether it be bright and soft and
beautiful, or overcast with clouds or smoke, or obscured
with ugly and inharmonious objects of human interjection.
Both in the slightness of the impression it ordinarily makes
on the attention and in its immense real effect upon the gene-
ral sense of pleasure or discomfort, the appearance of the
sky and what is seen against it may be compared with the
purity of the air habitually breathed or with the degree of
noise or quiet in habitual surroundings. The nervous sys-
tem can be adjusted to almost any constant surroundings
so that they cease to be noticeable, no matter how noisy or
how foul, but the effect of the conditions upon the health
of the nervous system and upon the general sense of well-
being does not cease when the attention becomes blunted.

A more immediately striking instance of the damaging
effect of poles and wires is to be seen in the splendid view
up the Connecticut river from Prospect park. Here the
injury is so obvious and the remedy so easy that there should
be no serious difficulty in arranging to have the wires strung,
in cables or otherwise, on low posts or brackets against the
bank of the park so that the view would pass out over them
without obstruction.

Other Highway Accessories.

Other objects within highway limits, lamp posts, street
signs, hydrants, etc., and especially large structures like
bridges, offer in their location and design an interminable
series of problems, both large and small, calling for the
joint application of technical knowledge, artistic skill and
good common sense. In proportion as these qualities are
jointly applied to all of such problems the streets of the



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314 CITY BEAUTIFUL

city will improve and in proportion as any or all of these
qualities are left out of consideration the streets will suffer.
It is only by unusual good fortune that a city can fill its
service with men who are thoroughly and adequately strong
in all three of the requisite qualities, and practically in order
to accomplish good results, the most important thing is that
there should be a clear recognition of the natural human
limitations of responsible officials and that they should be
provided with assistants or with consulting advisors com-
petent to help them out on their short suits. An official
may be somewhat short on artistic skill or on technical
knowledge or even on both provided he has common sense
and the desire and opportunity to get the co-operation of
people who are long where he is short, and he will get good
results. But somehow or other all three of the above quali-
ties must be brought to bear or the results will be relatively
unsatisfactory.

Assuming that the leading responsible officials are rea-
sonably long on common sense it ought to be possible to
secure as assistants, if a reasonably permanent tenure could
be assured, men having both technical and artistic training.
But aside from any doubts about the above premises, it is
very hard to find assistants having a technical training in
municipal construction work who have any artistic training
at all. The artistic aspect of construction work is so gen-
erally ignored in the training of civil engineers and most
architects and architectural draughtsmen are so lacking in
the particular kind of technical knowledge required in mu-
nicipal work, that the right combination is very hard to find.
Men with a sound professional training as landscape archi-
tects might come a little nearer to filling the bill than archi-
tects, but the number of such men available as municipal
employees is too small to be worth mentioning. Practically
dependence must be placed mainly on securing assistants
whose training has been along engineering lines, leavened
if possible by a small proportion who have had artistic train-
ing in architecture or otherwise, and on supplementing this



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CITY BEAUTIFUL 315

somewhat one-sided agency by the occasional or regular
services of a consulting architect and consulting landscape
architect.

Of course when it comes to the design of a school house
or the laying out of a park, or the adoption of a radically
new water supply or sewage system, it is customary and
proper to select and employ for that special undertaking
an expert who has proved by his work elsewhere that he
has special skill in dealing with such a problem.But it is
neither convenient nor economical nor productive of har-
monious results to parcel out all the minor constructional
problems of a city among independent professional men.
Up to a certain limit of magnitude and difficulty the prob-
lems ought to be dealt with by a departmental force, the
responsible executive head of which is normally an engineer.
In cities of moderate size there is one such department under
a city engineer, and in very large cities several such depart-
ments, under independent chief engineers. But in any case
the quality of work turned out by such city departments
is apt to be of better all round quality if the responsible
executive head has the privilege of informal consultation
with certain other experts, especially on artistic matters.
The city of New York has recently established the office of
consulting architect to the board of estimate and apportion-
ment, an officer who is debarred from undertaking any
architectural work for the city on his own account, but
whose advice as a consultant is open to any of the city de-
partments that prepare projects for construction to be passed
on by the board. The principle is a sound one and ought to
be more generally applied.

Treatment of Canal Banks.

The broad canals running through the heart of the man-
ufacturing district form one of the most interesting and
characteristic features of the city plan. They occupy a
good deal of space and it is obviously desirable to secure



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316 CITY BEAUTIFUL

as an incident to their main use (as a by-product of the de-
velopment of power, so to speak) as large a return as pos-
sible in the way of public enjoyment. They are to be seen
and enjoyed from the bridges and, in the case of the second
and third level canals, from the adjacent street, and the
first consideration for increasing the public enjoyment they
give is to avoid needless hindrances and defects in the means
of outlook upon them. The outlook from the bridges is
generally easy and unobstructed, although views from the
roadway and from the far sidewalk across the width of the
bridge are sometimes encumbered by trusses rising above
the deck of the bridge and by the unnecessary height of the
handrail or parapet, and generally the design of the hand-
rail leaves a good deal to be desired in respect to graceful
simplicity. These are matters to be dealt with from time to
time as the old bridges are reconstructed or new bridges
built. From this point of view, regardless of the appear-
ance of the bridges as seen from a distance, it may be said
as a general rule that it is desirable to keep the supporting
members of new bridges entirely below the deck, leaving it
unencumbered, and to make the rails or parapets rather
lower than those at present used and expend a good deal
of careful artistic study upon the design of the rail or para-
pet, not with the purpose of elaborating or "decorating"
it but of making it serve the purpose of safeguarding pass-
engers in the least conspicuous and ostentatious way, and
yet, so far as it draws attention at all, to be graceful and
pleasantly proportioned. The simplicity of the railing on
the Appleton street bridge over the second level canal is
very pleasing, for example, as contrasted with the rather
clumsy elaboration of the rails on some of the other bridges.
In the instances where a street follows beside one of the
canals it is obviously desirable if the landscape value of the
canals is to be appreciated that it should be brought as in-
timately into view from the street as possible. A close high
board fence would be an obvious mistake, but even the pre-
vailing fence of close-set pickets is high enough to cut off



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CITY BEAUTIFUL 317

at least the nearer part of the water from view except when
one is leaning over it or walking close beside it. It would
not do to omit the fence, but a much lower and more open
guard rail would probably answ r er every practical purpose
about as well, with a great gain in the agreeableness of the


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Online LibraryHolyoke (Mass.)Municipal register ... → online text (page 16 of 28)