Olmsted report on Portland, Oregon parks
JOHN CHARLES OLMSTEDFREDERICK LAW OLMSTED, JR.
December 31, 1903.
Honorable George H. Williams, Chairman, Board of Park Commissioners, Portland, Oregon.
Dear Sir: We have the honor to submit our report upon existing parks and a proposed system of parks for the City of Portland.
In preparing our minds for this duty we were occupied more or less every day during three weeks in going about and examining various parts of the city and of the surrounding country and in conference with Colonel L. L. Hawkins and Mr. lon Lewis of the Park Commission, and other interested citizens, and we were taken upon a number of long and interesting drives by Colonel Hawkins, besides making various excursions by ourselves. We were provided with good maps and other printed information, and took numerous photographs as an aid to memory in the subsequent study and digestion of our observations and wrote out very full notes of what we saw and were told.
1—Importance of Municipal Parks.Edit
Leading writers and other authorities on modern municipal development agree that no city can be considered properly equipped without an adequate park system.
All agree that parks not only add to the beauty of a city and to the pleasure of living in it, but are exceedingly important factors in developing the healthfulness, morality, intelligence. and business prosperity of its residents. Indeed it is not too much to say that a liberal provision of parks in a city is one of the surest manifestations of the intelligence, degree of civilization and progressiveness of its citlzens.
2—Duty of Citizens Toward Parks.Edit
It is constantly becoming more generally and more clearly realized that every inhabitant of a city owes to it, in return for benefits and advantages derived from it, certain duties not specifically compulsory according to law. Among such duties is that of aiding in every possible way to make the city more beautiful and more agreeable to live in and work in, and more attractive to strangers.
While there are many things, both small and great, which may contribute to the beauty of a great city, unquestionably one of the greatest is a comprehensive system of parks and parkways.
3—Parks and Park Purposes Should Be Defined in Advance—Park Units.Edit
As in the case of almost every complex work composed of varled units, economy, efficiency, symmetry and completeness are likely to be secured only when the system as a whole is planned comprehensively and the purposes to be accomplished defined clearly in advance. Otherwise. valuable opportunities may be overlooked, disproportionate efforts may be expended in the accomplishment of particular objects of relatively mlnor importance while others more vital may be ignored or sllghted. Limited means may be expended on the less important purposes leaving more essential features unprovided tor.
In order to determine upon a comprehensive system of parks it is first necessary to define and classify the various units of which the system is to be composed, even though it may not be practicable to carry out these ideas in all cases. The units of a park system generally recognized are city squares, play grounds, small or neighborhood parks, large or suburban parks, scenic reservations, boulevards and parkways.
City squares are comparatively small, ornamental grounds, usually dominated by surrounding buildings and necessarily more or less intimately related to surrounding and abutting streets. They are usually flat or simple in topography. They are consequently overlooked by people in surrounding buildings and streets, are much used by people who although they pass through them are bound elsewhere and, in other ways, they are more distinctly ornamental incidents of daily city lite and of urban conditions than are larger parks. Hence they are usually and most appropriately improved formally and symmetrically and often with prominent architectural and sculptural features. They may even be so extremely artificial as to be without trees, flowers or grass. That some actually are so and yet command the admiration of people of taste is an indication of their essential qualities and fundamental differences from parks proper. Few cities have anywhere near as many ornamental squares as they should. It ls particularly desirable that a city should have several of its principal public buildings facing upon a large public square, as the new custom house in New York faces upon the Bowling Green, not occupying it as the postoffice and municipal buildings occupy the City Hall Park.
Play grounds are primarily selected and improved for particular forms of recreation and only such beauty and ornamentation is allowable as will not unduly interfere with their usefulness for their intended purpose. As the noise which those who use them indulge in makes them somewhat objectionable to neighbors it is often best to combine them with public squares in such a way as to partially separate and screen their strictly utilitarian parts from adjoining streets and buildings, as in the case of Charlesbank in Boston, or to locate them in parks proper in such a way as to avoid undue injury to the main purposes of the park as in the case of Jackson Park, Chicago.
Urban or neighborhood parks include public pleasure grounds of a variety of sizes and styles. They may be formal in general design and informal in some details like the public park at Dijon, in France, or they may be as informal as the designer can make them, like Morningside Park, in New York, or, as is generally the case, they may be informal in general design but more or less filled with formal and artificial details like the Public Garden in Boston. Neighborhood parks are large enough to contain naturalistic scenery but not large enough to enable the visitor to enjoy fully the feeling of escape from city sights and sounds and of seclusion which it is the function of the large rural or suburban parks to encourage. Nevertheless the local park is the more useful to the daily life of the citizens since its restricted size and cost enable the city to distribute them in various localities in close proximity to densely populated sections or where they can soon become surrounded by a large population. To make them as attractive and useful as possible it is often best to abandon the attempt to secure simple broad landscape effects and to design them with as many interesting features and useful subdivisions as practicable somewhat as a recreation building is subdivided. It may not be possible to wholly screen out surrounding streets and houses, yet it will usually make them more enjoyable for visitors to do so to some extent. In short, local parks are recreation grounds in which beauty of vegetation and often of small scale naturalistic scenery is the first consideration, but which, nevertheless, admits of a large amount of the formal and semiformal work of the gardener and the architect and has often much provision for games and amusements. Drives are often inadvisedly introduced into such parks. Unless there is some fine outlook to which it is desirable to lead people in carriages, as in the case of The Front, in Buffalo, or some bluff or river bank or lake or other landscape feature which cannot be viewed from carriages in adjoining streets, or unless there is a concert grove at which it is desired to provide for visitors in carriages, or unless the local park be part of a continuous chain of parks and parkways, or unless there is some other good reason, a drive is an undesirable intrusion in a local park. Such a park is worth far more for visitors on foot especially children of the neighborhood than it is for visitors in carriages who may be presumed to be better able to visit the larger suburban parks. Local parks since they are more conveniently and daily accessible by large numbers of people, must have adequately wide and numerous walks and these walks must especially provide for short-cutting since local parks are usually directly in the way of many pedestrians.
Rural or Suburban Parks. These parks are intended to afford to visitors that sort of mental refreshment and enjoyment which can only be derived from the quiet contemplation of natural scenery. There is absolutely no other recreation or amusement customarily provided for in parks which could not be satisfactorily accomplished and usually with far greater convenience to the majority of citizens in a series of small, well distributed and properly located neighborhood parks and incidentally with far greater benefits to adjoining real estate. Yet of such vital importance are large rural parks in the minds of those leading citizens who have studied the needs of municipal development of a comprehensive system of parks that we find most large cities have expended trillions of dollars to acquire them even in advance of an adequate provision of ornamental squares, health developing play grounds and neighborhood parks. To secure the extent and character of landscape adapted to adequately refresh visitors in such large numbers as must be expected to resort upon occasions to a rural park, requires with ordinary conditions of topography and situation, several hundred acres of land, necessitating the interruption of ordinary commercial traffic often to a very inconvenient degree. The fundamental purposes of a rural park requires the shutting off from the interior of the park as completely as possible, all city sights and sounds, and the resolute exclusion of museums and of many exceedingly popular means of amusement from the main landscapes of the park; it usually requires fencing and limiting the number of entrances; it requires the relegation of drives and walks and public shelters to places where they will not too seriously injure the park landscapes even at serious sacrifice of opportunities for those using them to enjoy some of the scenery; it requires that most of the area be devoted to that beautiful but comparatively tame type of scenery which is composed mainly of flat or gently sloping or undulating surfaces covered with smooth, close turf surrounded with an abundance of shade trees. The beauty of this type of scenery is ruined by the introduction of numerous incongruous and artificial features. Straight lines of drive or walk or water surface, rows of trees, buildings, monuments, fountain jets, flagpoles, and particularly formal flower beds are usually injurious to and often destructive of the simple rural beauty which is appropriate to this class of parks.
Scenic reservations are of all sizes, and include all sorts of natural or semi-natural scenery which is, however, if owned by municipalities, apt to be comparatively moderate in scale. They usually differ from parks proper in being rougher, wilder and less artificially improved and are usually more remote and hence less resorted to by such throngs of visitors as require broad drives and walks and other artificial conveniences in the parks proper. Municipal reservations are sometimes selected to preserve one or more notable landscape features of moderate size, such as, for instance, the gorge of the Genesee River north of Rochester; the Blue Hills southeast of Boston; the great trap hills of Meriden and Mount Royal of Montreal.
Boulevards and parkways are important parts of a complete park system. For convenience, formal city pleasure drives may better be called "boulevards," while informal pleasure drives may be more specifically designated "parkways," although no such distinction has heretofore been made. Eastern Parkway and Ocean Parkway, in Brooklyn, are instances of liberal and complete boulevards, in which there is a broad central drive devoted exclusively to pleasure driving and a narrower drive on each side intended for access to adjoining private properties as well as for ordinary street traffic and separated from the middle drive by double rows of trees with promenades between them. Drexel Boulevard, in Chicago, is another type of boulevard (more popular with real estate men) in which there are two sidewalks each with a row of trees, two broad driveways and a broad central ornamental strip. The parkway called in part Fenway, in part Riverway and in part Jamaicaway, in Boston, and Bay Ridge Parkway or Shore Drive, in Brooklyn, are examples of informal parkways in which adjoining or included local scenery or distant views are more important than the decorative turf strips and shade trees.
4—The Parks of a City Should Be Parts of a System.Edit
If a city is to have parks, a careful study of the problem will convince any student of municipal development that the parks should be acquired in accordance with a general system. Many cities have one or more parks in which their citizens may justly take pride, but comparatively few of these cities have what can properly be called a comprehensive, well-ballanced and well-developed system of parks, a system which will compare favorably as to completeness with, for instance. the system of public schools, or the system of tire protection and other principal departments of the city government.
The backwardness of municipal park systems is not so much due to lack of public intelligence and public spirit, as to a defective development of the love of beauty, as compared with a well-developed appreciation of practical, utilitarian progress.
5—Parks Systems Should Be Comprehensive.Edit
A park system should comprise all the various units which go to form a complete system. Some cities, Savannah, for instance, have a liberal provision of public squares, but few, if any, play grounds, parks and boulevards: some, New Orleans, for instance, have boulevards and parks, but few, if any, play grounds and neighborhood parks; some, Washington, for instance, have public squares, boulevards and parks, but few, if any, playgrounds; some, Chicago, for instance, have parks and boulevards, but few public squares and local parks; some, Philadelphia, for instance, have parks and public squares, but few connecting boulevards and play grounds.
6—Park Systems Should Be Well Balanced.Edit
The various social and topographical sections of a city should be suitably supplied with the various units of a system according to their needs and natural opportunities. It not infrequently happens that the sections of a city in which the population is most dense and most in need of squares, play grounds and local parks, are almost wholly devoid of these advantages because no well-balanced system has been devised and carried out while land was sufficiently cheap and comparatively unoccupied so that now the expense is prohibitory.
7—Parks Should Have Individuality.Edit
Unless a special and intelligent effort is made to secure individuality in the improvement of each of the public squares, parks and boulevards of a city, they are liable to repeat each other too much. The West Side parks of Chicago resemble each other to a regrettable degree. Each has its little, crooked lake, its green house and flower beds, its little lawns, its curving level drives and walks, its bridges and statues, its plantations mainly of the same selection of trees crowded and slim and only partially screening out surrounding houses. Only of late years has a bicycle track and speedway been introduced into one, a bathing establishment and an athletic ground in another. In New York and Boston and Rochester, and many cities largely, perhaps, owing to the topographical differences the parks are strongly individualized.
8—Parks Should Be Connected and Approached by Boulevards and Parkways.Edit
A connected system of parks and parkways is manifestly far more complete and useful than a series of isolated parks. Delaware Park, in Buffalo, is an example of a park with handsome boulevards forming approaches from the city and connecting it with Humboldt Park in one direction, Gates Circle in another, and Delaware Avenue and The Front in another. Washington Park, Chicago, also has its two imposing approaches in Drexel Boulevard and Grand Boulevard and its boulevard connection with Jackson Park and the West Side Parks. The broad avenues of Washington are admirable examples of boulevards because the houses are kept back from the sidewalks by turf strips upon which houses cannot he built, although porches, bay windows, and other projections are very properly permitted, and also because they have ornamental circles and squares at turning points and often begin or end at important public buildings.
9—Parks and Parkways Should Be Located and Improved to Take Advantage of Beautiful Natural Scenery and to Secure Sanitary Conditions.EditOnly recently has it begun to be realized what enormous advantages are gained by locating parks and parkways so as to take advantage of beautiful natural scenery. The most expensive large parks, Central Park and Prospect Park, were located without taking advantage of the magnificent natural landscapes of the rivers and bays which distinguish New York and Brooklyn. There are many similar cases. Formerly people built with the backs of their houses upon the rivers and lakes, thus not only excluding the public from continuous access to them but ruining their beauty. Where land along the banks of rivers or along the shores of a lake can, in a city, be fairly well spared from commercial uses, public squares, parks and parkways should be located upon them. Extremely steep and rough hills and bluffs have been occupied for dwellings and other buildings as at Pittsburg, San Francisco, and many other cities, that should have been taken for picturesque recreation grounds, with drives above, commanding magnificent views, as at Riverside and Morningside Parks in New York.
ln addition to taking advantage of beautiful natural scenery, parks and parkways may often be located so as to secure very important sanitary advantages through the improvement of ill-drained areas, particularly low-lying lands on lake shores or along rivers subject to floods. Marked economy in municipal development may also be effected by laying out parkways and parks, while land is cheap, so as to embrace streams that carry at times more water than can be taken care of by drain pipes of ordinary size. Thus brooks or little rivers which would otherwise become nuisances that would some day have to be put in large underground conduits at enormous expense, may be made the occasion for delightful local pleasure grounds or attractive parkways. Such improvements add greatly to the value of adjoining properties, which would otherwise have been depreciated by the erection on the low lands of the cheapest class of dwellings or by ugly factories, stables and other commercial establishments. Leverett Park, in the Boston Park system, is an instance in point. A cat-tail marsh, many acres in extent, where, no doubt, only the poorest class of houses, stables and the like would otherwise have been built, was made into a beautiful lake.
10—Park Systems Should Be in Proportion to Opportunities.Edit
A city having many or extensive opportunities for parks and parkways should promptly avail itself of them even at serious financial sacrifice. Such a city may wisely mortgage its future wealth much more heavily by the issue of longterm bonds for the acquirement and preservation of beautiful natural scenery than a city relatively devoid of such opportunities, provided there is a reasonable probability of attracting to itself thereby well-to-do and wealthy families, because such improvements tend to draw to the city wealth, the taxation of which may more than repay the city for the outlay. The same is true as to sections of a city having natural advantages for residences.
11—Parks and Parkways Should Be Acquired Betimes.Edit
It is particularly urgent that a city having beautiful local scenery adapted for parks and parkways should secure the land betimes lest these natural advantages he destroyed or irreparably injured by the owners. Many of the older cities would now pay very high prices for land covered with the primeval forest which the early inhabitants destroyed and which might once have been obtained for a few dollars an acre. Efforts are now being made in many cities to secure even narrow and unsatisfactory boulevards which might have cost nothing for land besides being wider and handsomer if those who originally determined the width of the principal streets had drawn the side lines twice as far apart. Even now, opportunities for widening, at very moderate cost, trunk thoroughfares outside the closely built area of most cities are being carelessly allowed to pass by. Unless parks properly distributed, located and bounded to best preserve beautiful local scenery and to accomplish the essential purposes they are designed for are secured while the land is comparatively unoccupied by expensive improvements, they rarely can be secured at all. To take an extreme case one has only to consider how utterly impossible it would now be for the city of New York to secure on Manhattan Island another such park as Central Park. But even if a sufficient area of land for a park should remain vacant near the heart of a city it is almost certain to rise to a value that is prohibitory and this alone is a sufficient reason for taking parks betimes. There is still a large vacant area west of the Boston Park called The Fens but whereas the land occupied by The Fens cost, twenty-six years ago, only 10 cents a square foot, or about $4,300.00 an acre, this vacant land adjoining it would doubtless cost now considerably more than $2.00 a square foot on an average, or over $86,000 an acre.
12—The Land for Park Systems Should Be Paid for by Long-Term Loans.Edit
There is a very commendable disinclination on the part of legislatures to pass laws authorizing long term municipal loans and in favor of keeping a comparatively low limit on the total amount which cities are allowed to borrow. But the case of loans for purchase of land, especially land for a park system is very decidedly different from that of loans for most other municipal improvements. It is unwise for cities, as for business men and corporations, to borrow more than a safe fraction of their marketable assets or so much that the interest and annual sinking fund payments will be possibly greater than the sure income applicable to these purposes during periods of industrial depression. Still more fundamental is the principal that money should not be borrowed unless it can be profitably employed. In the case of money borrowed for the acquisition of park land it should be borne in mind that the land is an asset that will be worth more in almost every instance, by the time the loan becomes payable, than the amount of the loan. Moreover, as a general rule, the special increase in the assessor's valuations of adjoining private lands and in the improvements subsequently erected upon them, will yield increased taxes sufficient to meet the interest and the annual contributions to the sinking fund of the park-land loan. Of course there should be limitations, but experience indicates that the limits for park-land loans may safely be set very much higher than for other municipal loans. Examination of the facts by experts would be required, doubtless, to fully satisfy those in authority; but it requires very little knowledge of municipal finances to satisfy one of the general rule that parks are a better asset, when the loan by which they have been acquired becomes payable, than school buildings, fire engine houses, city halls, street improvements and most other things for which cities borrow money, and all of which deteriorate and some of which become almost valueless, even it they are not destroyed to make room for better structures.
13—Park Systems Should Be Improved by Means of Loans, Special Assessments and Annual Taxation.Edit
The experience of the larger cities has been that by far the most satisfactory and profitable results have been obtained by improving their parks as rapidly as such difficult and complex work can wisely be effected, usually in from three to five years after the acquisition of the land, depending upon various circumstances, but mainly upon the prospect of a consequent rapid rise in the values of adjoining lands. In general, it is safe to say that some parks and parkways or some portions of them should be rapidly improved, at least to such degree as is necessary to perfect their landscape and to render them at once available for the public to use with reasonable convenience and satisfaction and without undue injury to the verdure of the parks. Such rapid improvement cannot, as a rule, be accomplished by means of such appropriations as can be spared from annual taxes. In certain cases money can be raised in large amounts by special assessments on adjoining properties. Such special assessments are levied only when the land can be shown to have derived special benefits, and only to a less amount in each case than the estimated increase in valuation. Such special assessments may generally be levied first when the land for a park or parkway is taken or soon after the taking and again when the improvements have advanced far enough to affect favorably the valuation of adjoining and neighboring properties, in the case of land only part of which is taken, the benefit and damage should be considered at the same time and the award or assessment should be for the balance between the two only. Minor improvements and even the land purchases for additions or for squares, play grounds, small parks and short or inexpensive parkways may be paid for out of annual taxation, especially during prosperous times.
14—Park Systems Should Be Improved Both Occasionally and Continuously.Edit
Like many public institutions, railroads and industrial plants, the improvement of parks is done from time to time by occasional relatively large expenditures such as would be paid for by borrowed money or by especially large appropriations for specific purposes and also more or less continuously out of ordinary annual appropriations. A new park situated where it can be used conveniently by the public should be considerably improved according to a comprehensive plan at the outset, and presumably by means of borrowed money. There may be a lull and for, perhaps, ten or twenty years further improvements may be limited to what can be done annually by means of small appropriations and mainly by occasional moderate increase of the regular maintenance force. Practically the improvement takes place more rapidly during times of commercial prosperity or else during times of extreme industrial depression when it may be advisable to use the credit of the city to provide work for the poorest class of laborers who suffer most from lack of employment. The loans for improvement of parks and still more decidedly those for the purchase of land should be authorized during good times and expended during hard times. Since the burden is evenly distributed over so long a period as to cover several good times and their intervening hard times it can make but little difference when the burden begins or when additional burdens are assumed, while it makes tremendously for economy to purchase lands during hard times when land owners often are more eager to obtain cash than to hold on for a possible future profit and it is far more advantageous to employ common labor for park improvement during hard times either to prevent or to diminish the sufferings of the poor and to get the work done at minimum wages.
15—Park Systems Should Be Improved According to a Well Studied and Comprehensive General Plan.Edit
Park systems, like other large, complex and costly creations of human intelligence, should be carefully designed by trained designers.
Like a large public building, every large park is composed of various parts and numerous details and it is just as important to employ an expert designer to devise a general plan for such parks as it is to employ an architect to design a correspondingly important public building. For reasons rather difficult to explain there are in every city many more persons who consider themselves competent to direct the expenditure of public money on parks without plans prepared by experts than there are persons who would be willing to direct the expenditure of similar amounts on a large city hall, and yet, as a matter of fact, the ability to design landscape is very much rarer than the ability to design monumental public buildings.The designing of a park should begin with the selection of the site, in doing which many important considerations of a technical nature should receive far more attention than they generally get from those usually entrusted with this duty.
The determination of the boundaries of a park is often very intimately related to radical questions of design. The boundaries adopted for a park are often the used by the previous private owners and in the West almost all such boundaries are the straight lines of the original government land surveys or of subdivisions based upon them and which are generally purely arbitrary rectangular boundaries bearing no harmonious relation with the topography except in the few cases where the land is flat. Such arbitrary rectangular boundaries are often hideous misfits with respect to the local topography, particularly if, as is often the case, the site has been selected for a park because of its strongly marked topography. Such arbitrary boundaries are also sometimes badly out of accord with certain requirements of a good design for the improvement of the particular ground in question. The artist painter usually selects a size and shape for his picture with regard to the subject he has in mind. But having done this he has a free field for his imagination to work upon. The design of a park, on the other hand, must usually be based on more or less controlling topographical considerations. For instance, if the local scenery led to the location of a park in a ravine, the boundaries should include both sides of the ravine and land enough on the top for a boundary street; if it is a small lake, the boundaries should include a sufficient border of land around the lake for the framing plantations and boundary street; if it is a view commanding hill the boundaries should be far enough below the summit to prevent obstruction of the view by trees which may grow or houses which may be erected on adjoining properties, and so on. Such obvious requirements are frequently disregarded in selecting the lands and in determining the boundaries of parks and parkways.
It is as necessary for good effect for a park to be surrounded by streets as for a public building of monumental design to be on ground so surrounded.
A border plantation is usually an essential feature of a park. It frames and completes the park landscapes and excludes incongruous and ugly things outside the park from the beautiful things in it.
Within their framing border plantations, parks vary so much in what they include that generalization is hardly possible, but in most cases a properly designed park will have various parts developed for different purposes and in different styles.
There will often be a large section of a park devoted to a great meadow, another section devoted to a lake, another devoted to rough woodland scenery, another devoted to a conservatory with gardenesque treatment of its surroundings, another section may be devoted to a zoological garden, another to a botanical garden, another section may be devoted to popular amusements requiring more or less apparatus, fences, shelters and artificial constructions. The beauties which should characterize each section should be constantly kept in mind. It is to be presumed that those sections in which the landscape is the main consideration should be as nearly natural as possible. It seems sufficiently obvious, therefore, that park woods should not be planted as regularly as orchards, that park lakes should not be shaped to a succession of straight lines and that park meadows should not be graded to perfect planes, surrounded by formal terraces and bordered by rows of trees; but many equally inappropriate and artificializing things are done upon parks without any real necessity owing to a common confusion of ideas and to a defective artistic appreciation or to positive bad taste.
Even without the cultivated taste of an artist, the use of a trained intelligence in a conscientious effort to design and explain a comprehensive plan will do much to make clear what should and what should not be done in each of the main subdivisions of a park. The absence of such a general plan or a failure to comprehend and follow it will result in the hodge-podge of incongruities too often seen in parks. The portions which should be natural are often artificialized unnecessarily by gardening operations or by the introduction of buildings, fountains and all sorts of artificial ornaments, while the portions which might, in harmony with the uses to which they are put, be improved and decorated in a formal style are too informal. On the other hand, in the portion of a park actually devoted to extensive and conspicuous formal beds of tender plants and flowers, the drives and walks, lawns, shrubberies and tree plantations will often be strikingly informal. A general plan may provide places where the beauties of formal beds of tender plants and other gardening features may be enjoyed individually and collectively and places where those which are incongruous with each other may be separated by a systematic arrangement of plantations, which, while forming contrasting or harmonious backgrounds, separations, enclosures, screens and the like, yet will themselves form part of a complete whole.
The failure to have and to follow a well studied, comprehensive general plan has resulted in making many parks little better than a miscellaneous jumble of conflicting and incongruous incidents. There is an analogy between parks and buildings which illustrates the need of combining variety into a harmonious whole. It is well recognized that the exterior of a house should be designed as a harmonious whole. It is also obvious that the exterior walls of a house enclose various rooms devoted to various purposes and that the materials, colors and decorations of these rooms would be quite out of harmony if each room showed these things on the outside walls of the house. So, too, in park designing there may be a long stretch of tree masses of irregular shape and varying tints of green corresponding to a house wall, and designed to harmonize with the meadow or lake which it frames, while the opposite face of the same mass of trees may be planted to harmonize with some entirely different section of the park, such as a formal garden or a mall upon which buildings or statues are to face, or it may be faced with the special horticultural varieties of trees and shrubs which are developed by the nurserymen and prized by the gardener for their artificiality of form, odd-shaped leaves, peculiar color of foliage, conspicuous flowers, or their decorative effect in masses. A clipped evergreen hedge thirty feet high might be an ugly enclosure of an informal lake, yet it might be a most effective and suitable background for a collection of palms or to shelter an aviary from cold winds.
Unfortunately it seems to happen very often that a park is first improved mainly with a view to providing the beauties of landscape and afterwards has sprinkled over it every sort of thing which people are believed to admire. The usual result is analogous to the effect of the interior of a curiosity shop as compared with the library of the home of a family of good taste. The shop is a haphazard collection of objects many of which may be very beautiful but which do not unite with others to form a beautiful and harmonious whole, while in the home library each object is carefully selected and placed both with regard to the purpose of the room and with regard to the effect of each object seen in connection with its surroundings.
The designer of a park should assign proper places for sundry things for a variety of purposes and must meet many limitations and practical requirements always with the beauty of the whole as well as of the parts in mind as the prime consideration.For instance, if a meadow is to be provided as a prominent landscape feature because of its usefulness for strolling and for field sports, it must constantly be borne in mind that the beauty of a meadow consists in its breadth and simplicity, in its smooth, continuous green sward and in its naturalness. Many things are done to a park meadow in direct contravention of these obvious characteristics. Its breadth is broken by conspicuous drives and walks, its simplicity is ruined by flower beds, its greensward is injured by excessive trampling or by short-cut paths being allowed to be worn in it and its naturalness is destroyed by grading it to a flatness not characteristic of the surrounding topography, or by harsh obvious artificial turf terraces, or by planting regular rows of trees along its borders.
If a congregating or picnicing grove is to be grown or kept, its trees are apt to be planted or allowed to remain so close together, or the branches are permitted to hang so low that turf cannot be successfully maintained owing to the dense shade and to the multiplicity of tree roots upon or near the surface of the ground.
If a wild wood is to be preserved or created the bushy undergrowth must be retained or planted else the wood can scarcely look natural, yet how almost invariably the beautiful wild undergrowth is destroyed at the earliest opportunity by those in charge of parks.
If there is to be a sheet of water in a park intended to be in a naturalistic style, no pains should be spared to make the water area natural looking in location, outline, shores and bordering plantations.
It is to be regretted that the necessity for general plans in parks is not appreciated by most people as is the necessity for a general plan for city hall or court house. Yet a park is apt to include more naturally incongruous purposes and objects than a city hall. It almost never happens that a whole park exists, like an artist's painting, solely to be looked at, yet by far the greater portion of every park exists primarily for landscape beauty. If large portions can be used for recreative purposes other than enjoyment through the eyes, the park will be worth more to the public, but it would be ruinous to let the public use all portions to the destruction of beauty. It is one of the purposes of a general plan to indicate certain portions of a park that can be used and as far as possible the way in which each such portion is intended to be used. It is necessary, however, to supplement the general plan by certain reasonable rules and regulations and for the superintendent to resort to various expedients to accomplish the ideas and purposes of the general plan and of the rules and regulations. If a park has been improved according to a well considered general plan and if the park is misused to such a degree as to destroy much of the beauty for which the park was created, it is likely that the park commissioners and their employees have not had sufficient experience as to how the use of parks is properly guided and controlled, or else it is due to indifference or inefficiency or to a mistaken policy of spending too much of the available money for less important purposes.
16—Park Systems Should Be Governed by Qualified Officials.EditThe proper determination and improvement of a complete park system for a city is one of the most difficult and responsible duties that ever comes to a city government. Not only is the total expenditure necessarily a very great one but a large part of the expenditure is liable to be as absolutely wasted, if the true objects fail to be accomplished, as if the money was thrown in the fire.
Experience proves that the most successful government of important park systems is by a small board of unpaid park commissioners. There should be not less than three nor more than five members, who should be appointed for long, over-lapping terms and should usually be repeatedly appointed. Park commissioners should be appointed by some authority as little concerned with local politics as possible and yet sufficiently widely and well acquainted with the best educated class of citizens to be able to select those best fitted for the duties of park commissioners. The Board should be financially independent of the city government but should work harmoniously with other city departments. The Board should not meet normally oftener than once a month else the ablest and most desirable men who are therefore the busiest men, may decline to serve, but most matters except matters of taste, can be referred to committees of one or two members who can, at their convenience examine into subjects too complicated to be decided off-hand at Board meetings and after due conference with the principal employees of the Board can report to the Board. The Board should hear reports from its principal employees and pass upon questions of greater importance than should be decided by an employee, mainly questions of general policy. In general, the Board should leave planning to competent experts and the execution of plans, including the selection of subordinates, to an efficient and specially trained superintendent, so far as his capacity, theoretical knowledge and practical experience makes it safe to do so. The commissioners should, of course, keep sufficiently familiar with the work to intelligently pass upon all questions brought before them at their meetings, but they should not individually direct work nor give orders. Fortunately it is a healthful and more or less recreative task for park commissioners to inspect parks.
The president of a park commission should be an able administrator, preferably a man who is in active control of many and large commercial undertakings. He should have traveled enough to have gained a general knowledge of the characteristics that combine to make the parks of other cities beautiful. During the times when important land deals are under consideration, the president of the Board should be a man who has been successful in that line incidentally to the establishment or extension of some large commercial undertaking. A resourceful man, with strength of character, persistence, sound judgment, and above all, tact, can often save a city a large percentage in cost of land for parks.
But whether or not the president of the Board is both an able business man and a good judge of park beauty, it is of the utmost importance that the rest of the Board be men of refined taste and competent to safely decide the innumerable questions that concern the appearance of the parks and of every part of them and of every object proposed to be put upon them. If they are not fit for that, they are practically useless. As a rule, men of cultivated taste are most apt to be found among those who have always been rich or well-to-do and among professional men more than business men and especially among liberally educated men. Although it has not been customary to have women on park boards, it would seem that as there are probably more of them in a given city who have had the time and inclination to cultivate an appreciation of the beautiful in nature and art, it might be advantageous to enlarge the choice of the appointing authority by including in the park board one or two women of cultivated taste. If a park board has an able business man at its head, the other members should not hamper him in securing efficient administration of the business, but they should control him and all under him in regard to all matters of appearance. It is for this reason that park systems should not be managed by a single commissioner. A single commissioner may be very proper in the case of the police department, the fire department and others where efficiency is the main consideration and beauty incidental, but park beauty should always be the controlling consideration, and the two or four members of the Board who were selected primarily because they were believed to be good judges of beauty in park matters are certainly much more likely to judge safely all matters of appearance than is one man who has been selected for his business ability.
Since it is found desirable that park commissioners should serve without pay, it is important that the duties of the position should be kept as light as is consistent with the successful accomplishment of the business and esthetic control of the work, and that the members of the Board should be so eminent and at the same time so genially agreeable to each other that it will be a positive pleasure for them to meet together. This pleasure and the intellectual satisfaction of controlling the accomplishment of things that will be beautiful and even monumental and that will be admired by both the most intelligent and the most numerous classes of the community, form the reward which enables the city to enlist the services of able men without salaries.
17—Park Systems Should Be Improved and Maintained by Specially Trained Men.Edit
As in every other important class of human endeavor, the best results will usually be attained by men who thoroughly appreciate the purposes to be accomplished and who have by natural aptitude and by long special training the required ability to accomplish these purposes. Unfortunately the number of men who know how to make and maintain beautiful parks is very small. Park commissioners are therefore apt to employ men who seem to know something of at least the practical parts of the work, and they often flounder around in all the vitally important matters of design, using their own taste and knowledge as far as they have time and inclination to do so and leaving the rest to their practical men. Even those park commissioners who know and appreciate beautiful landscape when they see it are rarely able to select and adapt a particular type of landscape to the particular land with which they are dealing. Perhaps they can appreciate good acting or good music, but they would be unable to write the play or compose the music. Yet they will order a wood cleaned of underbrush, feel gratified by the efforts of the gardener in the way of so-called rock work, rustic bridges, formal flower beds in informal surroundings, and by walks leading hither and yon without any purpose that one can discover, and by all the injuries which even good gardeners (because they are mostly mechanics and not artists) will inflict on a park landscape already naturally beautiful or which needs only native trees and wild bushes in proper places to make it so. Many of the civil engineers employed on park work do more even to injure naturally beautiful scenery, because their operations in grading and road building and bridges are apt to be larger, and more conspicuous, and so expensive that once done, it is practically impossible to change them and because most of their training has been in smashing beautiful landscape with railroads, streets, dams and bridges and other constructions, all of which might at the same, or at moderate additional cost, be made beautiful in form and location, even if without ornament. But the civil engineer who should be caught by his employers spending money for beauty, as, for instance, by curving a road around a hill instead of cutting through it or by having vines and wild flowers planted on rough railroad slopes, would be reprimanded if not discharged. Civil engineers are not to be blamed for this. Their education and experience has compelled them to it. Nor are gardeners to be blamed for being mechanics instead of artists. If a park commission cannot find artistic gardeners and artistic civil engineers, the next best thing is to "catch them young"—those who have innate artistic feeling—and help them to become such.
18—Park Systems Should Be Managed Independently of City Governments.EditIt has been demonstrated by experience in many cities that the park system more than any other of the undertakings of a city should be managed independently of the common council or legislative body of the city government.
The reason for this is, of course, that the majority of the members of the city government is composed of practical politicians or of men who have about the same education, the same impulses and ideas and about the same taste. It should be clearly understood that, as in the cases of gardeners and civil engineers already touched upon, no blame is meant to be cast upon practical politicians. It is simply a fact that when they control the management of parks, the results attained from the point of view of art are poor, sometimes very bad indeed.
Parks, like public libraries and art museums, must meet the public needs in the main, else they will lose their power for educating the people to better things, but they should be managed by wise and public-spirited men who have high ideals and who will strive to gradually and considerately improve the public taste. The people can be led toward higher ideals, but they must in the main be led unconsciously and by force of example rather than by scolding. It is in this direction that the managers of parks, libraries and art museums can do much good or, on the contrary, can work much evil in matters of taste.
Parks should not be brought into politics not only for the important business reasons that apply in all departments of municipal administration, but for the more important reason that the essential requirement of parks is that they should be naturally and artistically beautiful and because politicians as a class give small consideration to matters of art and beauty of natural scenery and care less whenever they conflict with their business interests. The schools may not be beautiful, but yet may serve all practical purposes; bridges may be and usually are hideous, but we can use them and hope for better things some day, but if parks are not beautiful, they are very nearly useless.Politicians, as a class, work as hard for power and pecuniary success as any other class of business men, but like most business men, especially retailers, they do not waste much time or money in trying to inspire the masses with high ideals or in improving and refining their taste. Politicians do not make good park commissioners, not alone because they are not good judges of landscape beauty, but because they are strongly biased in the direction of deciding every question in the way that will gain them and their party friends and votes, and because they will inevitably sacrifice what seems to them such trivial things as matters of appearance to oblige people who generally have some personal or selfish or party end in view. The number of cases that arise in park administration in which a politician will decide contrary to the requirements of good taste are far more numerous than anyone who has not had long experience of park matters could imagine, or believe if told.
A political park commissioner will be apt to favor the determination of the number of and the selection of sites for parks that will gain him or his party the most votes, or that will please pecuniarily interested persons or corporations. He will usually prefer to decide all such questions without expert advice, knowing that without such guidance he can surely decide according to his own interest and that of his party, while with it he may be hampered in securing what he wants done. He will favor the employment of experts if they must be employed, who will be subservient and "easy to get along with," and he will prefer a superintendent who will purchase supplies from the "right" dealer. He will want to grant licenses for all sorts of amusement concerns regardless of the park landscape, provided only they are likely to be popular and are run by the "right" men; and so on. As they know the public admire gaudy effects, they cover the park lawns with the most brilliantly colored foliage plants and park buildings with novel and conspicuous details painted with showy and contrasting colors. Naturally, with park commissioners of this type of mind, the higher beauties of nature and of art in the parks stand very little show to be preserved or created.
Parks should be kept out of politics not only by not having politicians appointed as park commissioners, but, remembering that "money is power," by taking the power of making the annual park appropriations from the city government by means of a law giving the park commission a certain minimum and maximum percentage of the total of the assessors' valuation of the taxable property in the city, and providing for long-term loans for land purchases and short-term loans for improvements, each based on a percentage of the total of assessors' valuations of taxable property in the city and requiring compulsory issue by the city government in some cases, after they have been approved by a referendum in some cases. Additional voluntary appropriations by the city government may also be permitted by law.
TOPOGRAPHICAL CONDITIONS AFFECTING THE PARK PROBLEM OF PORTLAND.Edit
Some of the conditions which control the problem of providing a complete system of parks and parkways for the City of Portland are as follows:
The city lies on both sides of the Willamette River, which is spanned at present by four bridges. The smaller but older portion of the city is west of the river and occupies gently rolling ground, which rises with moderate rapidity to the base of high, rugged and very irregular hills. This base of the hills forms almost a straight line and runs nearly northwest from the mouth of Marquam Gulch Canyon to the mouth of Balch Creek Canyon, and continues in the same general direction for some miles further down the river. Up the river for some distance beyond Marquam Gulch, there is a narrow margin of moderately flat land between the hills and the river; which, however, is not large enough to provide for any considerable increase of population. Down the river from Balch Creek much of the space between the base of the hills and the river is occupied by Guild Lake and other lakes and sloughs and almost all of it is subject to being flooded by the river, so that there is little opportunity for the city to expand in this direction. The greatest width available west of the river for ordinary city development is a trifle over one and one-quarter miles, the average width about one mile and the length about two and one-half miles. East of the river there is practically unlimited opportunity for the expansion of the city, the only limit being the Columbia Sloughs, which are about two and one-half miles from the Willamette River at the Portland Flouring Mill, and about six miles on the line of Sandy Road. East of the river, the land from Sellwood to the Columbia Sloughs is a plain, slightly rolling, and intersected by gulches, but on the whole rising gently from the bluffs at the river to a low ridge parallel with the Columbia Sloughs and about half way between them and the Willamette River. This ridge is about two hundred feet high near the bluffs overlooking the Portland Flouring Mill, rises gradually to a height of about two hundred and fifty feet at Sandy Road, and continues some miles to the eastward. Directly east of the heart of the city, the land rises similarly, but more rapidly and is more rolling. Mount Tabor marks the eastern limit of this section of the city. Southward of Mount Tabor the land, while rising similarly, is gentler.
GROWTH OF THE CITY.EditThe inconvenience and expense of extending the city between and over the rugged hills west of it have already checked the growth of this older part of the city, and is causing in it a marked increase in the density of population. The expansion of the city in the way of developing new subdivisions is going on almost entirely east of the river, and obviously must in the main continue to do so. The part of the city west of the river is already provided with two parks of considerable size, while the vastly larger section of the city east of the river has only one park that is more than a square—Columbia Park—and this, being flat and uninteresting and remote from any densely populated area is likely to be little more than an exaggerated square of interest almost solely to the immediate neighborhood.
PRINCIPLE LANDSCAPE FEATURES.Edit
In the selection of parks the first consideration should be to locate them so as to secure within them as great natural advantages as practicable, or so they will command the best possible view of whatever great landscape features there may be in the vicinity, or both.
The most notable landscape feature that is conveniently accessible to the greater part of the population is obviously the river itself. Unfortunately the requirements of commerce prevent any considerable area being set aside for park purposes in connection with the river until one reaches Ross Island, above the city, and Swan Island below the city.
Other great landscape features within convenient reach of the present population especially by existing electric car lines, are the series of great hills, with intervening canyons, south and southwest of the western section of the city; Mount Tabor, east of the eastern section of the city, and Rocky Butte, northeast of the eastern section of the city. There remains one other great landscape feature, the sloughs of the Columbia, and beyond them the river itself.
From almost all parts of the city that are fairly open and from all the high hills extremely beautiful views are commanded of the distant snow-clad mountains and especially of the five great snow-clad peaks: Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Rainier and Mount Jefferson.
The city is most fortunate, in comparison with the majority of American cities, in possessing such varied and wonderfully strong and interesting landscape features available to be utilized in its park system.
SYSTEM AND POLICY AS TO LAND ACQUISITION.Edit
The city ought surely to adopt the policy of securing as much as it can of lands which include these features within or adjoining its boundaries, and where it is impossible, owing to financial limitations, to secure them at once or soon, it should use every endeavor to prevent them from being occupied in such a way as to render it impossible for the city to take them at some time in the future, and to prevent the destruction of the forest growths existing upon them.
The second consideration in acquiring land for parks is that much will be gained by the city if a clearly defined, well-balanced and comprehensive system of parks and parkways is aimed at and if a consistent policy is followed, keeping in mind always the need of strict economy both in cost of acquisition of lands and in the cost of construction and maintenance, and at the same time having regard for the very important matter of betterments, especially in its broader sense of the general increase in taxable valuations likely to result from the acquisition and gradual improvement of parks and parkways.
A COMPREHENSIVE SYSTEM OF PARKS AND PARKWAYS FOR PORTLAND.Edit
A comprehensive system of parks and parkways for Portland may be briefly outlined as follows:
West of the Willamette River and south of Riverview cemetery there would be a large forest reservation, from which an informal picturesque parkway would pass east of Riverview cemetery leaving the west bank of the river at Fulton. It would keep along the hillsides to a connection with the City Squares, would continue on the hillsides to City Park, would keep on the hillsides to Macleay Park and would proceed thence along the hillsides to another large forest reservation on the hills northwest of Mountain View Park Addition. Attached to or in widenings of this parkway there would be areas which could be developed as neighborhood parks and play grounds. This hillside parkway and the two forest reservations would preserve some of the characteristic hill landscape west of the city, and afford fine views of the snowy peaks.
East of the river, if railroad ownership of needed lands does not prevent, there would be a river bluff parkway from Sellwood, where it would be connected by a bridge with the parkway west of the river at Fulton, along the top of the bluffs to the south end of Grand avenue.
There would be another river bluff parkway east of the river from a point north of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company's machine shops (if the company will sell the portion of the bluff they own) to a bluff park west of Portland University.
These two river bluff parkways would preserve beautiful views of the river.
There would be a great meadow reservation among the Columbia Sloughs east of the electric railway to Vancouver to preserve the beautiful bottom land scenery.
There would be Mount Tabor Park to preserve hill scenery east of the river.A mainly formal boulevard would connect the upper river parkway with Mount Tabor Park.
Another boulevard from the center of Ladd's Addition to Mount Tabor Park would afford a direct pleasure approach to the latter.
Another boulevard mainly formal, would connect Mount Tabor Park with Columbia Slough Park.
Ross Island Park would preserve a liberal amount of river scenery.
Swan Island would be a desirable additional reservation of river scenery.
The above system of scenic reservations, parks and parkways and connecting boulevards would, if supplemented by an adequate number of neighborhood parks, play grounds and ornamental squares, form an admirable park system for such an important city as Portland is bound to become.
A MORE DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF SUGGESTED PARK SYSTEMS.Edit
For convenience we shall assume that the word "parkway" means an informal pleasure drive (with walks), including strips of varying width of land preserving existing woods, or to be planted picturesquely, while the word "boulevard" will mean a pleasure drive with walks and planting strips of uniform width, to be improved in a formal manner and usually not so wide as a parkway.
PARK SQUARES.EditThese existing squares—twenty in number and most of them 100 feet by 200 feet—have great value not only for the possibilities which they present for recreation and for local decorative effects, but also owing to the improvement which they effect in the city plan as forming two strong ornamental features of formal character interrupting the monotonous succession of city blocks and creating two nuclei similar in character to those created in New York by Union Square and Madison Square. Thirteen of these squares and a half one form a continuous row extending in a south southwest direction from the heart of the densely populated part of the city west of the river to the foot of the high hill known as Portland Heights. These thirteen and a half squares, with the two streets between which they lie, correspond closely in effect to Commonwealth avenue in Boston, and it is practicable to similarly extend a continuous system of parkways and parks outward from them. Many of the largest and handsomest public and semi-public buildings ought hereafter to face upon these squares.
NORTHWEST HILLSIDE PARKWAY.Edit
Beginning at the southwesterly end of the row of park squares, it would be practicable and exceedingly desirable to lay out a parkway, which, bending first to the south and soon turning abruptly and running in a generally northwesterly direction, and rising rapidly to get above existing houses, would pass one of the city reservoirs situated in a gulch or small canyon at the southwest end of Tenth street. Continuing to rise, in a northwesterly direction, the parkway could probably be made to reach a remarkably prominent view point, already well known and much resorted to by the citizens of Portland Heights and the neighboring parts of the city, situated on the line of Seventeenth street, which is here on paper only, and half way between Hall street (also on paper only) and Montgomery street, and about one hundred feet east of Terrace road. This view point is well worth preserving as a local park, even if it be found impracticable to carry out the proposed parkway. Turning abruptly southwesterly into the ravine and then northwesterly the parkway could be made to reach a higher, larger and locally more attractive view point, known as "Smith's View Point," which is almost on the line of Market street, and three blocks west of Chapman street, upon which is the cable incline. Both of these view points, and, in fact nearly all of the parkway between them, would command unobstructed views of the city, which, from its close proximity, would be very interesting to examine in detail, and at the same time the distant views are among the finest to be commanded from any of the hills about the city. From no other points will it be possible to view the city so close at hand, and at the same time so high above it, with so little possibility of obstructions, which would detract from or block the view, being created hereafter.
From "Smith's View Point" the parkway could be made to bend along the hillside forming the southeast wall of the canyon of Tanner Creek. The hillside is exceedingly steep, and some special devices might be required, such as retaining walls and splitting the drive into two narrow drives at different levels. If sufficient land could be secured on the spur northwest of "Smith's View Point," it might be cheaper to construct the drive in several zig-zags. In either case, the drive would be carried across Tanner Creek by a bridge, high above the bottom of the canyon, to the ridge between Tanner Creek and the proposed addition to City Park, and across this ridge on a winding line to the corner of the addition to City Park at Carter street (which forms the boundary between the park and West End Addition). Within the park the drive could be continued up the ravine formerly occupied by a cable railway incline, now abandoned. Bending back westerly into the ravine and there turning sharply, the drive would run in an easterly direction to a very fine view point directly west of the lower reservoir in City Park. Although not commanding so broad a view as the other view points already mentioned, the prospect from this view point is exceedingly picturesque, because of the masses of forest trees on each side of the ravine. From here, the drive could be made to ascend to the northwest corner of the park on Kingston avenue. A branch would descend and connect with the existing drives in City Park north of the upper reservoir. North of the park the parkway would bend westward and ascend along the steep south side of the canyon of Johnson Creek, and crossing the brook would turn abruptly and run in a northeasterly direction up along the north side of the canyon to the sharp spur in King's Heights. At this point there would be a fine view if the present young trees and bushes which obstruct it were sufficiently removed. A tract of several acres which, for convenience, may be called King's View Point, should be acquired at this point, which should be cleared of trees, except low-growing sorts at the lower end. It would serve as a local pleasure ground, but its main use would be to keep the view open from the parkway. From this point, the parkway should be extended nearly west to Macleay Park. This portion could easily be made so nearly level as to admit of driving at a trot, although its narrowness and its necessary crookedness would prevent its use for fast driving. It would be exceedingly desirable to take, in connection with this parkway wherever practicable, all the steep land below it, and also a fairly wide strip above it where there are woods enough above it to make possible the effect of driving through woods. Where there are woods, occasional glimpses could be opened up of the distant landscape, thus affording a succession of picturesque effects contrasting with the broad open views to be obtained from the more prominent open view points. If the city can do nothing else in the way of acquiring parkways, it should at least secure the land needed for the eventual construction of this hillside drive, for in proportion to its cost it would be far more valuable than any other parkway possible to be laid out in the city, because of the views which it would command and the romantic local scenery which could be associated with it, and because it would be so characteristic and so conveniently accessible.
The drive within Macleay Park forming a continuation of this parkway might gradually descend in a direction a little north of west to a junction with Cornell road somewhere near the west boundary of Macleay Park, or it may be necessary, in order to secure proper grades without excessive cost of construction, to extend the drive beyond the park higher up the canyon, and more or less parallel with Cornell road. In this case, the park should, if possible, be extended westward to include both sides of Balch Creek, to such point as it might be convenient, for the parkway to cross the creek. The drive should then turn and run in an easterly direction and climb on moderate grades to the crest of the northeast spur of the hill north of the present boundary of Macleay Park, where there would be a remarkably fine view point, which may be called "Macleay's View Point."
Suitable enlargements of Macleay Park, it will be seen, will provide for this extension of the hillside parkway to a sufficiently satisfactory terminus or objective point, for, of course, such a drive should lead to something worth while as well as being provided with features of interest along its route.
It may be necessary to be content, in the matter of hillside parkways, with this one from the Park Squares to Macleay Park, and it surely would be such a grand and unique parkway that the people of the city would be able to boast of it for all time; but the project of extending this hillside drive both above and below the city is so extremely attractive and at the same time apparently so well within the bounds of the financial possibilities of the case, if taken in time and if assisted by the co-operation of land owners, that its extension should be very carefully studied by your commission, and every effort made to secure the land for it.
The Northwest Hillside Parkway could be continued from Macleay's View Point as many miles as can be afforded along the north flank of the hill, either up to and along the top of the ridge where it would command views in both directions, or nearly on a level in the midst of the woods, bending into the ravines and out around the spurs, with pretty glimpses between trees of the distant landscape and of the snow-capped peaks, or what would be better still, both routes could be developed. A parkway following as nearly as possible the crest of the ridge in a generally northwesterly direction north of and roughly parallel with Cornell road, could be made to develop a considerable number of extremely attractive sites for country residences. The two roads might be connected so as to provide a loop drive extending as far from the city as may be thought desirable.
The city is most fortunate in possessing this park containing part of the deep, romantic, wooded ravine called Balch Canyon. Few people know and love this beautiful sample of the magnificent timber which formerly covered all the hills and ravines in the city. Aside from the luxuriance of the woodland vegetation there is the added charm of seclusion to a degree rarely found in a public park. The steepness of the sides of the ravine and the narrowness of its bottom make it available for a comparatively small number of visitors at a time. One narrow walk or trail, perhaps dividing and reuniting at difficult places, is all that should ever be attempted as a way along or near the brook. A drive there would be ruinous to its natural beauty. Bridges, seats, steps, handrails at dangerous places, and any other absolutely necessary constructions should be substantial, but extremely simple and countrified. They should be mainly such as a woodsman builds at places remote from civilization. Cornell road should be kept narrow and care should be taken not to throw earth or rock from it down the steep slope, whenever it is further improved. Retaining walls should be used instead of slopes. It may sometimes cross the little side ravines by means of rustic stone arches. There may be a narrow hillside path or two along the hillside forming the north side of the ravine which runs about northeast. The boundaries of this park are very disappointing, being very ill-related to the essential character of the park which is meant to preserve a noble wooded ravine. The park should be extended down the ravine at least to Thurman street and preferably to the St. Helens road. There should be a boundary street on each side of the ravine, connecting with Thurman street, both on gracefully curving lines to fit the contour of the ground. That on the south side of the ravine should connect with the Cornell road. That on the north side should rise with a moderate grade to a connection with some street in Mountain View Park or in Addition No. 1 to that subdivision. The other boundaries should also conform to hillside streets with suitable grades. The undergrowth should never be cut off under any consideration. Large picnic parties should be prohibited and there should be no provision for popular amusements. Tributary to Balch Canyon and southwest of this park are two ravines, the sides of which are so exceedingly steep and so broken that it would seem that it would be good policy to add them to the park, although the woods in them have been much damaged by wood-choppers and fires.
For about a mile northwest of the hill north of Balch Canyon the woods have been so much cut and burnt that they are not nearly as valuable as they are on the steep hillsides beyond the spur southwest of the northwest or broader arm of Guild Lake. From this spur northwesterly there are a succession of ravines and spurs covered with remarkably beautiful primeval woods, which have at present relatively little commercial value. The investment of a comparatively moderate sum in the acquisition of these romantic wooded hillsides for a park or reservation of wild woodland character would yield ample returns in pleasure to taxpayers and to those dependent on them, while to a large part of the poorer classes a visit to these woods would afford more pleasure and satisfaction than a visit to any other sort of park. It is true that some people look upon such woods merely as a troublesome encumbrance standing in the way of more profitable use of the land, but future generations will not feel so and will bless the men who were wise enough to get such woods preserved. Future generations, however, will be likely to appreciate the wild beauty and the grandeur of the tall fir trees in this forest park or reservation, as it would perhaps better be called, its deep, shady ravines and bold view-commanding spurs far more than do the majority of the citizens of today, many of whom are familiar with similar original woods. But such primeval woods will become as rare about Portland as they now are about Boston. If these woods are preserved, they will surely come to be regarded as marvelously beautiful. With the exception of the top of the ridge, the land is either so steep and broken or so inaccessible as to be wholly unfitted for occupation by dwellings of a good character, and for a cheap class of residences, the expense for streets and other improvements would be out of all proportion to the ultimate value of the land. No use to which this tract of land could be put would begin to be as sensible or as profitable to the city as that of making it a public park or reservation, leaving out of it, if it should be found necessary for economy, the top of the ridge, which might come to have a special value for country residences, and may, therefore, have a greater present value for speculative purposes than the steep hillsides.
SOUTH HILLSIDE PARKWAY.Edit
The hillside parkway extending southeasterly from the south end of the row of city squares presents a more difficult problem, in the matter of land acquisition, than the parkway extending northwesterly from Macleay Park, yet, if it should prove possible to secure, with the cooperation of land owners, the needed right-of-way and sufficient land below it to ensure command of the views, this parkway would have great value both to the people using it and to the owners of residence properties which it would make agreeably accessible. It should be carried through to Riverview cemetery, or even further to a forest park on the beautiful ridge south of the cemetery. This parkway would be a feature of which the city would justly be proud, and it would almost certainly be a paying investment through the increased taxable valuation which it would give to the high land along its course, much of which will become available for high-class suburban and country residences. Macadam street, running nearly parallel with the river, below the steep hillsides south of the city, has come to be regarded as, perhaps, the principal pleasure drive leading out of the city. At any rate it is the best one leading in a southerly direction, but it is necessary to drive a long distance through city streets, turning several right-angled corners and passing over disagreeably, if not dangerously, steep grades to get to it, and even if it were put in good condition as to its paving, it must inevitably, from its location, always be used by heavy wagons, which make it almost impossible to keep the roadway in good condition, and, if numerous, greatly inconvenience pleasure driving. It seems to be perfectly obvious that this street can only be regarded as a temporary expedient as a route for pleasure driving. A reasonable consideration of the urgent requirements of the future in the matter of a pleasure drive southward from the city, forces the conclusion that the southern pleasure drive should be laid out on gentle grades above the electric railway, and as soon as possible, lest its best course be interfered with by the erection of dwellings and by rising values of the land, especially near the city.
NORTHWESTERN RIVER PARKWAY.Edit
St. Helens road, in the low land at the base of the steep hills northwest of the city, is nearly level, and commands at present exceedingly beautiful scenery. It has therefore come to be valued as a pleasure drive. It begins at Thurman street, whence it descends along the east side of Balch Canyon to a safe level above floods. The approaches to it through the city streets, although indirect owing to the absence of a proper diagonal avenue through the rectangular system of streets, is decidedly better, both with respect to grades and to the character of the occupation of the land adjoining, than the approaches to Macadam street, the present southern pleasure drive. It does not seem likely that the traffic on St. Helens road will be as heavy as on Macadam street for some years, and if it were properly macadamized, it might be possible to keep it in fair condition, but such a traffic street cannot be properly regarded permanently as a parkway or boulevard. To make it such, it would be necessary either to greatly widen it, and to have two roadways in it, one of which would be reserved exclusively for pleasure driving, or else there must be two separate streets provided with space to be occupied by houses between them, and one of these streets (presumably the higher one) could then be reserved exclusively for pleasure driving. If the solution of this problem is taken in hand and accomplished within a few years, a very fine, nearly level pleasure drive could be secured. Owing to the steepness of the hillside, the pleasure drive next to it would have few interruptions from the entrance of side streets, and by reserving a border of land along the uphill side so that houses could only be built along its downhill side, it would be possible to arrange suitably for a nearly level speedway a mile or so long, at reasonable expense. There seems to be no other places where a speedway could be so suitably and safely introduced which would be at the same time so convenient to the part of the city where the majority of those able to have fast horses would reside, and this condition seems likely to continue for many years.
LOWER RIVER BLUFF PARKWAY.Edit
Along the east side of the river, unlike the west side, there are bluffs of considerable height, both above and below the city. Long stretches of these bluffs yet remain covered with more or less of the original forest growths, and the local scenery although somewhat injured by the construction of railways, for the most part is still extremely beautiful. This opportunity for a picturesque pleasure drive and walks for the especial benefit of the residents of the large portion of the city east of the river, ought not to be allowed to slip by until it becomes impossible to make use of it through the growth of improvements and through the increasing land values. Below the city, beginning at Cook's subdivision just north of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company's car shops, a drive can very readily be laid out along the top of the bluff, all the way to the Portland University, and further if desired. A considerable portion of the crest of the bluff is already occupied by Willamette boulevard, but no land seems to have been secured between the boulevard and the ground along the river liable to be flooded to ensure the preservation of the views and the trees and wild shrubbery. By far the most important portion of this river bluff parkway is that from Cook's Addition to a junction with the Willamette boulevard. The drive in this portion may either follow the edge of the level land around the ravines which intersect the bluff, or, in some cases, it may span these ravines by bridges. The former method would undoubtedly be the more economical at present, and has the great advantage of making it certain that after straight streets have been suitably improved in the vicinity, heavy traffic will not often use the parkway because it will be so crooked. All the land between the driveway and the low land subject to be flooded should be secured, but this will be impracticable without the consent of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company which has recently acquired a good deal of it. It would undoubtedly be wise to take a few acres of the level upland in connection with this parkway, in order to provide a local pleasure ground and play ground for the large district adjoining, which seems destined to have a great population. An arrangement should be made with the trustees of the Portland University for extending the drive to the fine commanding view point in their grounds.
UPPER RIVER BLUFF PARKWAY (OR SELLWOOD PARKWAY).Edit
A somewhat similar picturesque parkway can be laid out along the top of the bluff from the south end of Grand avenue to Sellwood, if land values have not already risen too high to prevent it, and if other difficulties can be overcome. The principal difficulty is that a new railroad company has acquired much of the land which will be needed for this parkway and indeed the laying out of the parkway will be impossible without the consent of this company. The construction of this railroad has badly damaged the bluff and its close proximity to the pleasure drive will detract somewhat from the value of the latter. This railroad, like that below the city east of the river, has greatly injured the views, where it has been run over the low meadows and flats between the bluff and the river south of Holgate street. From a little south of the last mentioned street, a considerable stretch of the crest of the bluff is occupied by Milwaukie avenue and an electric street railway. To secure a suitable arrangement, it would be necessary to move the avenue and street railway far enough back from the bluff to enable the pleasure drive to be laid out where the street now is. If the necessary land for the widening should be secured, the actual moving of the electric street railway and avenue might be postponed for many years. Another difficulty occurs at the new crematory which has been built so close to the bluff that there is no room for a pleasure drive. Unless the crematory can be moved, the drive would have to pass back of it. Here and again just south of the crematory the electric street railway occupies the crest of the bluff and would have to be moved back. From the last mentioned place to Sellwood, there are no physical difficulties, but most of the land is owned by the new railroad. It will be desirable to construct eventually a bridge across the river, which would afford a desirable connection between the southern hillside parkway and the Sellwood parkway at a point between the village of Fulton and the north end of Riverview cemetery. The elevation of the bridge could be established at a height sufficient to carry it over both the railroads and to render it unnecessary to open the draw for tug boats and ordinary river steamers. Such a bridge will doubtless ultimately become a public necessity without regard to the question of parkways, but it would be well in locating and designing it to keep in mind its possible use as a necessary connecting link in a system of parkways.
If the needed land can be obtained of the new railroad company now owning all the open tract north of Sellwood, a local park large enough to contain ten to fifteen acres of the level ground in addition to the bluff and some of the river front, ought by all means to be secured, even if nothing is done to improve it for many years. The population in this part of the city is now small, but some pleasure ground of this sort is certain to be needed, and will be very desirable as a terminus to the proposed river bluff parkway. After the suggested bridge is built across the river at Fulton, and after the population shall have grown up on both sides of the river, this little park will come to have greater importance than it is easy to realize at the present time. If a meadow park cannot be secured here, it would be very desirable to secure a sufficient tract of flat land east of Milwaukie avenue for a park largely devoted to field games.
MOUNT TABOR PARK.Edit
There seems to be every reason why a portion, at least, of Mount Tabor should be taken as a public park. It is the only important landscape feature for miles around, and the population in its vicinity is destined to be fairly dense. It is already a good deal resorted to by people for their Sunday and holiday outings, and it will be better known to and more visited by the citizens as time goes on. It has been sufficiently cleared to open up all the important views from one point or another of it, yet there still survive considerable groves of the original growth of fir trees, including many tall ones, as well as other trees and shrubs. There can be but little doubt that public sentiment will cordially support the city government in acquiring considerable land on this prominent and beautiful hill. It will hardly be possible to take too much land on the hill, but financial restrictions may compel the curtailment of the park area to a comparatively small portion of the hill. In order to attain the purposes of the park, it will be absolutely essential to take the residence now occupying the highest point on the hill, and it will be necessary to take land in all directions from this point far enough down the slopes to enable the park commission to prevent the growth of trees which would eventually block the views. The summit of the hill has an elevation of 645 feet but some good view points are lower than this. Southwest of the summit the slope is so steep that it cannot be very valuable, and here it will be well to take down to the base of the steep slope. East of the summit it would probably be necessary to take down to Conkling avenue (extended). North of the summit, it may prove necessary to limit the taking by Belmont avenue, but northwest of the summit it will be very desirable to take the secondary peak and its steep slopes northward down to the electric railroad. West of the summit ridge, it may be impracticable to take any considerable areas except in the ravines, which apparently have little value for residential purposes, and yet are very picturesque and would make attractive features in a public pleasure ground. In some cases it would seem that their preservation as part of the park ought to be worth so much to the owners of the adjoining higher lands that they could afford to give the land in the ravines to the city. Belmont avenue would form an adequate approach to the summit for many years, but adequate provision should be made for an approach drive with easier grades from the southwest also. So much has already been done in the way of clearing that it would cost but little more to put the ground in suitable conditions for use by the public. The existing residence on the summit and its stable should be sold for removal, and a suitable public shelter should be erected at the summit. Arrangements should be made for the sale of the purest possible milk at this shelter, as nothing is better for many of the hot weather troubles of infancy than absolutely pure milk and plenty of fresh air.
COLUMBIA SLOUGHS PARK.Edit
The remaining great landscape feature of the city is that of the Columbia Sloughs which border the eastern part of the city on the north. This region is low and distant from the city and seems to be at present comparatively valueless for any other than farming purposes. It is therefore to be hoped that a much larger park of the meadow type than can elsewhere be afforded will gradually be acquired here by the city. It is important that the first purchases should be made along Slough road (now called Columbia boulevard) from the Vancouver electric railway eastward and also north along the railway to and including Switzler's Lake, and if the upland margin of the sloughs can be secured as far east as the present eastern boundary of the city, it will prevent occupation of this land by numerous small residences which would otherwise be likely to occur in time. With this frontage secured, it might be safe to leave the acquisition of land further north for another generation. It may seem to your citizens a decidedly foolish proposition to secure large areas of land for a park In the Columbia Slough district, and some explanation of the purposes to be accomplished is therefore called for. If the city acquires the hills and river frontages as suggested it will have an exceedingly valuable series of public pleasure grounds, but in none of these grounds is it possible to provide that entirely different type of landscape which is made up of great stretches of meadow land bordered and diversified by groves of trees. No other form of park has ever proved so attractive and so useful to the masses of the people as the meadow park, particularly when there can be associated with it long reaches of still water as a landscape attraction and for boating purposes. There is a surprisingly large number of people who will go upon a shallow park lake who will not go, or who do not fully enjoy going upon such a river as the Willamette, where they fear being interfered with by steamers or carried away by the current if they drop an oar, and where they do not feel at home. To most expert boatmen the park lake would be a foolish little thing, but the great majority of visitors to parks are not experts, and can only thoroughly enjoy a stretch of water which appears to be very easy and safe to navigate. The broad meadows in such a park, with their open groves and scattering trees, afford opportunity for many thousands of people to enjoy themselves and each other in such a way that they can do little harm to the ground and interfere but little with each other; whereas, in the steep hillside woodlands such great crowds of people would soon destroy the greater part of the undergrowth and ground covering and make the ground bare and ugly. To properly provide for the future in the matter of a meadow park, it is necessary to secure many hundred, if not several thousand acres and it does not appear that there is any better or more economical place to make this provision in the neighborhood of the city than along Columbia Sloughs. All the comparatively level areas within the city boundary have either been subdivided and are more or less occupied by houses, or they have already attained a speculative value which would make it impracticable for the city to acquire more than one or two quarter sections at the most, and such an area would be entirely inadequate to the future needs of the city in this direction. The same amount of money spent at the Columbia Sloughs would provide a far larger area of meadows adapted to field sports, and would have the further great advantage of providing for boating lakes and waterways, which are much needed in such a park as a local landscape attraction to supplement the beauties of the meadows and groves. It seems almost impossible for any driving park association to survive many years, yet the citizens who enjoy owning and driving fast horses are an influential class, and their pleasure, it would seem, ought to be provided for in one of the public parks, if it can be done without unduly sacrificing the best interests of the majority of the visitors to the park. Assuming that gambling can be prevented, a race track would be a decided attraction to many visitors in addition to those who use it for driving. In addition to an oval track where horses can be properly trained for racing, there might be a straight speedway of any desired length. In no other part of the city could a wide, long, level speedway be provided at less expense and with less inconvenience by the interruption of crosswise traffic than at this place. It is possible that golf may not retain its popularity for so many years as to need to be permanently provided for, yet as this large park would provide the only thoroughly adequate and suitable opportunity for golf links so that considerable numbers of people could play at once, it seems another good reason for securing it.
ROSS ISLAND PARK.Edit
Another landscape feature of considerable importance to the city, the value of which in this respect is realized by but few people, is Ross Island and adjoining islands. If these islands can be obtained at a reasonable price by the city, their acquisition will unquestionably prove in the long run a very profitable investment. Although these islands are almost wholly covered by the annual floods, they are not injured by this to any appreciable extent, and during the summer, when people most resort to pleasure grounds of this character, the ground will be in fit condition to use for field sports and other recreation, and the groves of trees on this island will be a source of pleasure to all who live, or have to pass, within sight of it on both sides of the river. No doubt, in time, the island could be made accessible from both sides of the river by one or more bridges, but meanwhile it would cost but little to maintain a ferry. There is a margin around the island between the land which is sufficiently elevated to be permanently covered with good grass and the low water shore line of summer that is more or less bare or weedy. This objectionable condition can be remedied (when it becomes feasible to go to the expense) by deepening the water along the shore and using the material to raise the banks. Long stretches can be left steep and be covered with willow bushes and other plants which will endure flooding; in some places they may be covered with rip-rap, and in other places it may be desirable to use bulkheads or walls. The people, however, will derive a vast deal of enjoyment from the use of this island as a summer pleasure ground for a good many years without any such improvements.
SWAN ISLAND PARK.EditSwan Island is less desirable as a pleasure ground than Ross Island, because further from the center of population and more often and more completely flooded, but it is equally valuable as a beauty spot in the landscape from considerable portions of the city. If this island can be purchased at a moderate expense, it should be secured. It would undoubtedly prove a very valuable asset to the city hereafter. It is to be hoped that it may become profitable eventually to run a line of pleasure steamers at a very low rate of fare up and down the river, and these steamers would make it very easy for a great many people to reach these islands in summer time even without ferries or bridges maintained by the city.
ROCKY BUTTE RESERVATION.Edit
Rocky Butte is another landscape feature of considerable importance, which, if it can be obtained at a sufficiently low cost, will be profitable for the city to secure, rather with a view to its value to future generations than to people now living. It is so far from the center of population, and so comparatively inaccessible, at present, and its beauty has been so much injured by cutting and burning much of the woods upon it, that it has less value as a public recreation ground at present in comparison with the far more attractive Mount Tabor and the other sites for parks and parkways which have already been mentioned. Still, the far side is fairly well wooded and there is a romantic ravine just beyond it so that, if preserved, it will eventually make a valuable reservation of scenery.
If it can be accomplished at no distant date, with the co-operation of the land owners, it would certainly be exceedingly desirable to connect the parks and parkways east of the river by means of broad boulevards. There is so much open land between Sellwood and the Southern Pacific car shops, and from this district all the way to the south end of Mount Tabor, that there seems to be nothing to prevent the laying out of a broad and handsome boulevard on good grades connecting the proposed river bluff parkway with Mount Tabor. The value of this boulevard would depend largely upon the accomplishment of the river bluff parkway, to connect it with Grand avenue, and the bridge at Fulton would connect it with the proposed hillside parkway west of the river. Such a boulevard would be valuable, even if it were only 100 feet wide, but it would be far more valuable to adjoining land owners if it were made 200 feet or more in width, so that there might be some ornamental grounds through the center. Considering that both sides of the boulevard would offer most excellent house frontages, it is obvious that the whole cost of such a parkway ought not to be considered as a matter of luxury, so that even if it should prove a disappointment for many years to come in the way of increasing the value of land fronting upon it to a sufficient degree to equal or more than equal its excess of cost over that of an ordinary street, no serious loss would have been incurred. So far as the adjoining land owners are concerned, while their land remains vacant, the area assigned to boulevard would save them the expense of taxes upon the ground devoted to this purpose, while the cost of construction need not be incurred until it is obvious that it will be profitable to undertake it.
MOUNT TABOR BOULEVARD.Edit
A far more valuable boulevard, and one which would unquestionably become immediately profitable both to the city and to the adjoining land owners, would be from the center of Ladd's Addition to Mount Tabor. Much of the land along this route is at present unsubdivided, and even where a few subdivisions of small extent have been adopted and some lots sold, it would not be at all a costly matter to get this boulevard through. If the owners of the greater part of the land through which this boulevard would be carried do not think that the time has arrived for its opening, implying as it would a rise in value of the lands adjoining, with increased taxes, it nevertheless would be wise for them to unite in dedicating the necessary land to the parkway, so that at any time in the future that it might be thought desirable and profitable, its construction could be undertaken. Unless the land is thus assigned to the purpose now, it will become increasingly difficult to get any such boulevard through. At no other point would it be so easy to bring a broad, handsome boulevard so near to the center of the city. Its width undoubtedly ought to be 200 feet, if the highest value to the adjoining land and to the city and public at large is to be considered, and it certainly ought to start at the circle in the middle of Ladd's Addition, since this would form at the cityward end a dignified and attractive terminus. If practicable, Ladd avenue and Elliott avenue ought to be somewhat wider from the circle to East Twelfth street. Ladd avenue is already a great deal used by heavy traffic, as it is an extremely convenient diagonal line, which ought to be extended in a northwesterly direction through Hawthorne Park to, or as near as possible to Morrison street. Elliott avenue also ought, if practicable, to be extended to a connection with the proposed river bluff parkway, crossing the Southern Pacific railway by a bridge.
Another desirable boulevard, in case the suggestion of a great park at Columbia Sloughs is carried out, would be from Mount Tabor to Sandy road at the point where it rises steeply over the low bluff which bounds the city topographically on the northeast about half way between the Willamette River and Columbia Sloughs. It should then follow the top of this bluff, becoming for a mile or two an informal parkway—that is, on curving lines to fit the top of the bluff, and broad enough as to landtaking to include the slope so that the views may be permanently kept open wherever desired. After leaving the bluff this boulevard may be continued northward on a straight line to Columbia Sloughs Park. The number of land subdivisions and houses, and consequently increased values in lands between Mount Tabor and Sandy road, may make it difficult to get a suitable boulevard through this section of the city, but from Sandy road to the Columbia Sloughs, there are no such difficulties to be encountered. As much of Sandy road passes through a quarter of the city which, not being provided with an electric railway, has not been fully subdivided and is not densely populated, it might be practicable, as it would certainly be desirable, within a few years, to widen this road sufficiently to provide two driveways, one of which could be devoted permanently to pleasure driving. Such a boulevard would form a valuable feature by itself, but would be worth much more in connection with the proposed boulevard from Mount Tabor to Columbia Sloughs.
One other boulevard is needed to complete the system, namely, from Willamette boulevard to Columbia Sloughs Park. There are several different routes, the choice between which would depend largely upon what land owners are willing to do. The one which would apparently be the easiest of accomplishment would leave Willamette boulevard at the west end of Portland boulevard, which should be widened from 100 feet (its present width) to 200 feet as far as the east side of Goodmorning Addition. The proposed boulevard would be continued thence to Columbia Sloughs, crossing Columbia boulevard at the point where it is crossed by the Vancouver electric railway. A desirable variation on this route would be to have the proposed boulevard leave Willamette boulevard at the point near the bluff where the old county road intersects Willamette boulevard, and running across Day's Addition and Park Addition, proceed on curved lines to the southeast corner of Goodmorning Addition. From this point to Columbia Sloughs the route of the previously suggested boulevard would be followed. Another desirable variation would leave the proposed park above the bluff at the south side of Lynn subdivision and run north through the middle of the Riverside Addition along the line of Concord street and then on curving lines to the southeast corner of Goodmorning addition. Or it might follow the line of Patton avenue. A fifth alternative route would run north from Willamette boulevard, past the east side of Columbia Park and thence on curving lines diagonally northeastward to Columbia boulevard, which ought to be widened so as to provide two driveways eventually, as it will inevitably become an important traffic road, and would therefore, unless provided with two driveways, be unsuitable as a pleasure drive. There are several so-called boulevards in the northern part of the city, but none of them appear to be over 100 feet wide. Hence they are not enough wider than ordinary avenues of liberal width or enough handsomer to entitle them to be properly designated as boulevards. Moreover some of them are so located that they are convenient in direction for heavy traffic, and it will therefore be exceedingly difficult to prevent heavy teams from using them. For these reasons, some of these so-called boulevards ought to be widened so that two driveways can be provided, one of which can be reserved exclusively for pleasure vehicles. To properly carry out the essential idea of beauty in connection with these boulevards, there should be agreements, between the property owners and the city, restricting the adjoining lands to prevent houses from being built within certain distances from the side lines of the boulevard. If this building-limit line is only ten feet from the boulevard it will add materially to the value of the latter and will be practically no injury to the value of the land; but in general the building-limit line should be twenty or thirty feet from the boulevard, and wherever the owners can be induced to arrange for deeper lots, the building-limit line should be forty, or better, fifty feet from the boulevard. This is an exceedingly important matter, and ought to be carried through at once, while the lands are still generally owned in large tracts. Many of the finest and most expensive boulevards in the country are now being seriously injured in appearance, and some even ruined, by a failure to act in this matter. Stores and apartment houses are being built right out to the line adjoining residence properties where the houses are set well back from the line, but whose owners have no recourse against this outrageous damage to the beauty of their surroundings. In the City of Washington the same purpose has been accomplished, not by means of restrictions, but by the absolute ownership of the front dooryards by the city as a legal portion of the streets. Licenses are then granted from time to time to the lot owners to fence in and occupy these areas between the sidewalk and the fronts of the houses as front dooryards, but in such a way as not to be injurious to the effect of the street as a whole or to neighboring property owners. This method of accomplishing the purpose in view has the great merit of obviating any possible objection on the part of the owners or purchasers of land or their legal advisers, which might be raised against such a restriction in a deed. It is easily applied where parkways or avenues or streets are laid out through cheap lands, but when land becomes valuable it is usually easier to carry out the restriction method.
In the main this lake presents an attractive natural landscape feature, well adapted to be converted into a park. It is, however, a fair question whether this area may not eventually be dyked and drained and filled and used for manufacturing and other commercial purposes. Such apparently waste lands have come to be used in this manner in other cities, and considering that there are plenty of other opportunities for parks, and that especially in the case of steep hillsides, it will be a positive gain to the wealth of the city to take them out of the market, whereas in this case there is at least a question as to the ultimate financial benefit of so doing, it seems inadvisable to press the matter at present. In case it should be determined that it would be essential for commercial occupation to fill the area to a height that would be safe from floods, and that this amount cannot be done with any chance of profit, it may become reasonable to take this area for a park. If suitable drains or ditches at a sufficient height above the floods could be provided, by which the storm water from the country southwest of the lake could be carried independently to the river and the lake and its margins thus protected from storm water other than the rain which would fall upon them, and assuming that the railroad is, or can easily be made to be a sufficient protective levee, it would be an easy matter to fit this area for park purposes. The lake could be held at a uniform height and where the shores are ugly, as on the side towards the sawmill, and along some portions of the railroad, some filling could be done with material dredged from shallow parts of the lake, and these banks could be planted. The neck could be connected with the mainland by a bridge, and would be a most enjoyable pleasure ground. Here and elsewhere there are areas which could be very readily adapted for use as play grounds. In this respect alone, aside from the natural beauties which the lake and its borders would have, the cost of fitting this area for public use would, no doubt, be amply justified at some future time, when the population should have become more dense in its vicinity.
NORTH FULTON PARK.Edit
North of Fulton, in the southern part of the city, between the railroad and the river, is a beautiful stretch of low but undulating grassy land, well furnished with broad-spreading deciduous trees, among them the oak (which is decidedly rare elsewhere in the city) which would be a most desirable site for a local park and play ground. Most of the land is subject to be flooded at rare intervals, and a good deal of it is flooded annually; hence it is entirely unsuitable to be occupied by dwellings, and it is so far from the center of the city that it seems unnecessary for the financial interests of the city to reserve it for manufacturing or commercial purposes. If it is not taken as a park and becomes occupied gradually by cheap dwellings and small commercial enterprises, it is probable that the city will be put to enormous expense some day in raising all these buildings and filling the streets and private lands, as has been done repeatedly in similar instances by other cities. If enough of the right bank of the river is taken in connection with the suggested Sellwood Park, these two parks would mutually benefit by being located opposite to each other.
THE PLAZA BLOCKS.Edit
This pair of squares situated in the heart of the city are of the utmost value as giving distinction and character to a part of the city where important public and semi-public buildings may be grouped. It is difficult to over-estimate the gain to a building of imposing proportions and handsome architectural design due to a frontage on attractive public squares such as these. It is to be hoped that these squares may be completely surrounded, in time, by buildings worthy of such fine urban sites.
This little hill park (as might be expected in the case of a rectangular block of land on a steep and broken hill) is extremely unscientific in its boundaries. It crosses the ridge line, the slopes below which are so steep that it seems probable that a traffic roadway will have to be permitted to cross the park along the ridge, to afford reasonably convenient access to private properties. It may even prove that a second traffic roadway will prove to be necessary across the steep northern part of the park. North of the ridge line is a valley which quickly deepens into a little ravine. The spur east of it is outside of the park, but part of the crest of the spur west of the ravine is in the park. The west boundary should be altered to include more of this spur so there can be a view-commanding spur walk. The most desirable addition to this park, however, would be a strip to include the ravine down to the suggested reservoir park. Winding down this ravine there could be a charmingly secluded rustic path in the shade of the existing fir trees, which would not only greatly enhance the value of this park to the citizens generally and to those living within easy walking distance of it in the thickly built-up portion of the city north of it, but would afford to residents on the ridge a more delightful and decidedly more convenient means of walking down and up the hill than exists or is likely to be made in the vicinity.
This five-acre tract extends nearly three blocks up the hill from Macadam street. Besides having a rapid general slope its surface is sufficiently varied and sufficiently furnished with forest trees to be interesting. It is cut in two by Kelly street, which is regrettable, and it has no frontage upon and only a narrow and crooked entrance from Corbett street, which has an electric railway and is the most built-up and most important street in the vicinity. Its west boundary has the rears of a row of houses backing upon it and its south boundary is against private property, both of which conditions are unsuitable and unfortunate. It is to be hoped that it will be found practicable to buy the lots south of this park to secure a frontage on Bancroft avenue within a few years and that eventually the park can be extended to a frontage on Corbett street.
A liberal open space is needed in front of and about every large public building, and a railroad station is no exception to this rule. The railroad station, particularly if a union station, is one of the most important buildings of a city. Great numbers of people arrive and depart from it, and therefore not only should the building itself be large and dignified (as it fortunately is in this case), but, in addition, it is exceedingly desirable that its surroundings should be commodious and handsome. The present provision of open space southwest of the station is not liberal in effect, and will undoubtedly, in time, become quite inadequate to meet the requirements of convenience. But aside from the mere matter of convenience a favorable impression ought to be produced upon strangers leaving the station for points in the city, and everyone having occasion to use the station would derive a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction from having a public square in front of it.
The square in front of the Union Station of Portland, bounded by Johnson, Irving, Sixth and Seventh streets, is at present partly covered with a comparatively cheap class of buildings, mostly one-storied stores. It will be a comparatively expensive piece of ground to acquire, yet its acquisition would repay the city in the long run better than the acquirement of any other similar tract of land.
ADDITIONAL PARK BLOCK.EditThe half block north of the northernmost park square is at present unoccupied, and ought to be acquired by the city to complete the row. It seems probable that the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, which owns this half block, would be willing to transfer it to the city, especially if it can obtain another piece of land sufficiently desirable for the purposes of the railroad.
LEWIS AND CLARK SQUARE.Edit
If the Lewis and Clark memorial building is erected just north of Wilson street and upon the line of Twenty-eighth street, and if the land between it and St. Helens road cannot be otherwise secured, it would be very desirable for the city to take a block of land there. It will be a particularly agreeable site for a local pleasure ground, if the view over Guild Lake remains unobstructed by factories and other commercial buildings, and its location in connection with the ground of the Lewis and Clark memorial building would enhance the value of both, since they could be used in common by the people as a local park.
LITTLE RESERVOIR PARK.Edit
Whether the proposed hillside parkway is accomplished or not, it would be very desirable for the city to acquire a few acres of land for a little local park at the southwestern end of the row of Park Squares, which at present terminate abruptly and unsuitably against unsubdivided private property. It would always be pleasing in the vistas looking southwest through Park street and West Park street and through the Park squares, to have a pleasure ground with picturesque plantations for the eye to rest upon, rather than to have some crooked arrangement of private buildings. Moreover, some handsome terminus to such a long row of formal squares is needed as a matter of dignity and propriety. This pleasure ground should connect with the reservoir grounds, and if possible be extended (even if narrowly) up the ravine in which the reservoir is located, to a connection with Governor's Park. This ravine strip would be used only for a path, but this path would be a very convenient and agreeable short-cut to and from residences at or near the top of the hill, and would very greatly enhance the value of Governor's Park to the public.
Before the land fronting on the river becomes too valuable, the city ought to acquire a block, or at least a half block on each side of the river, as near the center of the city as practicable. These little riverfront squares would become, in time, exceedingly valuable as pleasure grounds, particularly to the large poor population which will always congregate in the lower and most densely populated parts of the city. Two most desirable locations, having regard to the needs of the future population, would be between the Morrison-street bridge and the Burnside-street bridge, but there should be others. A comparatively cheap style of improvement would serve well enough until the city could afford to do better. It would be hardly worth while to arrange to prevent every portion of the square from being flooded. The most serviceable arrangement would be to have a succession of terraces, each one with a walk and a row of trees, under which benches could be placed. The trees would be but little damaged by floods, and some such arrangement would accommodate the greatest number of people in the small space available. Provision should be made for a bandstand, for a floating boat-letting establishment, and for sand-pits, swings and other amusement apparatus for little children in the higher portions.
The existence of a ravine, with a very large spring in it, and attractive groves of large fir trees, makes it very desirable to secure at least a small park in this locality, if the cost be not unreasonable. It is a good site also with regard to distribution of local parks and proximity both to the large and increasing poor population on its west and to a district on its east already partly filled with a good grade of residences. The suggestion has already been made that Ladd avenue be continued across this locality, and if this is done, it might be well to make this park triangular instead of square.
A neighborhood park or at least a large square should be located with due regard to a suitable general distribution of parks, in convenient proximity to Irvington. It might be connected with the suggested northeastern boulevard.
MULTNOMAH PARK.EditThis is a small area occupying a commanding headland southwest of Multnomah subdivision, lying west of Montana street and south of Fremont street, and extending southwest of St. Johns county road. It would combine the purpose of a local ornamental square, local play ground and of a park commanding comprehensive river views and hence would be more than usually valuable. Although the population is not dense in this neighborhood, it is evidently destined to become so, as the car shops of the O. R. & N. Company are located here, and are likely to be extended so that a great many workmen will be employed. If the suggested river bluff parkway along the east side of the river below the center of the city is carried out, this little park with a view-commanding carriage concourse in it would form a worthy terminus.
UPPER RIVER PLAY GROUND.Edit
If a few acres of bottom land can be secured from the O. R. & N. Company, west of the lower end of the wooded part of Ross Island, it would be a wise provision for future requirements in the way of a play ground and airing ground for a portion of the city which is apparently destined to become densely populated by comparatively poor people in connection with the manufacturing establishments likely to spring up along the river, and would be needed as the starting point for a ferry to Ross Island and the east side of the river, and it would be useful as a boating headquarters. As in the case of other riverside parks, it would not be necessary to fill this ground to a height which would make all of it above all floods, as it would be used mostly during the summer, when there is little danger of floods, and it could be improved in such a way that occasional floods would cause very slight injury to it.
If the upper river bluff parkway east of the river, already suggested, proves to be impracticable, either by reason of the refusal of the Oregon Water Power & Railway Company to give or sell the necessary land, or because of lack of funds for the purpose, at least a small park should be secured at the south end of Grand avenue. This park should include the bluff and at least a narrow strip of land along the top of the bluff, but might desirably be extended eastward to East Sixth street. This land contains some fairly expensive dwellings, which may prevent more than a narrow taking along the top of the bluff. This little park would be valuable because of the views of the river which it commands, and it would have an especial value as headquarters for boat livery and boat club houses, and for a terminus for a ferry which would afford access to Ross Island and to the proposed Upper Riverside Square. Ross Island and the two little riverside parks would be more valuable in the aggregate than either would be alone.
ALBINA PARK.EditThis growing section of the city is remote from any existing or proposed park of any considerable size and should be provided with a local park of considerable size. If located in the subdivision between Albina and Irvington, where there was formerly a race course, it would serve for both these centers of population.
SQUARES AND PLAY GROUNDS.Edit
In addition to a comprehensive system of parks and parkways, the city should provide, from time to time, for an adequate number and suitable distribution of local squares and play grounds. In a few instances, some squares have been provided by the owners of large tracts in connection with the subdivision of their land; but the number of owners who have, and who will hereafter recognize the benefit from a commercial point of view sufficiently to make such dedications, is very small, and this method cannot be relied upon to provide a city with local parks and play grounds. The matter is so intimately bound up with the question of land values, and with local public opinion and other local conditions, that it can only be properly investigated and decided upon by your Board. Judging by what has been done in other cities, either the city should purchase several such squares from the proceeds of a bond issue in the near future, and then, ten years or so later make another purchase of squares in a similar manner, or the policy should be definitely adopted of setting aside out of funds raised from current taxation, a reasonable sum every year to be applied to the purchase of play grounds. If the latter policy could become so firmly established that it could be relied upon, it would undoubtedly prove a good one from a business standpoint as there would be more likelihood of competition among land owners in the offering of land. During periods of depression in business when sales of land often come nearly to a standstill, many owners would make much more reasonable terms than during periods of business activity, which are the periods when it is usually easiest to obtain authority for an issue of bonds. But in either case, the general policy should be to secure for play grounds the cheapest possible lands that are adapted for the purpose, and that are properly distributed, and for ornamental squares and neighborhood pleasure grounds those tracts the improvement of which would be the most benefit to adjoining property. In some cases, the two purposes can be combined to advantage by taking much larger areas, and devoting the borders or the higher portions to ornamental purposes and the lower or the most level portions to play-ground uses. It should be borne in mind that baseball playing and football playing and play grounds are almost certain, sooner or later, to be strenuously objected to in small parks adjoining good neighborhoods, and that they are most necessary and most used in localities occupied by the poorer classes.Additional squares, suitably distributed about the city, should be secured from time to time as the expense can be afforded, or as the owners of subdivisions are willing to dedicate them.
The name of this existing park is not distinctive. It might be called "Explorers' Park" or "Lewis and Clark Park," to honor Lewis and Clark, the early explorers, or "Settlers' Park," in commemoration of the early settlers who bravely endured many hardships that their descendants might possess a beautiful and prosperous city of their own. "Pioneer Park" would be a more euphonious title, but might be thought to be imitating Seattle.
This park is an illustration of how valuable for purposes of recreation additional large areas of hillside land southwest of the city would become in the course of time, as the population grows. Already the capacity of City Park is taxed to its utmost upon holidays and pleasant Sundays in summer.
Lack of due appreciation of the problems of park development, combined with insufficiency of funds applicable to the purpose, have prevented the securing of proper boundaries of this park. The park should have included the steep land along the south side of Barnes county road eastward from the present park boundary to a point at Ford street. Buildings and high land values now prevent this extension of the park, but it may be possible to take sufficient land back of the lots facing on Barnes county road to provide for a drive and walk and suitable planting borders. It would be essential to have a screening border plantation along the downhill side of this drive to hide the rear premises of the lots above referred to, but not necessarily along the uphill side as the proposed drive could be made to serve as access to lots facing upon its uphill side. A slight but apparently easily accomplished modification of the lot lines of Cedar Hill Addition would doubtless prove to be necessary. Possibly a few of the westerly lots facing on the county road might be added to the park without undue expense.
The main driving entrance to City Park from the east should be from the end of Park avenue. The existing drives near this entrance answer well enough for the present, but eventually they should be moved further from the boundary, which should then be concealed by evergreen shrubbery. One of the drives leading from the Park avenue entrance to the concourse north of the upper reservoir should eventually be widened. The southerly of these two drives seems to be the more desirable for this purpose.
Another entrance drive which will become more important in the future, is that from Jefferson street. The plan of this drive should be improved, so as to secure better grades and less sharp turns, and so as to provide for a moderate widening. The principal drives in this park ought eventually to be at least twenty-four feet wide, exclusive of gutters, as this is the least width which would permit a rapidly moving carriage to be conveniently driven by a slowly moving one occupying the middle of the road.
Before long, a drive should be extended from the north side of the upper reservoir to the fine view point west of the lower reservoir. There should be a widening or concourse at this point, where carriages could turn comfortably, and to encourage people to stop and enjoy the view. From this concourse the drive could be extended diagonally up the hill to Kingston avenue near the north boundary of the park. If a portion or the whole of the Poorhouse Farm is added to the park, a drive could be extended on a winding course to a view point on top of the ridge. Another drive may be extended from this concourse west of the lower reservoir, southwest along the side of the ravine, and turning at the bottom of the ravine near the abandoned foot bridge, may be extended easterly on the south side of the ravine to a junction with Carter street. If a drive of adequate width can be carried over the dam of the upper reservoir so that one could drive from the Jefferson street entrance conveniently to the concourse at the north end of the upper reservoir, the system of drives thus outlined would seem to be all that is likely to be necessary in this park. The narrow drive running up the hill southerly from the northwest end of the lower reservoir seems to accomplish no purpose not better accomplished by the drives above suggested. The grading which has been already done for this drive is not wide enough for a drive and the crosswise slope is so steep that it would be difficult to widen it, but it can be used for a walk. The same is true in regard to another narrow drive heretofore projected to run southerly up the hill from the west side of the upper reservoir.
If it can be obtained at a reasonable price, it would be well worth while for the city to acquire the point of land where Canyon road joins Jefferson street. This point of land is partly covered with native forest trees, which form a valuable feature of the view from the proposed high concourse west of the lower reservoir, whereas if left in private ownership, it will almost inevitably become an eyesore. For the same reason it would be desirable to take a strip, including most of the steep land from the east boundary of the park south of the lower reservoir around the spur along Canyon road, at least about 700 feet.
The present site of the greenhouse and other administration buildings in this park is too conveniently accessible from the city side of the park, and therefore too valuable for the use of visitors to be permanently occupied for its present purposes. The green houses, barns, etc., ought eventually to be moved up to the terrace along the east side of Kingston avenue, particularly the northern part of this terrace, leaving, however, ample room for the drive to Kingston avenue already suggested, and for planting borders. The south end of this terrace, commanding as it does the extremely fine view down through the ravine, ought to be reserved for a large public shelter, with broad verandas and terraces. The greenhouse would probably best be set with its greatest length north and south, parallel with Kingston avenue, yet far enough back from it to leave room for working yards, cold frames and the like, which should be screened from view by high hedges. A double-span greenhouse with the ridge running north and south is the best for park propagating purposes. If it is desired to force roses and the like, there might be a three-quarter span house arranged as a wing facing south at the north end of the main range. The heating plant and potting shed would, of course, be at the north end of the range, with ample yard room north of it. Further to the north on the terrace, if there is room enough, there may be the park stable with a range of yards between it and the greenhouse yards for storage of various materials, and such sheds as may be necessary. The barn should be constructed in accordance with a pleasing design, but in the cheapest possible manner, as, for instance, with vertical boards and cleats, both rough and stained merely. For a great many years it would be an extravagant waste of money to put up costly structures because every dollar of available park funds would much better be expended in the acquisition of lands, and for the long but economical drives and walks needed to make them available.
For the same reason, the animal houses, pavilions and other structures should be picturesque in design, but simple and economical in construction. All effort at what might be called handsome architectural effects, such as mouldings, fluted columns, pilasters, capitals and the like should be avoided. The desirable effect should be obtained rather by the general form and by means of pleasing color stains, used in a broad, simple way.
Considering that prudent business management requires the acquisition of additional park lands while they may yet be had without having to pay for expensive improvements, it would be wise to considerably reduce the amount of tender bedding and formal flower displays, but if it be considered impolitic to do so, they should be transferred to the formal terrace already graded east of Kingston avenue. These garden decorations could be made handsome and appropriate features if treated in the formal manner which would naturally follow the occupation of these terraces, but they are exceedingly inappropriate, and one may almost say offensive to persons of refined taste, scattered about as they are on irregular slopes and in the midst of wild forest trees. A moderate amount of flowers can be maintained in connection with necessary buildings, such as the animal houses, shelters and the like, but the existing beds of flowers elsewhere in the informal portions of the park ought, as a rule, to be obliterated. Trees and tall-growing shrubbery should be planted about the buildings wherever possible, as they are at present unduly conspicuous and usually not in themselves agreeable. Even where they are pleasing in design, they are incongruous with the wild character firmly established by the numerous fir trees and other forest trees. Fences, wherever necessary, should be screened by shrubs and vines, except where walks are carried to or along them to enable visitors to see the animals. In case of enclosures, the animals in which would destroy the vines and shrubbery, the planting can be kept far enough outside of the fences to be safe, or there may be an additional inconspicuous wire fence. Unless there is some important reason to the contrary, the use of white and very light colors should be avoided in the informal parts of the park, and even in the formal part of the park all buildings not of good classic design, should be painted or stained a dark and inconspicuous color. This rule is particularly applicable to the greenhouses, which though conspicuous, are not handsome architecturally.
The scattering about of small coniferous evergreens which are by nature, or are made by clipping, noticeably dense and formal, should be avoided, and many such trees already planted should be removed to the more formal portion of the park or eliminated. It is still more important to do away with clipped shrubs and hedges, rows of trees or shrubs and formal or narrow beds along the drives and walks in the old, informal portion of the park.
A rockery composed of picturesque stones, with the crannies filled with interesting plants, may, in some cases, be picturesque and agreeable, but certainly the rockery built up with small stones on level ground at the junction of roads near the upper reservoir in this park is questionably good to look at in itself, and certainly utterly out of place. Such an affair should be worked into a steep hillside or small ravine where there is not too much shade, and in a situation where it can only be seen close at hand, or where it can be screened from general views by informal plantations.
Grass in the form of clipped turf is particularly adapted for lawns that are to be walked upon, but on steep banks it will not stand this usage. Hence on level or gently sloping land turf suggests strolling and is there appropriate, while on steep slopes it is usually inappropriate because it is not proper there to suggest or invite strolling. Moreover, well-kept turf is notably smooth and therefore appropriate on level or gently sloping land, whereas on irregular, steep slopes it is inappropriate. Few gardeners seem to discriminate in such cases. They are apt to extend turf all through wild woods and even over steep slopes where they do not want the public to walk. On most of the steep slopes in the park, it is extremely desirable to cover the ground with vegetation of a more varied and more picturesque character than grass. Where planting has been done more or less with exotic trees and shrubs, there is no better plant for this purpose than the dwarf periwinkle, especially if used as a ground covering among rhododendrons and other evergreen shrubs. The English Ivy is also very useful as a ground covering plant in dense shade where it will not cause too much trouble by covering and smothering shrubs. On the other hand, where the wild native trees and shrubs prevail the Sallal, evergreen huckleberry and other native plants should be used as a ground cover, although not so easy to transplant as periwinkle and English Ivy. Among the comparatively inexpensive improvements which can be made in this park, there is none more pressingly needed than the substitution of low bushes and creepers for turf on steep slopes.
In general, there should be more shrubbery, especially such as will endure shade, in the wooded portions of this park. High, dense shrubbery increases the difficulty of properly policing the park, so that it should be used rather sparingly, but this objection does not hold against shrubbery that is little more than knee high and low-growing shrubbery can therefore be used freely wherever the formal, smooth effect of turf should be avoided.
There are too many trees on the old portion of the park to remain permanently, and it will be much better to remove a considerable number now than to allow them to grow up so crowded that they will be mere poles with a tuft of foliage on top, or one-sided, ugly specimens when thinning shall have been done hereafter.
Where high screens of foliage are desirable, they should usually be of comparatively low-growing, moderate-sized trees. It is noticeable that besides being crowded, the trees are trimmed up for the most part to a uniform height from the ground. This produces a very monotonous effect which should be remedied wherever possible by the addition of shade-enduring shrubbery.
It is likely to produce the most agreeable effect if a comparatively small selection of trees and shrubs is used for the greater part of the planting, so that without monotony there will be a prevailing effect of unity and continuity. Those trees and shrubs which are introduced for the sake of variety and because of their individual interest, should be used very sparingly, and most of them should be placed where they will harmonize with their surroundings, and not stand out as conspicuous spots, either because of the color of their foliage, bloom or shape.
At a regrettable sacrifice of green sward, all drives should be somewhat nearly accompanied by paths, wherever there is the slightest temptation for visitors on foot to walk upon the drives. It is neither agreeable nor appropriate to mix these two classes of traffic.
The use of steep ground for paddocks for elk and other animals liable to destroy the turf should be avoided. In the case of elk, the problem is a particularly difficult one, and probably the only satisfactory solution is to have a number of paddocks and to transfer the elk from one to another so often that the grass will have a chance to recover from the trampling.
The use of clipped hedges in the informal part of the park should be avoided. There are some places where they can be replaced by mixed plantations of compact growing shrubbery. In other cases where there is not room for shrubbery, fences covered with vines, varying the sort at intervals, can be substituted.
Particular pains should be taken not to plant, or, where they are growing, to eliminate all trees which will eventually grow so high as to obstruct the distant views, especially those from points in the new part of the park, and it may be necessary to cut down some existing trees of considerable size to properly open up these views. It is to be presumed that in such cases the views are worth more than the trees.
City Park should be extended on the west to form a good connection with the Poorhouse Farm, a portion of which may be eventually annexed to the park, or through which it may be found desirable to extend from the park a pleasure drive for the purpose of reaching some of the high hill tops, where, in addition to the views over the city which will be commanded from many points, the beautiful rural views to the westward could be enjoyed.
COLUMBIA PARK.EditThe principal value of this existing park will consist in its use for field sports and for a local pleasure ground. A considerable portion of it at the east end is opened, but has been more or less obstructed by the planting of young trees. It is very proper to have trees around the border, but all those which would interfere with the use of the open field for baseball and other games requiring considerable space should be removed, and probably the open area should be extended into the young fir wood to the west. This piece of fir wood should be very much thinned to properly fit it for public use. To do this intelligently, it will be necessary to have some plan. There will have to be walks eventually, and some of these must necessarily be arranged as shortcut paths. No doubt it will be advisable to open up a separate lawn for little children, so that they will not be inconvenienced or endangered by the rougher play that is to go on in the main ball field. Some form of shelter will doubtless be desirable, if not necessary eventually, and its location should be considered in planning the grounds. Some central feature, such as a fountain basin, may also be needed to create interest, considering the flatness of the ground. This may, if desired, be given a depth and construction suitable for a wading pool, a feature which has proved to be exceedingly popular with little children at Buffalo and other cities. Large boxes of sand have also proved a source of happiness to still smaller children. In general, the main idea to be accomplished in the thinning is to arrange for a continuous border, so that surrounding houses will not be unduly conspicuous, and for the longest practicable views in various directions within the grounds over narrow winding lawns, or low masses of shrubbery. The fir tree is so suggestive of wildness that it is ill adapted to remain permanently in any considerable numbers in such a formal public park or square. To look well it should have its lower branches spreading upon the ground, in which case the turf would be destroyed on too large areas. While young, groups of little fir trees are extremely beautiful and interesting, but due consideration must be given to the future. It is probable that with the exception of three or four groups in which the individual trees should be twenty feet to thirty feet or more apart, the existing little fir trees should be almost entirely cleared. Occasional fir trees may also be left in the borders, spaced irregularly, from thirty to forty to one hundred feet apart, but the border plantation should be composed mainly of shrubs and slow-growing trees of moderate height, with a few tall-growing deciduous trees in groups, to vary the sky-line of the plantations. A suitable fence will always be necessary about such a park, approached as it is by various streets and surrounded as it will be by houses. A reasonable number of entrances should be provided, say six, or at the most, eight. Without a fence and such limited number of gates, people would take the shortest possible route from the abutting houses and streets to the nearest stopping places of the electric cars, and vice versa, so that there would come to be short-cut paths by the score. Without a fence, therefore, the beauty of the lawns would eventually be greatly injured, if not almost destroyed, by these numerous short-cut paths running in all directions. The fence which has just been put up is ugly and should be covered with vines. Eventually it will be desirable to erect a plain iron picket fence, which should, of course, be concealed by vines and screened by shrubbery.
The problems presented in this existing park are very similar to those mentioned in the case of Columbia Park, and the same remarks with regard to thinning trees, opening up long vistas and open spaces for play fields and little children's lawns, and other means of providing recreation for children apply here equally well. No fence has been erected about this park, but unquestionably there should be one. If there happened to be indications that neighbors would make an outcry against the fence, it would be well to begin by planting a border of shrubbery, leaving the fence to be added later when the need becomes more obvious.
The lower branches of the fir trees have been trimmed up to a uniform height in this park, producing an ugly and very monotonous effect. A severe thinning out of the fir trees would tend to remedy this defect, but in addition masses of shade-enduring shrubbery should be planted among the groups of fir trees that are left. Although the fir trees are beautiful in themselves and effective in masses, it is too monotonous to have so many of them upon so small an area and as before explained they are inappropriate in such flat formal public squares because they are known to be the principal tree characteristic of the wild woods of the region, and wildness is not the appropriate effect to aim at in the midst of rectangular blocks of flat land occupied by houses. The cutting out of fir trees, therefore, ought to be somewhat radical, so that space may be secured for planting deciduous and broad-leaved trees. Among the latter, the evergreen magnolia is one of the best, yet it seems to have been but little used in the city. It has to be planted of very small size, and therefore the sooner it can be planted the better.
In order to distinguish this park from Columbia Park and other similar local parks which are flat and rectangular in shape, it might be well to adopt a formal plan for the whole or a portion of it. If a formal design for walks is determined upon, considerable ingenuity should be exercised to avoid a commonplace arrangement, yet to have one which will be perfectly convenient for short cutting. Unless this requirement is thoroughly well provided for, the work will prove a failure.
Considering the character of the neighborhood, a formal flower garden might be designed, which would be interesting and appropriate, and, if it should include a considerable proportion of turf, it need not be very expensive to maintain. It would be most effective if enclosed by a border of evergreen shrubbery. The formal flower garden may be either at the center of the square, leaving the two ends in grass, one end to have shade trees and to have its center marked by a bandstand and the other to be an open field for ball and other field sports; or the garden may be in the center of one half, leaving the other half to be partly a shaded lawn with a bandstand and partly a lawn for tennis and other quiet lawn games and partly an open ball field. The choice would depend upon the relative areas desirable to be assigned to the several purposes and upon whether neighbors should object to baseball and other somewhat noisy field sports.
FORMALITY AND INFORMALITY IN PARKS.Edit
In designing all future improvements for the parks and parkways, the distinction between formality and informality, which is a radical one, should be constantly borne in mind. There seems to have been heretofore a good deal of mixing up of the two. The informal style of design should be adopted in almost all cases where there are natural woods, or where the topography is varied and irregular, and especially where it is rugged, and where it would be in bad taste or too expensive to improve the land in the formal style. When a drive or walk is laid out upon curving lines with the object of fitting the topography, it should be considered that the informal style has been adopted, and the introduction of straight pieces of drive or walk for no other reason than that it is easier for the surveyor and gardeners to lay them out and execute them, should be carefully avoided, since such straight lines are generally incongruous with the informal lines adopted elsewhere. Formal features may, however, be adopted in informal designs at particular places where the circumstances obviously justify it. About a building, for instance, the lines may properly be formal, the more so the more formal the architectural style of the building. The popular love of flowers and bright colors may be gratified in park designs, but it should always be done formally or informally in accordance with the style of the locality. Most gardeners, owing to the nature of the training which they have had, incline more or less unconsciously and almost inevitably to formality. Such gardeners should therefore either be kept out of informally-designed parks, or else their work should be directed by a superintendent having a wider grasp of the subject.
CARE OF SMALL PARKS AND SQUARES.Edit
In the ordinary routine care of outlying parks situated at a considerable distance from administration headquarters, the principle of having a responsible man in charge instead of merely sending a man, or a gang of men once in a while to clean up, should be worked out in accordance with the means available. Sometimes a neighbor may be engaged to labor an hour or two a day on the park and to "keep an eye on it" merely the rest of the time while working on his own place.
STEEP LANDS UNDESIRABLE FOR SMALL LOTS.Edit
Having pointed out the extraordinary opportunities possessed by your city for picturesque parks and parkways, and having indicated other possibilities as to pleasure grounds, parkways and boulevards needed to complete a proper and comprehensive system of parks, some comment may be worth while on the peculiar conditions which make it desirable to take for park purposes a much larger amount of land in narrow strips and small pieces along the western hilly margin of the city than would be desirable in most other cities. The broken hillsides between Portland Heights, and the comparatively flat portion of the city below, are at present the most particularly observable by the largest number of citizens. Those who have no interest in the ownership of these lands, can hardly fail to agree that they are neither economical nor desirable as building sites for crowded residences; yet people are attracted to them, and some houses have actually been built on these steep slopes because of the views which they command and because of their convenient proximity to the center of the city and because of the good class of the neighborhood. At present, the custom of building in a cheap and flimsy manner is so firmly established that few people who build in these difficult places are put to any very extraordinary expense for retaining walls, terraced slopes, foundations, steps and all the other constructions which would cost enormously, if the custom of building substantially, as in older and wealthier communities, was firmly established. At present it is not a very notable expense to put fifteen or twenty feet of trestle work under a house—at times thirty to forty feet may be required—and so the process of occupying these steep declivities proceeds with comparatively little deterring influence on the score of cost, but some of these houses will be too inconvenient, too flimsy, too uncomfortable, too much out of fashion and too ugly to remain. Pressure of population will eventually put higher values upon the land, and future owners will undoubtedly, unless some method is adopted to prevent it, spend in the aggregate enormous sums of money on these hillsides, by far the greater part of which will be an absolute waste as compared with the conveniences and beauties which the expenditure of the same amount would bring upon gently sloping land. It is not too much to say that by the time people begin to spend from ten to twenty thousand dollars in the erection of thoroughly convenient and handsome residences in these localities, they will often, if not generally, be obliged to spend on the average about half these amounts in retaining walls, steps and other constructions which would be entirely unnecessary on gently sloping land. The money thus spent is to all practical intents and purposes, so far as the benefit to the community is concerned, absolutely thrown away. If it had not been spent in this way, the chances are that it would have been spent in some way that would have had more rental and taxable value and would therefore have been worth more to the community. Speaking in a general way, it would certainly be a very profitable investment for the city, therefore, to take these lands out of the market for residential purposes, and use them for pleasure grounds for the benefit of the citizens at large, and for the particular benefit of adjoining properties above and below. In that case all those who would otherwise have built houses on these uneconomical sites will build them elsewhere, and with easier conditions will build handsomer and better houses, or more of them, greatly to the benefit of the taxable valuation of the city. Little account is usually taken by assessors of retaining walls, steps and such like constructions by which steep grounds are fitted for use; hence money so spent practically escapes taxation, to the loss of the city and without any particular gain to the owner. But, aside from the difficulties of fitting such land for those who build residences upon them, there is to be considered the enormous and disproportionate expense of preparing such lands, by means of streets, terraces, etc., either by the original owners or by the city, and the subsequent great expenses incident to maintaining streets on such necessarily steep grades. If many of the streets are made with such steep grades as have already been adopted in many instances, as seems certain to be the case so long as they are originally laid out by the property owners, there will be for all time to come a vast amount of inconvenience, and not a little danger to people using the streets, and a great, although indefinite cost in wear and tear of vehicles and horses. Moreover, such streets are extremely ugly in the way that almost anything that is ill-adapted to its purpose is ugly.
There is another valid objection to building on such steep lands where the sub-soil conditions are such as they prove to be on some of these hillsides, namely, the liability of landslides. The landslide which occurred back of and partly in City Park, covered many acres and ruined for building purposes a good deal of land which had already been prepared at considerable expense by grading and otherwise for sale in small lots, is only one illustration well known to the citizens of what is liable to occur at many places on these steep hillsides as soon as the natural conditions begin to be interfered with extensively by the grading of streets and terraces. This objection to steep land ought to weigh much more strongly with intending purchasers than it seems likely to trouble the minds of the individuals interested in the sale of the lands in small lots, but at any rate it is unquestionably a serious matter, and one which ought to be considered by the city government and by the citizens at large as one of the strongest possible reasons in support of the idea of taking these steep hillsides for public pleasure grounds.
It should not be assumed that the improvement of these lands, if taken by the city, need necessarily involve any very great expense. There is no reason why they should be improved in the smooth and semi-formal fashion adopted in the City Park. Until the city has greatly increased in wealth, all that will be necessary would be a comparatively narrow mountain drive and a few narrow trails. In some places, trestles or bridges might be required to carry the drive across gullies or canyons, but for a generation or two, these might be chiefly built of wood. For some years, at any rate, the drive would answer quite well enough if surfaced with earth. Being intended for light pleasure vehicles only, a hard, heavy macadam surface is not essential, especially if the drive is closed to use during and shortly after wet weather.
It seems reasonable to suppose that after a thorough examination and discussion of the matter, many of the large land owners would be willing to give these steep hillsides to the city for park purposes, or, at any rate, to sell them at comparatively low rates. There will remain, doubtless, numbers of owners of small pieces of land needed to complete the system, who will have purchased it at relatively high prices in times past, and without much thought as to the cost of improving it for occupation by dwellings, and who will decline to sell their holdings at prices considerably less than they have paid for them. Unlike many business men, especially the more successful ones, who very frequently have to make up their minds to sell their goods at a loss in order to avoid the expense of carrying them longer, with the probability of increased loss in the future, or who can use the money at a greater profit in new purchases, these owners of small tracts generally seem to have the idea that there is practically never any loss in holding land if it is held long enough. Times of depression in the prices of land they know are generally followed by times when prices rise again, but there are unquestionably many exceptions; indeed when one comes to estimate carefully the sums paid out for taxes and assessments and other expenses incident to the ownership and management of land, there are a vast number of cases in and about every city in which the ownership of lands has not proved profitable, especially to those who, like the majority of owners of small tracts, have been tempted by the general prevalence of a feeling of hopefulness during prosperous times, to purchase their lands at or near the top prices. Many such land owners will continue to pay taxes on their little holdings for many years and will decline to sell them at the prevailing market price if it does not show a profit above the cost of the land. If there should prove to be only a moderate number of such cases, the usual procedure of condemnation might reasonably be followed, leaving the juries to determine the real market value of the land; but where these cases are very numerous, and where the amounts to be paid out would be likely to be very large in the aggregate, it may be advisable to proceed more cautiously. If there be no legal or moral objections against it, it would seem to be business-like for the officials of the city to approach these land owners, and if possible obtain from them a written statement of the price at which they would sell their holdings. If this price be considered to be more than a fair market value, let the assessors pursue the policy of raising the assessed valuation of these properties to somewhere near the values claimed for them by their owners. The increased taxes thus secured may be set aside as a special fund for the purchase of these lands. The increased burden of taxation will gradually bring more and more of these owners to a realization of the uselessness of continuing to pay taxes on lands which have proved to be unsaleable at the prices they may have desired to obtain for them. In that case some may conclude to sell to the city at a reasonable price, and others may even, before many years, let the properties be sold for taxes, in which case the city may bid them in, paying for them from the special funds above referred to. There may be some cases where it would not be wise to delay the purchase of lands for some years, lest they be occupied by more or less expensive improvements. This is likely to occur in the vicinity of electric railways, in the neighborhood of already settled districts, and in the case of lands owned or managed by particularly enthusiastic and pushing real estate dealers and agents. Another danger to the beauty of these lands still more to be feared is that owners will cut the wild woods upon them, or permit them to be destroyed by fires. It should be made the duty of someone (presumably one of the Park Commissioners) to keep careful watch of all wooded lands intended to be taken as part of the park system, so that the city may act with the utmost promptness to prevent such destruction. It might even be arranged so that condemnation proceedings could be begun, and injunctions served on the owners of such lands with extraordinary promptness. Usually this prompt action will effect the desired purpose, and the owner can then be negotiated with and often the case could be settled out of court.
Aside from the steep lands which have been mentioned as desirable to be taken for the hillside parkways, or in connection with these parkways, there are considerable areas of exceedingly steep and forming the sides of the big ravines or canyons. Considerable parts of these canyons are at present very wild and exceedingly beautiful, and if the matter can be arranged in such a way that the city can afford the expense, these steep slopes ought generally to be preserved as parts of the park system. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that so far as the interest of the citizens at large is concerned, it is far more important to secure the continuous view-commanding hillside parkways, with fringes of woods and strips of land below to ensure control of the views. In other words, the effort and cost of securing the canyons ought not to be incurred until after the proposed hillside drives have been secured, unless it should be found feasible to do both with the available appropriations.
In the case of the hillside parkways, of course the essential thing is to obtain a continuous drive. It cannot be considered absolutely essential nor always desirable to secure all of the steep slope above and below this drive. Moreover, there are undoubtedly little ridges here and there which afford attractive house sites, and which may be made accessible by narrow and presumably curving drives, essentially private drives or private rights-of-way to a few houses, and it may be necessary, owing to the financial limitations, to except these available house sites from the land takings. So, too, in the canyons, there may be widenings of the bottom available for building purposes, and which, being accessible from the highway in the canyon may be left in private ownership. Such breaks in the continuity of the public ownership are likely to prove blemishes, and should be avoided wherever practicable; but if the city, as is altogether probable, has an entirely inadequate sum with which to work, it will practically be obliged to make such exceptions from the takings in order to carry the scheme through with a sufficient degree of continuity and completeness to accomplish the main purpose.
Incredible as it may seem to many citizens who have grown up with the idea that after the best timber has been taken out of the woods, all that remains is to destroy the rest by clearing the land for pastures or other agricultural purposes, it might be possible for the city to acquire considerable areas of woodland with a view to future profit. If such land can be obtained at a sufficiently low price, there is little doubt that in due time and with proper organization, a revenue could be obtained from it which would go far toward paying the interest on the cost of the land. Many German towns own such forest reservations, which, by systematic management are made to yield from 2 to 3 per cent, on the cost of the land. This income in some instances is sufficient to pay the whole of the municipal expenses, and the forest reservations in all cases provide steady employment to a desirable class of citizens. In addition to this, these forest reservations afford very enjoyable recreation places, and there is very little doubt that if the city should secure a large reservation of this sort now, or soon, the citizens a generation or two hence, when the city has greatly increased in population and wealth, would consider it a most wise and profitable investment. It may be objected that besides the burden of the interest and contributions to the sinking fund in connection with the debt which would be incurred for the acquisition of these lands, there would be the loss of taxes which would have been collected had the land remained in private ownership. This is only a short-sighted view of the matter. The purchase money for such lands is not thrown away, and, except in rare cases is not consumed in living expenses. Mainly it is reinvested and presumably, therefore, continues to be taxed and to be a source of wealth to the community. Frequently such money is reinvested in such a way as to be decidedly more profitable than when it was invested in these wild woodlands. If the city could eventually net 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, from the scientific management of the forest on these lands, it would be a satisfactory investment considering the other benefits the citizens would derive from them in the way of health and pleasure. Where money is raised by taxation for interest and sinking fund on a debt incurred for the wise purchase of land, it is a kind of forced saving by the people, not an expense, as is necessarily most of the money spent by a municipality. It would be perfectly reasonable and much more scientific to have a law permitting the purchase of land by a municipality for park and other suitable purposes on long-time bonds. This has been recognized by law in some states, and the park bonds of several cities run for sixty years. It would also be reasonable that debt incurred for the purchase of land should be left out of consideration in determining the debt limit of municipalities very properly established by law to prevent thoughtless extravagance in municipal government.
CO-OPERATION OF LAND OWNERS.Edit
Owing to the location of the topographical features which it is designed to take advantage of and owing to the large amount of territory already subdivided, or made valuable by the rapid growth of population, the system of parks suggested is necessarily unusually spread out, and therefore involves unusually long parkways and boulevards. The various outlying parks and reservations suggested are in extent adequate for a population several times larger than the existing population of your city, and if the land needed for these parks could hereafter be secured at a reasonable price, and if the trees now growing upon it could be preserved from destruction, and if the land could be prevented from being occupied by expensive improvements, it would no doubt be well to postpone for another generation the acquirement of some, if not the most of these areas; but judging from the sad experience of other cities in providing themselves with adequate systems of parks and parkways, there is no doubt that it would be an exceedingly wise and prudent proceeding for your city to acquire the suggested areas for parks and parkways, or most of them, within the next ten years, the construction of improvements to proceed gradually as the finances of the city will justify. Having regard to the present and future requirements of the city in the matter of parks, and with full consideration of the financial limitations, it seems perfectly reasonable that the city should proceed cautiously but speedily to the acquisition of some such system of parks and parkways as has been outlined above, but bearing in mind always that the attempt will prove a failure or will fall pitiably short of the ideal result without the cordial and liberal co-operation and assistance of the land owners whose properties are needed for or will be affected favorably by the proposed improvements. If these property owners could visit the park systems of other cities, and study the increased valuations which the lands bordering upon the various parks and parkways have in most instances acquired, no doubt most of them would be convinced of the advisability of giving to the city the land required for park purposes in all cases where the owners have enough land left to be benefited, and to sell them at extremely low prices, and to reinvest the money in adjoining lands, in cases where the whole or the greater part of their holdings has to be taken for the parks or parkways. If the public sentiment can once be roused in favor of a comprehensive system of parks, and if the land owners will co-operate cordially, it seems reasonable to assume that the greater part, if not the whole, of the system above suggested, or the equivalent of it, can be accomplished without undue strain to the finances of the city.