Sunday, March 11, 2007

'Springfield Present and Prospective (1905), The Visible Charm, As It Was, Is, and May Be,' Excerpt IV

I hope you enjoy this segment of the book 'Springfield Present and Prospective,' which was penned by prominent Springfield residents, and published in the city in 1905 by Pond & Campbell publishers. The book was finely printed and engraved by a Springfield company, as well. The F. A. Bassette Co., established in 1898, will mark it's 110th anniversary of doing business in Springfield in 2008.

We continue with chapter one, 'The Visible Charm, As It Was, Is, and May Be,' written by Eugene C. Gardner. This is the second part of the second section, 'Plan of the Ground Floor,' titled 'Broader Outlooks.'

Continued from 'II. Plan of the Ground Floor, 1. The Inner Circle.'

II. Plan of the Ground Floor

2. Broader Outlooks

To pass around the circle once more, not in the electric chariot that clings to earth, but in one of the dirigible air ships that exist chiefly in the eye of faith, we shall see that the route just described is not merely a succession of arboreal and flowering parks diversified by water views and distant landscape, but an inner-urban highway much of the way, in fact a greater part of it, passing among the thickly planted and abundantly occupied homes which have given to the city its sentimental name; homes where the signs of good taste and good cheer are in constant evidence and which should be a pleasure to heart and eye even if there were not countless small parks and terraces converging wherever streets come together and where sufficient width has been taken to form parks or terraces through the center.

On this elevated excursion we can see and trace what may be called the side lines of the grand tour.

While waiting for the new bridge that will supplant the century-old wooden structure, the North-end bridge furnishes the first point of departure from the main line. When this was built it was thought to be a work of great extravagance, wholly exceeding all possible requirements and declared to be of sufficient size and stregth to sustain the entire population of Hampden county - which was probably true. Indeed, it may have done so many times over, though not all at once, for it is a great thoroughfare, constituting our principal highway, not only to our beloved maiden sister across the river, but to our more distant friends and family relatives, Westfield, Tatham and Holyoke.

The nearest west-side charms, after crossing the bridge, are the old West Springfield street with its over-arching elms and verdant turf, dewy and damp even at mid-day, Shad Lane, the old common, several rods wider than Court square and originally extending from the Connecticut river on the east to the wharfs at Agawam on the west, and nobody can remember how much farther. The wharfs have disappeared, the length of the common has been curtailed, but its width remains. The "Shad Laner's Meetin' road" is also the oldest and perhaps the most beautiful river-bank drive in Hampden county, besides being the fit approach to the commanding site of the home of the Country club.

Leaving the main road again at Glenwood where the Rockrimmon tract joins the Armory road, Springfield street beguiles us through the pleasant scenery of upper Chicopee, which would be literally under the shadow of Mt. Tom if the sun should happen to rise in the north, and thence, if we choose, swerving around to the right across to Chicopee Falls and the romantic country beyond.

Still swinging eastward we find the Watershops pond, whose picturesque northern shore is already accessible and which in the future will move slowly into the midst of the metropolitan district. Sometimes there may be viaducts across the upper part of this lake, but in this imaginary flight it is easy to cross without bridges, looking down upon Forest park and sailing over the lily ponds whose incomparable beauty and gracious perfume haunt us until we reach the classic shades and bucolic charms of Longmeadow.

Whether we depend upon the time-honored but now obsolescent modes of conveyance that require the combined service of horses and wagons, saddles and bridles, oats, stables and hostlers, or move swiftly and simply by means of scientific, up-to-date locomotive mechanism, the inter-urban boulevard in its actual condition, as shown by the first map or in the completed form of the second, will be a journey of at least a dozen miles and all quite within the thickly populated limits of the city. Extending the trip through the various side lines would of course add to its extent indefinitely.

What has been said of the residential portions of the Forest park region is generally true of other parts of the city. Across the river, at the "north end," in Brightwood, in other parts of Ward One and throughout what is commonly known as the "Hill region," carefully-kept lawns, ornamental shrubbery, and small decorative parks are frequently encountered, some of them, notably Calhoun and Merrick, already possessing marked and varied beauty.

To refer very briefly to what is perhaps the most important feature of the city, the one that indicates with most emphasis the degree of intelligence and public spirit prevailing, it may be said that the construction and final finish of our streets will probably continue to be, as it always has been, a matter for controversy and experiment. Considering the relatively large area of Springfield and the rapid extension of the suburbs in all directions impartially, our streets and sidewalks are usually well graded and paved, though by no means faultless. We are, moreover, in the most hopeful and fortunate condition possible for ignorant and erring mortals; we are aware of our sins, suitably ashamed of them, and honestly trying to outgrow them. Many of the streets are models of excellence, and the public demand for clean, well-paved thoroughfares ensures a constant improvement in this respect, for whatever value we may attach to the ornamental features of a house, a home or a friend, we know that "Thou shalt not be unclean" is one of the fundamental commandments.

Washington has been called the "Parlor City" because of its chronic state of preparation for ornamental social functions. Other cities, whose names may be guessed from their supposed tastes, might be considered dining-room cities; certain others, in the opinion of their neighbors, ought to be laundries; in the great national domicile, "Library cities" are happily numerous. For Springfield, which is and always has been industrious, democratic and cosmopolitan, no better designation, derived from domestic associations, can be given than "The Living Room" - the apartment which in the steady evolution of homes combines in itself the essential and happiest qualities of the more highly specialized and exclusive apartments. Bright, cheerful and sunny, free to all well-behaved comers, unhampered by troublesome conventionalities, with room and opportunity for industry, study, recreation and social enjoyment - what the generous living-room with its hospitable hearth and ready welcome is to the private dwelling, Springfield is in the larger home of the grand old Commonwealth.

Continued: 'Section III, Architectural Garments, Part 1, The Personal Equation in Houses.'

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