Sunday, April 8, 2007

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

This segment begins the first section, titled 'Bed Rock,' of part IV, 'Looking Forward,' from chapter one of the book, 'Springfield Present and Prospective' (Pond & Campbell 1905), 'The Visible Charm, As It Was, Is, and May Be,' authored by Eugene C. Gardner.

Continued from: 'III. Architectural Garments, Part 3. Churches, Monuments and Chimneys.'

IV. Looking Forward

1. Bed Rock
In this age of science and certainty one takes large risks who ventures any other vaticination than cautious reasoning from cause to effect. "Don't never prophesy unless you know" is excellent advice, yet every man whose mind is not comatose will sometimes yield to temptation and try to describe his air castles, not always providing for them a visible means of support.
Already Springfield has a foundation whereon to rear the temple of a goodly city whose extent and abiding wealth will be limited only by the intelligence, industry and unity of its citizens. Let intelligence stand first. He would be a poor student of history and human nature who failed to see that the nobler qualities that raise one community above another are intimately related to physical beauty and the cultivated appreciation of it; who does not know that if our material work gives lasting pleasure it is because of its being the expression of high intellectual and moral qualities which it, in turn, develops and sustains. We can not be too often or too forcibly reminded that it is a crime to inflict upon a city any conspicuous work that does not embody the highest skill at our command.
Every man's house is his castle, and in the absence of a king he is at liberty to make it as appallingly ugly as he pleases - provided he has no aesthetic consciousness, or conscience, - but everything for which the city is responsible - and its responsibility should be largely extended - ought to be of such a character as to excite the admiration and respect of the intelligent citizens who help pay for it and of succeeding generations who must gaze on it indefinitely, or pay for its destruction. Surely this will require intelligence of the highest order in public officials. But the fountain does not rise higher than its source, and we cannot expect our representatives to hold loftier ideals than our own.

After intelligence there must be industry in its broadest sense; that is enterprise, public spirit, executive ability. Whether hands or heads are given the highest place, either without the other is a one-armed soldier. We may chase the devil around the stump in an endless argument only to reach the same conclusion, which is that tireless enterprise and dauntless valor are wasted unless wisdom stands at the helm; and, conversely, that the highest intelligence is like the wind that bloweth where it listeth until it has taken form in doughty deeds.

What organization is to an army, a pilot to a ship on a rock-bound coast, a goal to a race, unity of purpose is in the effort to improve a city. This implies a well-considered, generally-approved, comprehensive plan, far-reaching, disinterested as to localities, and at the same time elastic and adaptable. Without this, chaos and confusion, aesthetically speaking, will persist to the end; Springfield will not surpass but fall behind other cities, and really noble results can be reached only at long intervals and by costly sacrifice. The one great overwhelming idea of the present age, the chief outcome of all that has been accomplished in the way of human civilization since the world began, is the unity of mankind and its corollary, the obligation and necessity for concerted action. This appears in all affairs, large and small. In families, in business and educational organizations, in municipalities and in nations. We can not afford to elevate one corner of the edifice and leave the others to sink in the quicksand; no class must be lifted at the expense of another; no portion of a city be raised to the summit of luxury while the slums are still gasping in the depths of filth and unsanitary degradation.
Next week: 'IV. Looking Forward, Part 2. What the River Asks and Gives.'

Complete chapters of 'Springfield Present and Prospective':
Chapter 7: 'The Story of Springfield,' by Alfred M. Copeland and Edwin Dwight (includes book title page)

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