I. Looking Backward
1. Nature's Legacy
Some cities are born beautiful, like Naples, some achieve beauty, like Washington, and some have beauty thrust upon them, like St. Petersburg, which would have been a great dismal swamp today but for the stubborn will of the first great autocrat of Russia.
If Springfield is not already one of the most beautiful cities in America, it is not for lack of noble birth, for it was beautifully born. Conceived in sunshine and brought forth in verdure, the little old house on the west side of the river, which two and a half centuries ago was the germ of the present city, a helpless, solitary infant, resting on the bare but nourishing bosom of mother Earth and rocked in the cradle of the fertile valley, was even then surrounded by rare and wonderful charms.
Sweeping and swinging between bluffs and forests, the clear water of the river mirrored brilliant pictures of the clouds above, of the graceful elms along its banks, and likewise of Indians, squaws and little papooses who had never heard of 'civic centers of municipal art' nor of scientific public sanitation, but by unerring instinct, selected for their mundane hunting grounds the spots where the grass was the greenest, the water the purest, the trees the most stately and sturdy. Then as now there were mountains round about, which gave a sense of permanency and solemn grandeur without which it is almost impossible to be deeply conscious of a well-established local habitation. We need these lofty barriers, not to mark the visual line that girts us round as the world's extreme and shut us in from the outer universe like Rasselas in his Happy Valley, but as our dwellings must have solid walls and sheltering roofs to localize and intensify the love of home. Domestic life even in frozen, barren Scandinavia is far superior to that of the fleeting Arabs on their level plains.
Here the sun sends down his morning salutation from over the Wilbraham hills and we lift our eyes for his evening benediction to the Green mountain peaks that have tumbled out of Vermont across Berkshire and Western Hampden; while at the north, craggy, crumbling Mount Tom, gray and hoary, but capped by giddy games and crowned with gilded coronet, like a too complaisant Cyclops, still lies between us and the wintry winds that rend his northern side but lose their sharpest sting before descending the southern slope.
Whether we climb to the top of the four-square arsenal tower, grim type and reminder of the 'power that fills the world with terror,' or seek the lofty but narrow point of view that for nearly a century has crowned Mount Orthodox across the river, steadfast, heaven-pointing emblem of the divine gospel of peace, our first emotion is that of surprise; our first impression that a veritable miracle has been wrought and, not all the kingdoms of the earth, indeed, but a measureless map of marvelous beauty has been suddenly unrolled at our feet. Seen from the streets of our city, from the bluffs on either side or from the cars that bind us to the rest of the world, neither the arsenal tower nor the spire of the West Springfield church appears to rise conspicuously above the surrounding landscape, but standing on or near their summits we seem to be lifted above the earth into the regions of the upper air.
After the first surprise at the extent and beauty of the view, the next thought is of wonder and self-reproach, that all our lives, perhaps, we, dullards that we are, have been living and moving in the midst of this delightful environment, oblivious or indifferent to the rarest charms of Nature, the richest combination of river and sky, bluffs and meadows, forests and mountains, too grand and gracious to be permanently defaced even by our clumsiest mistakes. Beyond question it was a goodly heritage, and Springfield must be counted among the cities that were born beautiful.
But these unadorned natural charms like those of infancy and childhood were doomed to suffer changes. The experimental and erratic methods of civilization soon compelled our eager ancestors to assail this perfect picture of Nature's faultless fashioning, and into the midst of her irreproachable work, where use and beauty are never at a variance, to introduce their own bald utilities with little thought beyond the stern necessities of each day and generation. There must be graded roads in place of the blazed and winding trails; bridges above the treacherous fords. Simple cottages and stately mansions with gardens and cultivated fields established themselves where wigwams and huts had hidden in the forest glades. The silent canoe disappeared before the screech of the locomotive, the flashing trolley and the puffing steamer. There must be room for public squares and parks; monuments and statues for our heroes, jails and gallows yards for our criminals. The thick black breath of chimneys darkens the sky which the thin smoke of the aboriginal domestic altars never reached. Huge factories and business blocks make narrow canyons of the old forest aisles. There are churches and saloons, police courts and labor unions, trusts and telephones, armories and schools. All of these with innumerable additions and variations determine and display the external life, the outside picture of the City of Springfield. And each and every one of these features, large and small, forms a thread, dark or light, a band of color, a conspicuous and beautiful decoration, or an uncouth disfigurement on the web we have woven and shall keep weaving as successive generations rise and fall, while the city which never grows old, but, humanly speaking, lives forever, becomes larger and more beautiful every year.
2. From Center to Circumference
Doubtless the most conspicuous element of natural beauty in Springfield is the river; while the most essential and permanent characteristic of the city's material development is the manner in which its growth has been adapted to the almost faultless site. Unlike St. Petersburg, many a western town and some nearer home, it has not been necessary to remove mountains of rock or sand, either by faith or dynamite; to fill up marshes and bogs that Nature evidently intended for saurians and other croakers; nor to build dykes to keep out the aggressive ocean - not to any great extent. Almost from the first, the streets and thoroughfares, whether for residence or business, have followed the lines of the least resistance. Not the traditional meandering cattle paths of Boston, but the slightly and gracefully devious ways which an ardent lover or a guest sure of his welcome would naturally follow to reach the end of his journey, in the good old days when safe and swift arrival was not the only charm of travel.
The intersection of two main lines of travel, virtually at right angles, gave from the first an advantage not only in convenience of traffic and travel, but in the way of aesthetic possibilities which could hardly have existed under other conditions. One of these lines loosely paralleled the river, as in so many old New England towns and villages, and constituted in its earlier years the main axis and substance of the settlement, with farms and holdings on the west side, running back to the river which formed their rear boundary. The other thoroughfare gradually evolved from the eastward trail, encountered Main street near State and crossed it in a somewhat irregular fashion, proceeding over the river and the old West Springfield common. Eastward and westward these lines of travel stretched out across the country over bluffs and plains into the narrow, crooked valleys through which the smaller tributaries find their way to the large river. It hardly need be said that in this discussion of Springfield, both sides of the river are included and whatever we choose to claim toward the north and south.
A city by the sea unless it encircles the head of the bay is one-sided, and the same is true of those that are confined to either side of a large river, or barricaded at the back by inaccessible mountains. Like men of genius such cities command the greatest admiration for their preeminent merit - for instance, nothing can be finer than the magnificent setting of Holyoke against the southern side of Mount Tom - but they lack the broader and far more enduring charms of all-round excellence. This latter quality Springfield possesses in a marked and literal degree. Whether we take the wings of the morning and fly to Indian Orchard, Chicopee Falls and Ludlow, or dwell in the uttermost parts of Tatham, we can walk beside still waters and lie down in green pastures, as well as in fertile meadows and cornfields. Everywhere there are pleasant walks, and the state roads are good for man, beast, and automobile. If all our suburban highways and so-called roads were perfect, there would be nothing for future generations to accomplish, or give to the present generation that wholesome dissatisfaction which is the necessary precursor and incentive to improvement.
It seems to have followed naturally from the conditions of the birth and subsequent growth of the city, that the obvious civic center has scarcely changed its geographical location. The centrifugal forces have been almost equally strong in every direction. Ward One, Forest Park, the Hill, and West Springfield - north, south, east and west - who shall say which is the most delightful suburb?
As in the old New England towns, almost without exception, the first church erected was the point from which all things emanated, toward which all things tended, and around which everything revolved. It not only dominated the green turf in front, and the sometimes dreary burial ground behind, or at one side, but it set the pace for all other local affairs, social, political and educational as well as religious. It has not always happened, however, as here, that this ethical and business center has remained the visible aesthetic center. And although but a comparatively small part of our best architectural growth has been adjacent to Court square, and other churches have shared the burdens and responsibilities of directing our temporal as well as spiritual concerns, the characteristic, though by no means ornate, or altogether graceful, spire of the First church remains, as regards locality, the civic center of gravity. A skeleton map of the situation as it is today is fairly represented by the foregoing sketch.
It is obvious at a single glance how much greater are the opportunities for a beautiful city with such a ground plan than if it were helplessly constrained to the lines and the squares of a chess board. By filling the spaces between these variously curved diverging streets with small parallelograms a very complete map of the city would be produced, and it is easy to see that if all the main thoroughfares were straight and intersected each other at right angles, the chief charm of the plan would be lost. The natural point for minor public squares and open spaces is at the junction of these larger avenues, and many such already exist, so that from whatever quarter or direction we approach the center of the city, we encounter these ornamental oases.
The general picturesqueness is still farther enhanced by the uneven surface of the site which, of course, does not appear on the map. There are constant surprises in the way of charming vistas, either looking down across the valley or up toward the woody heights of the bluffs, that are not found in cities where all things are doomed to remain on the dead level. It is no wonder that the ancient Egyptians found their greatest enjoyment in building pyramids, and the Babylonians hung their gardens high in the air. We all like something to look up to and to look down upon.
Whether the attractiveness of the city's plan is thought to be due to happy chance, to the foresight of those who accidentally, or otherwise, determined the course of the principal highways of travel and trade, or to that overruling Providence which compels men to build better than they know, it is evident that the result is most excellent. So excellent, in fact, that we may seriously question whether the larger matters of business traffic and actual convenience, as well as of ultimate landscape architectural effect, could have been more wisely arranged if the genius of L'Enfant himself, instead of the domestic, commercial and social needs of our ancestors, had determined the first outline sketch of the city and its environment. By this irregular plan, small parks and open spaces are easily established without large outlay or sacrifice of public convenience. Trees, turf and flowers give an almost rural appearance even close to the very center, and render possible that dignified and sympathetic union of landscape and structural architecture which constitutes the most refined and exalted expression of civic aesthetics. Beauty in buildings alone is cold and costly; landscape without architectural embellishment belongs to rural life. The wise combination of the two - the color and grace of tree and shrub, of leaf and flower, the music of falling water and the silver light on river and fountain, all allied and inseparably blended with the artificial structures that minister to the needs of men and accompany human activities - is and always has been the constant aim and, when achieved, the crowning glory of the noblest civic art.
II. Plan of the Ground Floor
1. The Inner Circle
Thus far the heritage and natural endowment of Springfield and the general conditions of its earlier and unstudied growth have been briefly sketched. A more detailed study of what has been done that is of lasting value and worthy to remain as an essential part of the great and beautiful city that is to be, is also interesting and impressive. A fairly comprehensive showing in the way of park and boulevard achievement is given in the accompanying maps of the parks, large and small, that already exist, with the streets, actual and possible, that join them.
Starting from Court square (in one of the perfected electric automobiles that make no noise, never kill people or frighten horses, and leave no unpleasant reminder of their progress, but are not yet on the market because the demand is so much greater than the supply), it is necessary, in the absence of the river-bank improvement, to proceed northward through what is now the most important business portion of Main street, as far as Bridge, where we may turn to the right for a moment in order to get a glimpse of St. Gauden's tortoises, beside the globe instead of under the elephants that held it in place until Columbus discovered America. Nothing could be finer than the spirit of this sometimes unappreciated public square. Maintaining itself in the business heart of the city merely as an open breathing space, it is something to be devoutly thankful for. It also affords the most obvious opportunity, even superior to Court square, for the harmonious combination of beauty and business; an opportunity that can not long remain unimproved.
Back upon Main street, and going northward, we soon arrive at the arch, a utilitarian work of great dignity and beauty, the latter not always recognized because of its simplicity. If it were in an old city of France or Italy, Baedeker would give it double stars and American tourists would love to talk of it to their friends at home. A few blocks beyond the arch we find the southern entrance to Hampden park by way of Clinton street. When we reflect that more than one-third of the population in Springfield, not to mention Chicopee and the greater part of West Springfield, lives north of the Boston and Albany railroad, the exceeding value of Hampden park as a public playground is apparent. In its way no greater calamity to the entire city could happen than for the whole of this tract of land to be given up to railroad or other business purposes. Comparing its actual with its ideal condition, it is still in what may be called a chrysalid state. Everything in and about it is crude, coarse and rough, but its form and location are such that there is hardly a limit to its capacity for furnishing rest and recreation for the thousands of people who already live within easy walking distance of it, and the tens of thousands who find it easily accessible. Tracks for races, rings for circuses, grounds for baseball and tennis, room for Fourth of July celebrations, Sunday-school picnics, wheel tournaments, river-bank promenades, lovers' walks and fireworks; canoe wharfs, yacht landings and bath-houses - for all these and more there is room on Hampden park; and the importance to the city of this plot of ground, or a considerable portion of it, for these and kindred purposes, increases every year more rapidly than the city's growth.
Directly at the north of the park and on the bank of the river is a triangular piece of land, happily belonging to the city, of which much may be expected in the future. At present it is not even in the chrysalid state, but wholly chaotic - just a bare dumping ground. Even this is by no means unsatisfactory. The conversion of a worthless piece of land, by gradual means and without cost to the city, into a beauty spot is far more to be commended than the strenuous creation of a gorgeous garden by extravagant and hurried methods.
Here, looking westward, we see the sweet fields of West Springfield beyond the swelling floods that roll under the North-end bridge. But that is a side line, and in following the inner line of the chain, of which but few links are missing, we must turn eastward by Wason avenue where, after crossing Main street, we face the wooded bluffs of Rockrimmon. This large tract belonging to the Atwater estate has been virtually an open natural park for nearly half a century. It is wholly unadorned, some portions of it primeval, in fact, and thereby all the more delightful. There is no other spot within many miles of the city where, to judge from the natural conditions, the wild fox would be more likely to dig his hole unscared, where the deep forest song birds find themselves so much at home and where, not the real copper-colored flesh-and-blood aborigines, but their pathetic ghosts, would be more likely to revisit the glimpses of the moon.
This entire tract, keeping close to the Chicopee line, is full of picturesque revelations in the immediate surroundings and in the frequent views across and up and down the valley where the broad river gleams and glistens. When the roads passing through this tract are definitely located and perfected, as they are sure to be in the future, there will be no more charming suburban drive than through this part of the encircling boulevard.
After leaving the constantly varying bluffs and deep ravines of the Rockrimmon region and turning toward the south, we pass through and across the source of the city's first great public waterworks - great at the time they were undertaken - the Van Horn reservoir, as safely as Moses and his tribe passed through the Red Sea, and in far less time, unless we stop to admire the western view across the water or to walk around the borders of the upper portions. This is , in truth, one of the rare products which seem to have been fore-ordained for other purposes than those which ostensibly called them into existence. Primarily constructed as ponds to hold water to keep the people of the city from dying of thirst - than which no purpose could commend itself more highly to the most prosaic and utilitarian citizen - if the sole object had been to find a spot for a charming park of grass and trees and shimmering water, this could not have been surpassed. What the contour of the original ponds may have been I do not know, but as soon as the water was called upon to fulfill a high and holy mission - giving drink to those who were athirst - it immediately assumed all the airs and graces of a miniature Lake Winnepesaukee. Even the islands are not wanting, and a road winding around its bank - a thoroughly good road, such as are only found in really civilized countries - would be a thing of beauty and joy forever. But this road, like the next war, is not yet "fit." The drive along Armory street passes at the corner of Carew and Armory a five-acre park with its brook, trees and deep dingle, which has been wisely acquired by the park commission for the future use of the city. Half a mile farther we traverse the viaduct across the railroad and approach the ancient and beautiful thoroughfare of State street.
Fifty years ago Springfield people were fond of telling their friends of the enthusiastic praise bestowed by Thackeray on the view from the arsenal tower and this portion of the Connecticut valley. The view is the same; the arsenal grounds are undoubtedly more beautiful and impressive now than then, and if another distinguished foreign prophet, whom we should delight to honor, could be enticed to the top of the tower, he would surely revive our forgotten local pride. These broad and well-cared-for grounds belonging to the Federal government have always been a potent factor in establishing the claims of Springfield to a special external attractiveness. As the years go by, the worth of this national park will relatively increase, and more and more will State street become famous among the beautiful avenues of large cities.
Proceeding still farther southward, we reach the Watershops pond, another link in the circumscribing boulevard, although its complete exploration involves a wide diversion from the direct line to Forest park.
The residential portions of the Forest park region and the park itself remind us of the traditional ocean views, where sea and sky blend so imperceptibly that we can scarcely tell where the one begins and the other ends. There is a similar illusion here. The greater portion of this entire suburb has a park-like appearance in its private grounds, and we constantly find parklets and "terraces" at the junctions and in the center of the wider avenues. The park itself, extending more than a mile from east to west, is every year adding to Nature's legacy of beauty, and from the real bear's den at one end to the counterfeit presentment of McKinley at the other, music itself is not more redundant of charms for all moods and fancies.
Doubtless the home run from Forest park to Court square ought to be along the river bank; but the railroad at present has the right of way and we must take the inside track until the South-end boulevard, so well begun, is completed.
This general scheme, as shown by the first of these two maps, or something closely resembling it, is almost an accomplished fact. It has been the dream of the men who have done the most for local improvement, and can only fail of complete fulfillment through a fatal attack of sinister politics on the part of the city officials, or of grievous parsimony and Philistinism on the part of the citizens. It involves no large or sudden outlay, only the gradual working toward a definite goal, and each succeeding step in the progress, if wisely taken, would unquestionably pay for itself from the purely financial point of view in the enhanced value of the real estate along the route.
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 strength 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.
III. Architectural Garments
1. The Personal Equation in Houses
Given a well-born child, properly nourished, wisely trained, still more wisely untrained, and the odds are a great many to one that the resulting boy - or girl, as the case may be - will be strong, cheerful and intelligent, of good temper, wholesome tastes, fair to look upon, and eager to increase in size and influence. It is the same way with a city. In its earlier years it asks only for healthy nourishment and plenty of standing room. Quantity is desired rather than quality; strength ranks above skill, might above right, and license seems more admirable than law. To both child and city there comes a time when the childish order is reversed. Conventions, rules and regulations, implements of work and warfare, personal appearances, comforts and other assets enter into the problem of existence. What clothes are to a well-made man or woman, architecture, as manifested in building, is to a city; something essential to its comfort, largely indicative of its wealth and intelligence.
In a rough classification of the architecture with which we are all familiar, there may be counted domestic, commercial, municipal or public and semi-public, ecclesiastical, monumental and, perhaps, industrial, as among the conspicuous and easily distinguished varieties. They are more or less interlocking, but such a general grouping simplifies their discussion.
Real orthodox architecture in house building is rare. Most of the houses intended as homes for those who built them are far more likely each one to express the varying tastes and needs of the owner and his wife - especially of his wife, although he may not be aware of that fact or willing to acknowledge it - than to illustrate any recognized, or unrecognized, principles of the noblest of all arts. This is by no means a deplorable circumstance. What if the peculiar shapes that are chosen for the outside clothing of our homes are as varied and inconsequent as the amazing shape of feminine headgear, provided each one shelters a well-ordered domestic unit? What if they sometimes lack that sober dignity and fail to give that assurance of self-poise which ought to characterize a family whose days are expected to be long in the land? They distinctly declare that there are multitudes of good and prosperous who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to assert themselves by conspicuous and often expensive declarations of independence.
One especially fortunate condition that has saved us from much architectural barrenness in this class is the diversity and generally high character of our industrial and business activities; because owing to these we are free from great aggregations of factory boardinghouses and the monotonously bare "homes of operatives," so called, that are inevitable in towns and cities where large numbers of comparatively unskilled and often migratory laborers are employed in the manufacture of the great staples. Neither do huge blocks of expressionless tenements of the same pattern, and the Babel of towering, undomestic apartment houses overmuch abound in the "City of Homes," - thanks to the salubrious and easily-accessible suburbs. These are some of the more obvious causes that have led to the heterogeneous character of our domestic architecture.
I was about to say that the real lessons of the homes of Springfield can only be discovered by reading between the lines. Unfortunately there is little room for reading lessons or anything else between the houses - an almost universal misfortune in suburban districts everywhere. It is one of the incomprehensible and, apparently, incurable human follies that, notwithstanding enormous advantages in the way of obtaining greater space for their domiciles, men are still willing to submit to the privations and inconvenience of small lots and of uncomfortable proximity to neighbors (even good neighbors may be too near our dining-room windows) merely for the sake of saving a few minutes' time in the journey between home and business. This strange perversity can not be the result of deliberate choice, but evidently belongs to the conservatism that ignores the achievements of modern science, the inexpressibly wonderful inventions of the last half-century, and clings to the hereditary customs as monkeys cling to their tails and sheep follow their bellwether over a precipice. Forty acres and a mule may not be a practicable allowance in this part of the Connecticut valley, but viewed from a standpoint of common sense, and in the light of this electric age, it is a perilous lapse toward barbarism and, contrariwise, a lamentable encouragement of race suicide, for a man to undertake to found a family and bring up his wife and children in the way they should go, on a bit of land scarcely large enough for a cemetery lot.
But we can hardly help outgrowing these minor faults. In every direction we have attractive open country within a twenty-minute's circuit, and are not forced to imitate the less favored cities where those whose business is in one half of the city must cross the other half in order to reach their outside homes. There is improvement, too, in what we are pleased to call our domestic architecture; less of the far fetched and fanciful on one hand, less affectation of humility and rusticicity on the other, and more of self-respecting dignity. When we find that fire-proof buildings cost no more than droll freaks and ostentatious shams in wood, we shall take another step in the direction of worthy domestic architecture.
2. Commercial and Municipal
Perhaps there is no better illustration of the evolution of business architecture in the older parts of this country than in the main commercial avenue of an old New England city like Springfield. Beginning with a corner grocery, detached stores and shops gradually extended along either side of the street, with a sprinkling of dwelling-houses, the latter being sooner or later given over to business and the vacant lots filled in until the principal street presented a continuous wall of buildings, each with its own proprietor and line of business. Before the days of elevators, buildings were commonly two or three, rarely four, stories in height, and after fire ordinances prohibited the use of wood for external walls, red brick, with a mild peppering of granite or brownstone, were the most available and useful materials. These earlier business blocks might almost be classified as factories, so simple were they in design, so strictly utilitarian in character. As business prosperity increased there was a larger outlay for more expensive material and skillful workmanship without essential departure from the simpler forms. These quiet, serviceable structures making no claim to architectural display, still produce the most pleasing effect. They have something of the aristocratic dignity of old families; they are at peace with one another; naked and not ashamed.
Really fine, scholarly examples of commercial architecture are so few and far between that they tend to exaggerate by contrast the homeliness of the earlier structures, while the fantastic and sometimes frantic efforts at ornament and variety, of what may be called the transition period, where each building is indifferent, if not openly hostile, to its neighbor, only produce architectural confusion and discord. Probably merchants and architects will need to be born again several times over before either will voluntarily sacrifice contemporary popular applause and a chance for vociferous advertising, in order to educate the public taste.
As might be expected from the conditions of business prosperity and freedom from political graft, and from the general culture of the citizens, our municipal buildings are usually well adapted to their various uses, of good style and quality. Indulgence in monumental features for the sake of impressive architecture is rare. The prevailing and apparently irremovable handicap in all public work is the constant change of executive. Sometimes this occurs during the progress of important undertakings, men of different tastes, divergent judgment and, perhaps, opposite ideas as to public economy and utility, are called upon to complete work begun by others whose taste and intentions they do not approve.
Inasmuch as the average sentiment of those to whom the members of a city government feel responsible and look for their official support is never in favor of that which is absolutely the best, it follows that the highest excellence is rarely attained in municipal work. Sometime we may arrive at the dignity of a permanent board of public works that shall also be a competent board of censors. We shall also learn that temporizing for the sake of present saving is culpable waste, and that thorough, high-class, fire-proof building is the only true economy.
3. Churches, Monuments and Chimneys
Local ecclesiastical architecture is easily disposed of. There are plenty of cities in the world infested by eager tourists, sung by enamored poets, and coveted by military heroes, whose fame rests almost solely on the marvelous beauty and impressive grandeur of their churches and cathedrals. Even the buildings of state, erected by the rulers of great nations with apparent utter recklessness as to cost, are less notable on the whole than those which have been inspired by religious sentiment and devoted to its expression. It will hardly be considered unkind to say that Springfield is in no immediate danger of being ravaged by rapacious generals, preserved in ponderous poetry, or tormented by tourists, solely on account of the magnificence of her churches. Leaving out the venerable and hoary First church, which by reason of its halo of historic sentiment and hallowed associations can hardly enter the race on its architectural merits, there are four or five others that are justly entitled to admiration for their beauty; although in two or three of these it would appear that the lamp of sacrifice flickered and went out before they were completed. Aside from these, of the various buildings used for religious purposes, none rise above the commonplace. If any one of them should be destroyed, it is doubtful if it would be rebuilt in its present form solely for the sake of its architectural excellence.
Monumental architecture belongs either to some of the dead and gone golden ages, renowned for a precocious development of physical courage and intellectual refinement, or else to the tyrannical reigns of great autocrats, able to compel the unlimited resources of a kingdom, including the unrequited toil of their subjects. We have escaped the latter condition and have not yet attained the former. In our commercial age, the successful production and accumulation of material wealth makes it inevitable that the finer intellectual, aesthetic and moral qualities are often submerged under waves of financial success and business ambition. We have no time nor inclination for "Art for Art's sake;" there must also be money in it.
In combination with other structures, spires and towers are somewhat monumental in purpose, though these were originally intended for use, either as campaniles or as observatories when enemies were expected, and for hurling hot pitch and Greek fire on their heads as soon as they arrived. When to the strength and magnitude of defensive towers, grace of form and beauty of detail were added, they came to be recognized as among the most impressive examples of the builder's art, the most effective of decorative features. Seen from a distance, the simplest of strictly utilitarian structures, be-smoked and be-sooted steam chimneys, greatly improve the landscape of a city. If beauty is ever recognized as an essential element in all the work of our hands, as it will be when we are sufficiently civilized - say, for instance, as highly civilized in this direction as the Japanese - so obvious an opportunity for combining the two as exists in these great organs of respiration, will not be neglected, and every steam chimney, like every urban park and church spire, will be beautiful not only to the stockholders and the employees but to all good people in sight of it. Of course, long before that time the "smoke nuisance" will be not merely "abated" but abolished, and there will be no stain on the escutcheons, or the chimneys, of the great corporations.
From monumental to industrial architecture, by way of the chimney tops, is an easy step and highly suggestive of the close relation between the useful and the beautiful. If industrial architecture is given a shelf by itself, there are few cities that would make a more creditable showing than this city of homes and industry. The venerable buildings of the United States Armory are models of simplicity and agreeable proportions. It is undoubtedly through their silent influence that many of the more important factories in the city exhibit a thoughtful regard for careful, harmonious design.
It appears, therefore, that in modification of Nature's perfect legacy by means of architectural garments, we have not gone far astray. There is health and hope and vigor in us, and while much remains to be done, there is comparatively little that needs to be undone.
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.
2. What the River Asks and Gives
If an earthquake should suddenly convert Enfield dam into a second Mount Tom, reaching from Wilbraham mountains to Blandford, the river at Springfield might possibly appear to be lost in an inland sea; but barring such an interesting cataclysm it will be safe to predict that the river will always be one of our permanent assets, as it always has been our most attractive physical feature. Whatever happens to our railroads, our streets, our merchandise and our morals, the river will never cease to run through the city. It is ours to cross, ours to embellish, ours to cleanse and navigate.
As to the crossing, the days for temporizing are over. We are too rich and too wise to build bridges that must be removed, re-built, or strengthened and enlarged during the next one or two centuries. Bridges over large streams should be among the most permanent of all artificial constructions. Established thoroughfares are supremely conservative institutions. The Appian Way, which has existed for two thousand years and more, the Bay Path, and a thousand more, indicate that nothing is more tenacious of life than a public highway. When these great viaducts, in sublime defiance of Nature's primeval arrangements, turn water into dry land, paradoxically closing a gap in the surface of the earth that never can be closed, their construction becomes a performance worthy of solemn consecration, and the thing itself a fit object for pious adoration.
In most emphatic terms, a noble bridge declares the courage and skill of its builders, and there is no grander illustration of the beauty of utility than a bridge of scientific construction and scholarly design. In no other artificial construction is there so little occasion for questionable compromise between grace and convenience, between economy and strength, between daily drudgery and perennial delight. Is it likely that Springfield will neglect an opportunity that has been a century in coming? Is it likely that the county, of which Springfield is the capital, will fail to recognize the benefit sure to follow the closer union and more intimate relationship of the parts of which the county is composed?
To say that a bridge should be built across the Connecticut river in this city in the form of a broad avenue, uniting the east and west shores as closely as Main street unites State to the streets and avenues a thousand feet to the north and south, is not a fantastic speculation, a day dream - it is the plainest common sense of the equine variety. To propose anything inadequate in breadth and strength for the multitudinous traffic sure to occupy it twenty-five years hence - fifty years - a century, - is to forget the lesson of the North-end bridge and waste the public funds by temporizing. To affirm that dignity and stateliness, graceful proportions and beauty of detail are necessarily more difficult to attain than their opposites, is to betray disqualifying ignorance. Certainly the river is ours to cross. It is also ours to cleanse and embellish.
If Adam and Eve had been left in their original state of innocence and happiness, nobody appears to know exactly what would have happened to the rest of us, miserable sinners that we are - in nothing more miserable than in our occasionally graceless fashion of introducing modern improvements, and setting up the standards of half-civilized civilization on the ruins of semi-barbarous barbarism. In spoiling the heathen we have too often spoiled our own heritage. 'Squire Pynchon and Deacon Chapin, of blessed memory, found the water of the great river as sweet and clean as that of the streams that fed and feed it still - Jabish brook and Little river, the branches of the Westfield, Ware and Chicopee. Could it possibly have occurred to those shrewd and far-seeing pioneers that their enlightened descendants in this adorable valley would be obliged to spend, for drinking water alone, money enough to have bought the whole of the royal grant from Nova Scotia to New Amsterdam, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, all on account of their own short-sighted perversity? Those pioneers may be pardoned for thinking - if they thought of it at all - that the broad, flowing river would no more be damaged by the impurities that escaped from their scattered settlements than is the sea by the wrecks that are rotting in its depths. We know better. We know that we have deliberately and selfishly polluted the noble stream; that its impurity is increasing every year; that it will go on increasing until in sheer self-preservation we shall begin the reform that ought to have been begun a generation ago, and which will cost more and more every year it is delayed. To cure the evil immediately would be as impossible as to eradicate catarrhal ragweed and malarial mosquitoes in a single season; but that fact does not exonerate us if we leave it unchecked. It does not justify us in bequeathing an unclean legacy to our unborn heirs.
Neither is this an idle speculation. In many cities of our own and other countries, sewage and rivers are not invited to occupy the same bed to the utter waste of one and the hopeless ruin of the other, and so long as we continue this offensive habit we deserve to be written down as among those who strain at gnats and swallow camels.
Cleansing naturally precedes embellishment; but if each waits for the other in this case, it is to be feared that we shall remain ragged and dirty for many years. We leave the river in its filth because the banks are filthy; we leave the leprosy of the banks undisturbed because the river is unclean. Under wise business management the salvation of neither would wait for the other.
The reclamation and embellishment of the river bank will not require its exclusive use for park purposes; quite the contrary. Its embellishment should be like that of a dining-table when it is loaded with an abundance of wholesome food; of a workshop decorated with the finest tools and machinery; of a fertile farm ornamented by flocks and herds and bountiful crops. The most beautiful effects will not be produced by treating the banks as ornamental pleasure grounds. The city can not afford such an occupation, nor would it be suitable for land so central and valuable for commercial purposes. We may have plenty of serpents, but it would cost too much to make a Garden of Eden between Main street and the river. Court square and its proper treatment will be a sufficiently expensive luxury in the business section. There is plenty of room for riparian parks between Springfield and Holyoke, between Springfield and Thompsonville. This land is also too valuable for railroad uses, for steam railroads not only spoil all the land they occupy, but they depreciate the value of property for a considerable distance on either side.
Doubtless this happy marriage of use and beauty would mean, except where wharves are necessary, an esplanade with the open river on one side and business buildings fronting it on the other. The expense of constructing heavy buildings at water's edge would be great, but a protected embankment suitable for walks and drives would be simple, affording ample opportunity for decorative features next the water without loss of room valuable for building.
Inseparably connected with the development of the river bank is the question of navigation. In navigation itself, rocks are objectionable, but they make good standing ground in forecasting the future of this subject. Among these bed rocks is the stubborn fact that heavy freight can be more economically transported by floating it in water than by any known contrivance of wheels on land, or wings in the air. Another fact is well established: commercial science abhors waste as Nature abhors a vacuum. Therefore when it can be shown that moving the freight, taken to and from Holyoke and Springfield, by water instead of land will effect an annual saving equal to a profitable percentage on the cost of making the river navigable for steam or other tugs and their trailing lines of barges, then the river will be made navigable to Springfield and Holyoke. Business common sense will not long neglect so plain an opportunity to save and make money, which is just as much a duty - provided it is done honestly - as eating. So in our treatment of the river and its banks, we must anticipate wharves on both sides with suitable approaches and conveniences for the attendant work. They may not come this year, nor this decade, or generation, but we can not help thinking they are sure to come. "The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small," and they keep on grinding.
Part 3. Other Goals to Be Gained
Giving the river the first place in considering the future, there is much to be done in the way of perfecting the minor parks and increasing their number. In this department the first step, as in making a rabbit pie, is capturing the principal ingredient - first get the land. It would be a wild undertaking for the city to attempt to build at once river walls from Pecowsic to Chicopee, construct big wharves, complete the glories of Court square, build a new bridge, and fill up the waste and vacant places throughout the city with fountains and flowers, trees and statues; it would be the wisdom of Solomon himself to secure land that will sometime be available for both business and pleasure, while it is of little actual value.
It can hardly be hoped that the whole of Hampden park will be acquired for the sole use and occupancy of the public; it is not unreasonable to expect that a river-bank margin of suitable width may become part of our park system. The land north of Hampden park has been mentioned; a similar piece across West street, north of the bridge on the river bank, if skillfully treated in connection with the causeway leading up to the bridge, would make a dignified approach to this connecting link with West Springfield, and would be no more than a "retort courteous" to the charming approach from the other side. Beyond this the river bank further north might be secured while it is still unoccupied.
Leaving the river, there is much unimproved land in the Atwater estate, some of which is apparently impossible of utilization except for parks or pasturage, either at present or in the future, and this should not be omitted in plans for future development.
The land surrounding the Van Horn reservoir has been suggested as easily convertible into a pleasant pleasure ground. Whether these ponds are permanently retained as a part of our water supply or not, there would be great advantage in making them a part of our park system. And, again, the shores of the Watershops pond; it is not conceivable that any other practicable treatment of the land along this lovely body of water could add more to its commercial value than the reservation by the city for park purposes of a belt including the road , giving to building lots fronting the lake an outlook across the intervening park and water toward the east. In fact, the number and extent of the suburban parks and drives that may easily be established in the future round about Springfield is limited only by the taste and enterprise of the citizens.
Passing from these more or less ornamental features to just plain streets, one of the obvious improvements, easy enough now but growing more difficult every year, is the widening of certain portions of some of the narrower thoroughfares. Most of the buildings on minor streets, and many of those on the principal avenues, have, at most, but a few years to live, and should not be allowed to cause a permanent defect in the city. The best time to make the crooked straight is before petrifaction or ossification takes place; the next best is any time before the cost of straightening becomes prohibitive. Still more foolish is the sparing of an old tree. We have the best authority for hewing down the trees that cumber the ground, which is exactly what every tree does that stands in the way of something better.
Of still greater importance in the scientific evolution of the city's ground plan, is the extension of certain avenues which came to untimely ends before they had finished their course. We may not expect a Baron Haussman or "Boss" Shepard to drive their civic battering rams through palaces and warehouses, slums and railway stations, for the greater glory of the city, but we indulge a reasonable hope that some time a strenuous city government backed by an enlightened public sentiment will accomplish the same ends more economically though more slowly.
Fulton and Water streets, in their present divorced condition, can never fulfill their appointed mission; Dwight, that should be a broad avenue at least a mile and a half long, is incontinently barricaded by the misplaced union station; the convenience and business value of Chestnut street are seriously impaired by its steep descent into State; and for all of Ward one lying east of the Boston and Maine railroad, northward to the Chicopee line, there is no public highway to the North-end bridge above the Memorial church.
In regard to the future architecture of the city, we may be sure that its improvement will depend upon the cultivation of popular taste. Good architecture grows as slowly as fundamental Christianity, and, to continue the comparison, its shallow, obtrusive expression often attracts more attention, is more sure of admiration and imitation than the genuine article. Gradually examples of the best in architecture will find place in conspicuous portions of the city, and their quiet, persistent influence will lift us above the meretricious and commonplace. The significance of color, of harmony on a large scale, of proportion, which in architecture is like the lost chord in music, will be profoundly felt if never fully understood. The intersections of streets and the approaches to parks and bridges will be emphasized by monumental features; spires, towers and domes will exemplify the abounding resources and activity. As in the elder days of Rome, "to be a Roman was greater than to be a king," so the citizens of Springfield can be nobly proud of their lofty ambitions and worthy achievements.
--Eugene C. Gardner
It would be impossible to mention all the public-spirited citizens who, by their generosity and wise foresight, have helped to make Springfield a beautiful city. Among these in recent years, but who have passed away, Tilly Haynes occupies a conspicuous position, not only because of his large bequest, but because of the generous spirit which prompted him to leave it without restrictions that might impair its usefulness. The extension of Court square was always a cherished purpose of his, - it would not be fair to call it a dream, because it was too explicit, too obviously practicable. In the selection of the site for a new court house a generation ago, it was anticipated that sometime in the future the extension of the square would give this notable building a worthy setting. All of that Mr. Haynes foresaw, realizing full well that the inevitable future growth of the city would require an enlargement of the central public plaza. His bequest and the courageous spirit that prompted it has been like a beacon light, encouraging and leading others to join the ranks and keeping alive the thought and purpose of a beautiful city.
Grateful memory is also due to O. H. Greenleaf for his liberal gift of land in Forest park, land which might have been sold advantageously to the owner without direct benefit to the city, and which men of more selfish character or narrower vision would have been sure to hold for private profit. His interest in this, as in all matters of public welfare, was maintained and practically manifested as long as he lived.
Another who during his life did much, very much to increase the visible beauty of the city, was Justin Sackett. He had an innate love of natural beauty and rare skill, not in attempting to create, or rival what Nature alone can achieve, but in preserving the natural beauty that only needs loving care and appreciation to become more and more lovely with the passing years. Springfield abounds with evidences of his keen insight and unselfish and well-directed efforts to preserve and develop what a bountiful Providence has provided.
No one needs to be reminded of the long, disinterested and, happily, still active service of Daniel J. Marsh. It may almost be said that without his constant personal effort, we should have had no Forest park in its present shape; that what is growing every year to be reckoned one of our brightest civic jewels - in fact a whole case of jewelry - would not have existed, or would have been at least of little note, liable at any time to be sacrificed to private interest. Surely this is something compelling our gratitude, a direct refutation of the cynical words of the hypocritical Anthony, that the evil men do lives after them, while the good is oft interred with their bones. The reverse is true; such good deeds as these live on with increasing influence from generation to generation.
Neither can we hear of this great public pleasure ground and recreation field with its simple natural charms and the rare beauties of the southern portion without remembering how much we owe to E. H. Barney, whose untiring zeal and noble generosity have done so much to enhance and make permanent the rare charms of Forest park.
Not to complete the list even approximately, but to mention one of the younger citizens who has dome much in the way of laying broad foundations for the lasting beauty of this city, Nathan D. Bill should be remembered. With the liberal devotion of his own time and energy to public interests, with his broad conceptions and quick perception of practical values, we can not help looking to him for further achievement and leadership.
These men are not mentioned as being the only ones whose unselfish devotion has been manifested in the improvement of our city, or with the idea of giving even the smallest account of what each one has done - that would make a very long story; and the most valuable part of their work is not in the actual accomplishment, excellent as these have been - it is in the example and in the incentive which they have given and are still giving to their contemporaries and successors. They have not been merely thinking and talking, they have been doing, and by what has been done they have shown the still nobler possibilities of the future.
--E. C. G.