William S. Crandall
Municipal Affairs 5 (September 1901):670-674.
[NOTE--The Model City was first outlined some three years ago by Mr. Crandall at a meeting of the National Municipal League. Since then several other plans of a similar character have been worked out quite independently, and recently all have been united by the Municipal Art Society of New York, and a committee representing the different organizations appointed to urge upon the managers of the St. Louis Exposition the adoption of the idea.--EDITOR.]
The American tourist, when rambling through the old cities of Europe whose history antedates, perhaps, the discovery of the Western Hemisphere, constantly remarks Upon the seeming lack of plan or purpose. The cities apparently grew haphazard, and streets were laid out without reference to artistic effect and without proper regard for transportation facilities. Indeed, whatever of plan there is to be found in European cities, has its origin, in most instances, in the last century, and very frequently within the last quarter of it. Paris--the Mecca of students of civic aesthetics--is the product of Baron Haussmann and his immediate successors, many of whom are still active. The broad avenues, the commodious public buildings, the spacious parks of Berlin, London, Vienna, Glasgow and hundreds of other cities are the work of yesterday. A description of sanitary conditions in almost every city of fifty years ago is so strange and appalling as to cause its accuracy to be challenged. A well-constructed sewage system, which we have come to assume as properly belonging to every progressive city, is wholly the outgrowth of the last generation of sanitary engineers. It is only a short time ago that street cleaning departments began their existence, and such scavenging as was done was performed by the dog, the hog or the buzzard.
There is now, however, a well-developed science for all the various lines of municipal activity; and however far short of perfection actual administration may fall, not even the most pessimistic person will contend that rapid progress has not been made. The narrative of such progress ought to be an inspiration to every public official and to every urban dweller.
The principal defect at the present moment is the lack of facilities for placing the experience of widely-separated cities at the disposal of each and every urban center. Every city has its own peculiar local conditions, out of which spring peculiar problems that sometimes require treatment considerably different from that adopted by other cities. Nevertheless, what has been tried and has succeeded or has failed, is of great value to every other city, for thereby much experimentation, much time and much expense be saved.
Then, too, there is competition between cities, as well as between individuals. Persons of wealth, and, to some extent the central offices of business houses, locate where municipal improvements have been carried farthest. The city that has poorly-paved streets, hideous public buildings, inadequate sewage systems, and poor water supplies cannot long compete with its more progressive and better-governed neighbor. Good Americans are said to go to Paris when they die, not because Paris is considered the commercial center of the world, but because it is considered the most beautiful city. Art, therefore, is a very important factor, and every city which wishes to retain its position and grow in wealth and population, must know what other cities are doing, and learn from experience.
It was the appreciation of these facts--the inspiration that would come from a comparison of past and present conditions, and the benefits of a more general familiarity with the best each city affords--that led the Municipal Art Society of New York to suggest to the authorities of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition the construction of a model city and a municipal art exhibit at St. Louis in 1903.
The memorial presented suggested:
First--That those departments of the general Exposition which are similar in their functions to the same departments in modern cities be incorporated as working models in the general plan of the special Exposition. These may include the engineering, park and tree planting, fire, police, health, street cleaning, garbage disposal, water supply, and other departments. These may be so grouped as to illustrate the administration of a modern city on the best lines and thus form an object lesson for American and foreign cities without the least interference with their normal functions as necessities of the Exposition itself.
Second--There are certain other features, which, while not in themselves necessities to the welfare of the Exposition, would be valuable educational attractions. Public schools, public library, museum and similar buildings devoted to educational matters would naturally be included.
Third--Any plans for a model city would involve treatment of parks and plaza spaces, street crossing and other vistas, grouping and architecture of other structures and other lines in which the aesthetic factor is important. To make these practical, however, they must be adjusted to more utilitarian features (as in the case of actual practice); hence are thus suggested rather than definitely specified.
Fourth--In order that there might be a place for the assemblage and classification of the smaller concrete objects, such as street signs, lamp posts, letter boxes paper receptacles, park settees, street electroliers, street cleaning machinery, and a thousand and one other articles employed in the construction and maintenance of a city, a building to be called the Municipal Art Building might be erected.
The proposed scheme is so broad in its scope and so comprehensive in its opportunity as to render difficult a concise statement. Its general purpose is to show (1) the progress already made in every phase of municipal development, (2) the most successful methods of solving each and every municipal problem, beginning with the laying out of a city (streets, avenues, parks, etc.) and ending with the public baths, laundries, theatres and telephones, having run the entire gamut of municipal problems and city conditions, and (3) how art may be combined with utility so as to make the city not only the most effective industrial, commercial and social unit, but also the most attractive and the most beautiful.
To this end plans, photographs and sketches should be secured from the most progressive cities of the world, and, wherever possible, the machinery actually used should be displayed. For instance, Chicago should send a working model of the sanitary canal by which it disposes of its sewage. Paris should exhibit its system of sewers. Glasgow might be called upon to portray its well-developed system of garbage disposal and utilization. New York would explain the rapid transit subway it is now building--the most extensive system in the world.
Private companies would gladly display the various kinds of machinery and manufactured products used by cities or private corporations doing municipal work, such as fire apparatus, garbage incinerators, paving materials, water meters, filters, hydrants, etc., sewer appliances, lighting systems, voting machines, etc., etc. Wherever possible this display would be supplemented by practical illustration. Fire companies from various cities could give drills showing latest and most approved methods of fighting fires and saving life. The streets of the Exposition would be cleaned in the best possible way, and garbage disposal works erected upon the grounds.
In other instances, where it is impossible, owing to lack of space or of facilities for doing the work, stereopticon views and moving pictures could be used very effectively, and the visitor to the Exposition thus enabled to see what the cities of the world were doing for their citizens, without visiting them personally.
Particular attention should be paid to public art, and the cities of the world sacked to secure the most artistic lamp posts, street signs, guideboards, public buildings, bridges, monuments, parks, boulevards, railway stations, etc., etc. Heretofore, principal attention has been paid to utility, but the fact is now becoming widely recognized that art and utility can easily be combined, and that the public appreciates, yea, even demands, the most artistic, rather than the hideous or even the commonplace.
Such an exhibit of models, photographs, sketches and drawings from the world's cities would be one of the most attractive features of the Exposition, in connection with which there could be held an International Convention upon Public Art. Two have already been held in Paris and Brussels; the third is soon to be held at Turin
The advantages of such an exhibit are so evident as to call for little discussion. The Model City would be an inspiration to every city dweller and public official. It would show in a way which no one could escape, the possibility as well as the advisability of solving every problem in the most effective manner.
The increasing concentration of population warns us that every social and political problem is to be settled, if settled at all, in the cities, and with city conditions plainly in mind. From one-third to two-thirds of the inhabitants of every progressive country reside in cities over ten thousand population, and the censuses just being taken indicate that we have hardly crossed the threshold.
Yet, up to the present time, there has been no specific effort made to interest the city visitor. No exposition, little or big, ignores the agricultural population. It is safe to say that a large majority of the visitors of any exposition comes from the incorporated municipalities. Assuming this to be a correct statement, is it not about time that the city, town and village be recognized in some manner befitting their importance? An effort is made to teach the farmer; why not make an equal effort for the benefit of the citizen who has to provide his own government?
The idea is not new. It was presented to the managers of the Pan-American Exposition in the spring of 1899 by a member of the Municipal Art Society. It was widely commented upon by the press at the time, and with universal favor. It received the hearty approval of such men as President Roosevelt, then Governor, who, in his last annual message, recommended an appropriation of State funds for its installation, and of ex-Mayors Low and Strong, Richard Watson Gilder, Albert Shaw, and many others, including city officials of the leading cities. All the Buffalo papers commended the scheme, and one of them said editorially, May 19, 1899:
The Pan-American Exposition could have no educational feature of greater practical value than an exhibit setting forth the progress of municipal government and showing how the best methods may be attained, for in this way the millions who go to the Exposition would be rendered more intelligent on this important subject and could be taught by object lessons what it would take them a long time to learn through reading of newspapers, magazines and books. The Exposition must, of course, depend largely upon exhibits and attractions such as draw the crowds in order to be a financial success, but it must also be borne in mind that to prove of permanent educational value and to rank high among the great expositions of the last quarter of a century it must provide features which will appeal to the intelligence of the people who will enter its gates.
Buffalo failed to adopt the plan, for the simple reason that its space and funds were too limited. If the St. Louis Exposition fails to seize upon the opportunity, it will not be for this reason, for it already has thirty millions in sight and ample area.
Chicago gave to the world "The White City" in 1893, Buffalo its "Rainbow City" in 1901, and now let St. Louis contribute "The Model City." .