Andrew Wright Crawford,

City Planning. Hearing Before the Committee on the District of Columbia United States Senate on the Subject of City Planning. 61st Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Document No. 422. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1910, 86-88.

Crawford was assistant city solicitor for the City of Philadelphia. He delivered this paper at the First National Conference on City Planning, Washington, D.C., 1909. Like many others at the time, Crawford emphasized the importance of creating diagonal streets in gridiron portions of cities and providing for such thoroughfares as vacant land at the outskirts was developed.
Philadelphia is the type and prototype of the cast-iron gridiron city. As laid out by William Penn, streets cutting each other at right angles unrelieved by any diagonal avenues formed the entire means of intercommunication between its parts. This plan, which has until recently been extended throughout the outlying regions of Philadelphia, has been adopted in American cities generally. That Philadelphia has within the last ten years broken away from this system in some outlying sections and is striving to correct the errors of past generations in its built-up sections by diagonal avenues from the City Hall is the notable accomplishment of the last ten or fifteen years.

The movement has been one of development in Philadelphia as it has been elsewhere. Twenty years ago with the formation of the small parks association the attention of the city was directed to the problem of bringing fresh air and sunshine to congested districts, especially where incoming foreigners locate themselves.

More than fifty squares and triangles have been acquired since then and the iniative has been taken in their development as playgrounds An outer park system has been preserved by legislation by ordinances and its acquisition begun.

The park movement persisted in is bound to bring attention to the plan of streets, generally known as the "city plan." Parks are but functions of that plan. They have sometimes been laid out without regard to the city plan and have seriously interfered with the proper development of the city. Central Park in New York and Pope Park in Hartford are examples. The small parks association, which had become the city parks association, issued a report in 1902 severely condemning the rigidity of our street system. Since the publication of that report it is a pleasure to note that the board of surveyors has adopted the policy urged by the association. That policy was recorded in the mayor's annual report for 1908 as follows:

"The proper and healthy growth and development of a great city depend largely upon a well-conceived and consistently executed system of public highways in which intelligent provision is made for any and all future municipal expansion, and the attractiveness and utility of these highways depend upon their location and width and the grades established upon them. Diagonal avenues, intelligently located, form the most convenient and important means of intercommunication between different sections. The city of Philadelphia, as originally laid out between the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, and extending from Vine to South street, was, when its limited area is considered, fairly well planned and presented a vast improvement over the narrow and winding thoroughfares of the European cities of that period.

"In extending the city to the northward and southward the original rectangular system was continued and in some cases too rigidly adhered to. A number of old diagonal roads which might have been widened and developed into important avenues were abandoned.

"In recent years in planning the street system in suburban districts it has been the policy not only to widen and improve these old roads, but to lay out additional diagonal avenues, to provide direct communication between local business centers or detached suburban communities, and considerable attention has been given to having the general system conformed, to as great an extent as may be consistent with utility and economy, with a natural contour of the ground, thus introducing a pleasing diversion by placing graceful curves, making beautiful and attractive avenues. Such treatment is especially adaptable to residential districts.

"It is clearly the duty of every municipality to provide an adequate system of main thoroughfares, the lines of which shall be laid out with the sole view of directness, convenience, and economy of transportation during the long future of their usefulness, and all questions of land subdivisions and intermediate or subordinate streets ought to be thrust aside as of secondary importance."

These recommendations have been further emphasized by Mayor Reyburn's annual message in April of this year, in which he urged a plan for diagonal avenues radiating in all directions from the city hall and the extension of certain old streets that withstood the fixedness of Penn's plan and have remained diagonals.

The most important of these new diagonals, the one that has attracted attention generally throughout the country, is the Fairmount Park parkway. Between the beginning of Fairmount Park and the city hall at the city center was a closely built-up region. More than half of the buildings on the location proposed at present have been torn down and a completely opened space varying from 200 to 400 feet in width connects Logan Square and Fairmount Park. This, however, is but the beginning, and the commission appointed by the Fairmount Park Art Association has recommended a change in the plan, which has been strongly indorsed by other civic associations and which has been adopted by Mayor Reyburn, and city councils are in a fair way to approve the plan. This plan provides for art and educational buildings on and around the old Fairmount reservoir at the end of the parkway and beginning of the park.

The great problem of the city plan of the future is the problem of transportation. The disease, the remedy for which has been studied and recommended by various royal commissions of Parliament, is most virulent in London. The problem of enabling workmen to live sufficiently near their work, so that they can get to their work and back again in reasonably quick time, at short intervals and at cheap rates, is the problem which the housing commission of Parliament last considered. This problem is the problem of transportation, and the problem of transportation is the problem of the street system.

Closely associated with that problem is a development which has been universally neglected in America and universally taken advantage of in European cities. This is the matter of development of the banks of rivers. In America generally the situation in Philadelphia is duplicated. Instead of the most highly developed, highly assessed, and largest tax-paying sections fronting on our rivers, the most insanitary, dirtiest, ugliest, and slumlike districts are to be found in this country within two or three blocks of the rivers. We have begun to attack this problem in Philadelphia, and it is a pleasure to note that Mayor Reyburn in his annual report speaks of the proposed improvements to the embankments of the Schuylkill River as a matter that is to be planned and executed.

The situation in Philadelphia may therefore be summed up briefly as follows:

The movement for city squares is in full swing and successful. The movement for an outer-park system has already achieved notable results and promises far greater things. The movement for the adoption of a rational street system in outlying sections has been ratified by the city administration, which has also recommended the correction of the old street system by diagonal thoroughfares to be cut through the built-up sections; the most important one, viz, the Fairmount Park parkway, has been begun and promises to be one of the greatest civic accomplishments of American cities. The problem of reclaiming the banks of the rivers is seen and understood. It has not yet been undertaken. All of these movements have resulted in the full and notable recognition of the necessity of planning a municipality on cosmopolitan lines.

The following quotation from Mayor Reyburn's annual message may fairly be said to sum up in theory the results of the efforts of the City Parks Association since its formation twenty-one years ago:

"The importance of the street system can not be overestimated. Upon it depends the facility of intercommunication between all sections of the city. With the growth of the population, the congestion in the central portions tends to become greater and greater. In order to be prepared for this growth, the means of transit from the outer circle of the city to the center must be adequately increased. This can only be done by diagonal thoroughfares. * * * It is obvious that these improvements can not be carried out at once. They will have to be carried out in the future. Other cities place such streets upon their official city plan and open them from year to year as opportunity offers. One, two, or three blocks are opened each year. In this way the burden is distributed and is not felt, while the city meets the need of more streets, owing to the growth of the population, as that growth takes place.

"The process of civic development is of greater importance potentially than the administration of what the city has already acquired. I therefore earnestly recommend to your consideration the plans for the development of the city hereinafter outlined. Constructive work calls for more careful consideration and more skillful study of the probable growth of the city than mere administration.

"A comprehensive, broad, and general plan of civic development, capable of elasticity to meet the varying conditions which may confront successive administrations, should be developed." 

Selected, scanned, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: jwr2@cornell.edu 
To Top of Page
To Homepage