Current Literature 32 (April 1902):42223.
Two months ago a newspaper from Honolulu, in the Hawaiian Islands, reached New York, and before it had been tossed aside in the clipping bureau to which it came there was cut from it an article on the proposed Municipal Art and Science exhibit at the St. Louis Fair. It was just six months since the project was first formally presented to the public in a few brief resolutions, and in four months mention of the idea had swept through the press of this country and had gone so far into the Pacific, leaving everywhere behind it a train of approving comment and public interest. It is probable that no other idea presented to the directors of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition has taken so well, has interested so many people, and has recommended itself as at once so novel, so reasonable, so promising of practical value and attractiveness
As no definite area has, at this writing, been set apart for the Model City the plan is liable to some changes in details, but it is unlikely that there will be any alteration in its main features. A circular space is inclosed. Upon this are laid the three familiar types of street planning which, in their combination, are held to offer the most convenient and potentially beautiful ground plan for a city. These are the radial, circular, and gridiron and in this feature alone probably most visit on will learn a lesson that will set them to thinking. Around the circumference is put the circular boulevard, where one so often finds it in the Old World cities that have razed their walls and, in these better days for cities, have transformed wall and moat into parkway. Half way around the town this will he made a beautiful park road, suitably planted. The rest of it, to economize space, must be devoted to another purpose; but there will be enough of it parkway to be suggestive. Midway on this boulevard, on a square just touching its outer edge, will be located the railroad station. The railroad station will thus front on an open space, as it were well for stations always to do, and it will make an unmistakable entrance to the town. Leading straight away from square and station and at a slight upward grade, there is a broad, paved street, terminating at its further and upper end in a plaza.
The plaza is to be the official center of the town. It will also be the actual center. Around it will be grouped the public buildings, the county court house, the town hall, the post office--the arrangement illustrating the advantages in convenience as certainly as in impressiveness, of grouping these structures. The plaza upon which they face will be treated with the care deserved by its importance, for it closes the vista of the leading street and frames the picture which greets the traveler issuing from the station and gaining in that moment's look his first impression of the town. In its center there will be a fountain or an important bit of civic sculpture, while the architecture of the abutting buildings will be such as to make it easy to transform the plaza on occasion into a court of honor where civic pageants can be officially reviewed. Behind this plaza, but apparently separated from it by far greater distance, because at a declining level and partly screened by the buildings, there may be an amusement and exhibition section. Here Mr. Kelsey has proposed a representation of the sewers of Paris, with a revenueyielding grotto restaurant. In another part of the town will be the "educational center." Here will be located on a square the model school house, standing in its model school yard, and here will be the public art gallery and library.
Starting from the official plaza are the radial thoroughfares, one on each side of the main street, and cutting it at sharp angles where it enters the square. Their prolongation will cut at angles whatever checkerboard streets are set out on lines conforming with the axis of the main street, and so will illustrate the advantages of radials in a general gridiron plan, both for convenience, as offering shortcuts to traffic, and for beauty, as affording variety in street intersection, revealing pleasant vistas, and making easy the provision of little open spaces. It is hoped that these streets need not terminate with the encircling parkway, but may be carried out until they reach the railroad, so that examples of railroad crossings may be given. If this be possible, it is designed to have one of the thoroughfares pass under the railroad, illustrating elevated track construction, and the other pass over it, to illustrate a railroad cutting. Yet another part of the town, as the topography may determine, will be treated as a "recreation district." Here there will be outdoor restaurants, a band stand (for the "municipal" band), and other amusement features.
A great deal of thought, then, has been expended merely on the street plan of the little Model City, and in that alone the visitor will find much of suggestiveness and much surely that he can carry home and think about when he visits other cities. But the lessons do not merely stop with the laying out of the streets. From their appearance quite is much is expected. They will, for one thing, be kept scrupulously clean. It has even been suggested that the Model City be called "Spotless Town!" They will be well paved, the sidewalks will be trim and even, trees will be planted, and on some, at least, of the streets there will be parking. There may be seats here and there beneath the trees along the wayside. There will be no overhead wires, the buildings will have no chimneys belching black smoke, the lighting apparatus will be decorative in its union of simplicity and dignity, and there will be no screaming of advertisements along the way. The streets will be named, and their signs will be artistic and legible. What has been called the practical basis of civic aesthetics will be emphasized with great care. It will be shown that the decoration of cities begins with the lowliest and most prosaic undertakings, with pavements and curbs and gutters, that the first step in the beautifying of a community is to have good streets, and then to keep them clean, so obtaining the appropriate setting for more ambitious decorative work. There will be no statues surrounded by mud, no parkways littered with papers and refuse, no vistas closed by screaming billboards. All will be orderly, cleanly, and dignified. The first great lesson of the Model City will be what city and town ought not to permit and the long step forward that may be taken by such purely negative action. In this, too, there will be something for the visitor to carry home.
As to the "positive" lessons, the distinctly decorative effort which, raised on the strong and clean foundation, forms the superstructure of civic art, it is proposed to have everything put on the streets the best of its kind, the most suitable for the place it occupies, and therefore the most artistic and decorative. This applies not only to pavement and walk, but to all the furnishings of the street, to the hydrants, the post boxes (connected with the post office by pneumatic tubes the lighting apparatus, the seats beneath the trees, the trolley plant--for that also will also be illustrated--to the refuse receptacles, and to the pubic convenience stations, for in at least this American community so important an adjunct of city life will not be ignored. But clearly it will not be possible to represent numerous types and style in juxtaposition. In choosing what is best for the Model City, in the way of a lamp post, for example, it may be necessary to ignore posts of equally good design or that for a broader street might even be better than the post selected candelabra on the Place de la Concorde, for instance, would be out of place in Wall street, and if we were bringing municipal art into Wall street we would have to pass them by. This action would do for the city street, but it would too greatly narrow an exhibition. Here rose one of the problems. So far there has been considered simply the exhibition side of the city, what may be technically called its "picture." Its great interest and its great value a scarcely less obvious than the considerable expense that would be involved in producing it. Fortunately, the first two qualities may be enhanced while the latter is largely reduced by what forms a distinct part of the exhibit, viz: the revenue-yielding commercial department, where manufacturers of street fixtures, etc.--"the trade"--would exhibit.
As introductory to such a section, there will be devoted that still unused half of the encircling boulevard. This is to be called the "street of street sections" and has been very ingeniously arranged. Dug down to form a cutting, the parkway will pass into it on a descending grade. At its low level the banks on either side will be divided to represent the underground street sections of famous thoroughfares in this country and in Europe. Each division will show a section pierced by sewers, subways, and the different systems for distributing the public utilities as actually constructed in various celebrated streets. There would be, for instance, a street in New York, showing the management of the subway; one in Boston, one or two from London and Paris, one from Turin, perhaps, from Budapest Rome, or Vienna. The interested visitor will have an opportunity to inspect these exhibits from three vantage points. He may look down upon them from the natural grade, at the top of one of the banks; he may descend into the cut, for a closer examination; or he may see sections of surface construction from an elevated promenade. .