Albert Kelsey

Architectural Review 11 (July 1904):185-188.

Kelsey (1870-1950) was born in St. Louis but moved to Philadelphia while still a boy. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1895 he entered his architectural apprenticeship in the office of T. P. Chandler and later with the firm of Cope and Stewardson. In 1896 he traveled abroad on a scholarship, and it was apparently on this trip that he developed his life-long interest in urban planning. With two partners Kelsey began his own practice in the firm of Kennedy, Hays & Kelsey. When their practice dissolved in 1905 he became associated with Paul P. Cret in entering architectural competitions. Perhaps their best known building was the Pan-American building in Washington, D.C.

After 1909 Kelsey continued to practice on his own, but much of his time was taken up with various organizations. He was a member of the T-Squareseq Club of Philadelphia and the chapter there of the American Institute of Architects. He also served as President of the Architectural League of America and the Pennsylvania State Association of Architects. Perhaps his most direct involvement in city planning came when he was appointed a member of the Columbus, Ohio Plan Commission in 1908. The commission, composed entirely of persons from outside Columbus, produced one of the noteworthy reports of the time

In 1904 the Louisiana Purchase Exposition management appointed him architect of the Model City exhibit. In this anthology the illustrated article Charles Mulford Robinson wrote for The Criterion in 1902 tells about the origin and development of this project. Kelsey notes how the elaborate plans of the project's supporters had to be modified substantially to fit the funds and space made available by those in charge of the St. Louis Fair and its exhibits. Kelsey then launches into an essay on street furniture, citing good examples from Europe and comparing them to equivalent features of the American urban scene. The article as published presents the illustrations in an almost random order. Here they are reproduced in the sequence in which Kelsey refers to them.

The request of the editor of The Architectural Review for a report on the "Model City," at the St. Louis Exposition, would have given the writer unmixed pleasure had the exhibit been representative of the movement for which it stands.

That it was attempted at all is the significant fact. It stands for a new demand made by humanity of itself in its progress upward. It marks the inception of a new duty.

Ample funds, a splendid location and plentiful opportunity were at hand, and the result is interesting and valuable in detail, but, as a whole, it is a failure. Delays, indifference and the overlapping of classifications lost many exhibits. Others were permanently installed elsewhere before work on the site was authorized. Afterward, the attitude of the Director of Works was such that carefully prepared drawings were set aside, and work in disaccord with the spirit of the exhibit was sanctioned and forwarded by his department. In fact, not one building is located in its true relation to the Town Hall and the Civic Pride Monument, the centre of the scheme, nor was it possible to have the drawings for even this composition adhered to.

Fig. 1

Abroad, well-managed departments of this sort are a part of many general expositions, and in Dresden last year it was shown that an entire exposition might be successfully devoted to municipal affairs. But, abroad, the centralization of executive power has made organized civic improvement possible half a century before the time required for the awakening of a people has made it possible here. Now that the time is ripe, and the work has the force of an awakened people to back it, the work of foreign nations can be of use to us.

The paving exhibit at St. Louis is particularly disappointing in view of what was planned. At the Municipal Exposition of 1903, sidewalks and roadways were paved according to the latest ideas, as much attention being given to color and pattern as to material. If this was impossible at St. Louis, it might at least have been shown graphically, which applies also to curbing and other accessories.

Underground construction was also to have been shown (a good example of street-conduit is shown in the Electricity Building), and among such exhibits should have been included several sections of German streets, showing cement construction at its best, where even the grooved car-tracks are drained.

Advertising kiosks were shown at St. Louis, and in these newer types the revolving shutters and a larger illuminated area make a more efficient advertising device and a better piece of street furniture than are those long in use in Paris and Berlin.

Let us consider what the Municipal Improvement Section at St. Louis might have been, with reference to some minor units--those which furnish public thoroughfares and contribute to much to the convenience, repose and dignity of a well-ordered community. If we do not want street fixtures of foreign make and design, a comparison between some of the lamp-standards of Paris and Philadelphia, for instance, would have been suggestive, as in Fig. 3 and Fig. 8. Again, an

Fig. 3
Fig. 8
instructive illustration would have shown the manner in which fête illumination is produced by simply removing the lamp from the ordinary lamp-post and screwing in its place a perpendicular fixture facing the roadway. When lighted, this becomes a gas-light emblem of some beauty and significance. Further, compare the care of sidewalk trees in Dresden, as indicated by the
Fig. 2

protecting standard and basketwork cylinder, Fig. 2, with the recent action of a suburban borough near Philadelphia, where legislation has condemned every tree from building line to building line. The same illustration shows a standard trolley pole, probably similar to those in use throughout the United States, but dressed in ornamental castings. Moreover, it is equipped, as are others at regular intervals, with a bamboo rod standing in a loose socket. This can be removed by any one when necessary to manipulate a live wire. The same prudence has been shown by the authorities of Brussels, where rubber gloves are available in glass-covered boxes at the various trolley shelters. These are common-sense provisions, which our people would be quick to adopt if they were brought to their attention. In fact, one company in the United States already manufactures ornamental trolley-pole castings and has an exhibit of them at the fair.

In connection with the subject of street lighting, Fig. 7 shows a design for an arc-light standard for the centre line of broad tree-lined avenues. It is particularly interesting for the plan of the refuge, while like those in London it is designed to receive and fend off the wheels of heavy vehicles, offering a place of safety to pedestrians behind its guard posts. It also suggests a simple color-treatment of the pavement which would be effective.

Fig. 7

Certain of our thoroughfares are noted for their brilliancy of illumination. Cleveland, Columbus and Duluth have streets more brilliant by night that is upper Broadway. Upper Broadway, by the by, depends largely upon private illuminated signs, often of the intermittent winking kind, and upon lamps of all descriptions, while in the other cases a more uniform treatment has been attempted. In Columbus it is unfortunate that by day the succession of trussed steel arches, spanning the thoroughfare from the station to the capitol grounds, should be both obstructive and unsightly; but there is unmistakable evidence of a desire to make the city attractive, which is further borne out in the fact that the unusual character of its illumination is consistently maintained by public subscription. The design of the scheme is unfortunate. Apart from its esthetic inadequacies, the lights can be adjusted only from a tower-wagon, and the cost of construction was too great. In Fig. 15 are suggestions for a more graceful treatment which would be unsightly neither by day nor night, one which may be attached to a special type of trolley pole, and in which the strand of lights may be conveniently lowered and repaired from the level of the street.

Fig. 15

In Fig. 16 is an example of plain, substantial and effective lighting adopted by the city of Boston. It is commended, first, because it combines a railing and light standard; second, because it is in good taste; and third, because it is inexpensive enough to be adopted by any progressive community. It is in use on the Harvard Bridge, along the Charles-bank, and to even better advantage on the curved recreation pier at Marine Park, where its double row of frosted globes, in perspective, presents a very attractive appearance.

Fig. 16

Street signs should be considered in connection with street lighting. Indeed, on the rue de la Paix, in Paris,; the light standards come at such frequent intervals that those between corners illuminate instructions as to one's whereabouts by displaying the numbers of the houses before which they stand. The numbers are printed on neat blue enamel labels set in tilted bronze frames cast in one piece with the lamp-post.

Compare the entrance to a Philadelphia abbatoir[sic] with one in Paris in Figs. 5 and 6. The latter dominates the end of a vista in a bourgeois quarter seldom visited by people of quality. Nevertheless, it was dedicated by the president of the republic with much ceremony, and the bronze bulls are the work of a great sculptor.