Development of Park Systems ~ SD Union, November 27, 1902

San Diego Union
November 27, 1902, 5:2


Boston Common Was Improved Within Comparatively Recent Years

San Diego’s Natural Advantages for Parks and Are Unsurpassed

Dr. Edward Everett Hale has said that he remembers when cows were pastured and carpets were beaten on Boston Common. In other words, the oldest park space in the United States was undeveloped and unimproved within the memory of a man who is yet living and doing active work for his fellows. Today Boston Common is highly improved, a part of the greatest municipal park system in America.

The conception of a related park system followed closely upon the planning of the first city park, less than fifty years ago. In their report on the design for Prospect Park in Brooklyn, nearly forty years since Messrs. Olmsted, Vaux and Co. indicated an extension of this park, to continue to the ocean as a shaded pleasure drive. A similar road was proposed through the country back of Brooklyn, to reach the shore of the East River, where a bridge across the strait should open into a central park. Such a system of parkways would have enabled a man “to drive in half a summer’s day through the most interesting parts of Brooklyn and New York, their most characteristic suburbs and both their great parks, with the long stretch of the Hudson, the Palisades in the middle distance and the mountain range in the background for a prospect at one end and the foaming breakers of the Atlantic at the other.” The report of these world-famous landscape architects suggested that “the whole would form a grand municipal promenade, hardly surpassed in the world for extent or continuity of interest.” This ideal has not yet been realized.

Another great landscape architect of the same period, Mr. H. W. S. Cleveland, was at that time conferring with a far-seeing mayor of Salem, Mass. to preserve a picturesque tract of rocky waste land with hills commanding a magnificent view of the ocean, and containing the ruins of old Revolutionary forts. The only building on these lands was the almshouse, and the entire stretch belonged to the city. The plan for a public park was considered a visionary scheme by the councilmen, however, who took no action in the matter. As Mr. Cleveland wrote a few years ago, “Salem would now have possessed an unrivaled ocean park, besides making very valuable property of a then worthless piece of land.” About the time that these efforts for park extension were being made in the east, Minneapolis held a town meeting to consider the purchasing of twenty acres for a city park. The proposition had many enemies, who thought the city would never grow to need open spaces, and argued that the town was itself all park. Less than twenty years ago, however, Mr. Cleveland was engaged to develop the park interests of that city, then comprising more than 1,500 acres, including twenty-three miles of parkways and boulevards. Part of these public driveways skirt the Mississippi River and a chain of lakes.

Previous to ten years ago, no steps had been taken to secure lands about Boston for the use of the public. Since then the trustees of public reservations have acquired large tracts for public forests, for the preservation of the sylvan and rival [sic] character of river margins, and of the beautiful salt marshes and neighboring uplands of the tidal basin of rivers. Picturesque and historic spots are among the lands reserved, and miles of seashore are secured for public enjoyment. Scattered public holdings are connected by continuous roads, and made convenient of access. The work of the trustees has resulted in an unbroken succession of parkways, the whole comprising a single plan on a comprehensive scale. The many and various needs of a community are thus provided for, in opportunities for rest, refreshment and enjoyment.

The experience of other cities may well serve as useful examples in park making at this time. A well planned park includes, besides its own area, well designed approaches and outlying boulevards. San Diego has natural advantages and possibilities that lose nothing in comparison with any of the cities named, in unusually grand and beautiful scenery. A boulevard extending around Point Loma and on to La Jolla and the Torrey pines beyond would command views of unsurpassed and almost unequaled beauty. The hillside city, backed by rugged mountains; the harbor and bay with its shipping; Coronado with its grand hostelry, tree-lined streets, and miles of bay shore and ocean beach; Point of Rocks, imposing and impressive, Coronado islands, and leagues of ocean and coast line; wide stretches of characteristic California scenery. All these distinctive features thus briefly and inadequately indicated, give unusual charm and beauty. The park and its roadways and boulevards may well be the ambitious hope and aim of the most public-spirited citizens in their sure influence to increase the number of tourists and to provide pleasure for residents and visitors alike. And, as a park authority asserts, the influence of parks and boulevards is to increase the values of real estate and improvements, and to lessen the general tax of a city, instead of increasing it.

Return to Samuel Parsons and Balboa Park.