Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 63.djvu/153

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
149
THE CITY OF WASHINGTON.
THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE CITY OF WASHINGTON.[1]

THE city of Washington differs from all other American cities in the fact that in its original plan parks were laid out as settings for public buildings. Even its broad avenues were arranged so as to enhance the effect of the great edifices of the nation; and the squares at the intersection of the wide thoroughfares were set apart as sites for memorials to be erected by the various states. Park, in the modern sense of a large public recreation ground, there was none; but small areas designed to beautify the connections between the various departments of government were numerous.

During the nineteenth century, however, the development of urban life and the expansion of cities has brought into prominence the need, not recognized a hundred years ago, for large parks to preserve artificially in our cities passages of rural or sylvan scenery and for spaces adapted to various special forms of recreation. Moreover, during the century that has elapsed since the foundation of the city the great space known as the Mall, which was intended to form a unified connection between the Capitol and the White House, and to furnish sites for a certain class of public buildings, has been diverted from its original purpose and cut into fragments, each portion receiving a separate and individual informal treatment, thus invading what was a single composition. Again, many reservations have passed from public into private ownership, with the result that public buildings have lost their appropriate surroundings, and new structures have been built without that landscape setting which the founders of the city relied on to give them beauty and dignity.

Happily, however, little has been lost that can not be regained at reasonable cost. Fortunately, also, during the years that have passed the Capitol has been enlarged and ennobled, and the Washington Monument, wonderful alike as an engineering feat and a work of art, has been constructed on a site that may be brought into relations with the Capitol and the White House. Doubly fortunate, moreover, is the fact that the vast and successful work of the engineers in redeeming the Potomac banks from unhealthy conditions gives opportunity for enlarging the scope of the earlier plans in a manner corresponding to

  1. From the report to the Senate committee on the District of Columbia of the Park Commission, consisting of Daniel H. Burnham, Chicago; Augustus St. Gaudens, New York; Charles F. McKim, New York, and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., Brookline.