Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/118

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106

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

gifts to the best use. Men of the stamp of Louis Agassiz and Asa Gray do not readily grow up and flourish in the intellectual atmosphere of a commercial and partly political metropolis; or they are less appreciated; and therefore the endowers of large foundations want the stimulating and authoritative influence and the correct intelligence to apply their gifts in the right direction, and to guard them against extravagance from injudicious expenditure, dilettanteism, and experimenting. Furthermore, Americans, in their lack of knowledge and of models, have been distinguished by a tendency to perpetuate their munificence and names preferably in monumental edifices; hence the excessive foundation of so-called universities with splendid buildings, but which have been usually destitute of what alone, with or without architectural luxury, gives them purpose and value—an efficient faculty, well-endowed apparatuses, and capable pupils. In consequence of this erroneous comprehension and consequent expenditure in buildings, and by the scattering of teaching force and means, most of our higher schools, libraries, museums, and collections have been weakened. We have no lack of imposing structures, but no real universities and technical high-schools; libraries, like those of the Astor and Lenox in New York, elegantly housed without a correspondingly general value and utility. The munificence of our founders directs itself, as Prof. James M. Hart has remarked in his book on "German Universities," mainly to brick and mortar. The rest is left to chance and the discretion of the administration; hence numerous experiments, often followed by a miserable, inefficient career.

In comparison with other cities of like size and population, New York is poor in public squares and parks. In size and natural beauty the Central Park can indeed well sustain a comparison with the parks of other cities, and it might, if the money poured out upon it since its creation in 1857 had been wisely and honestly expended, have been one of the best parks and botanical gardens in the world. If Nature had not done so much for it, it would stand, notwithstanding half a million dollars a year are expended upon it, far behind the parks of other great cities. If only a part of this sum had been systematically applied to the maintenance of a competent, experienced botanical and landscape gardener as director of the plantations, and the necessary palm-and plant houses had been erected, the Central Park might have been, not only one of the largest but one of the handsomest public parks and botanical gardens; for, with its superficies of eight hundred and forty acres, it has a much greater area than, for example. Regent's Park, with its beautiful botanical and zoölogical gardens, Kensington Garden, and the Kew Gardens of London, taken together. The last-named, a famous botanical garden, contains