The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Park

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The American Cyclopædia
Park
Edition of 1879. Written by Frederick Law OlmstedSee also Park on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

PARK, a space of ground used for public or private recreation, differing from a garden in its spaciousness and the broad, simple, and natural character of its scenery, and from a “wood” in the more scattered arrangement of its trees and greater expanse of its glades and consequently of its landscapes. For the sake of completeness, recreation grounds not properly called parks will be considered under the same title. The grounds of an old English manorial seat are usually divided into two parts, one enclosed within the other and separated from it by some form of fence. The interior part, immediately around the dwelling, is distinguished as the pleasure ground or kept ground, the outer as the park. The park is commonly left open to the public, and frequently the public have certain legal rights in it, especially rights of way. A parish church is sometimes situated within the park. The use of the park as part of a private property is to put the possibilities of disagreeable neighborhood at a distance from the house and the more domestic grounds, to supply a pleasant place of escape from the confinement and orderliness of the more artificial parts of the establishment, and for prolonged and vigorous out-of-door exercise. The kept grounds, being used incidentally to in-door occupations, are designed in close adaptation to the plan of the house, richly decorated, and nicely, often exquisitely, ordered by the constant labor of gardeners. Anciently the kept grounds were designed as a part of the same general architectural plan with the house, and were enclosed and decorated with masses of foliage clipped in imitation of cut and sculptured stone. Their lofty hedges often completely intercepted the view from the house toward the park. A recognition of the fact that the parks were much more beautiful than the kept grounds when thus fashioned, led early in the 16th century to the art of landscape gardening, or, as it is more generally called out of England, landscape architecture. The aim of the new art was, while still keeping the park fenced off, to manage the pleasure grounds in such a way that they would provide a harmonious and appropriate foreground to landscapes extending over the park, and to make such changes in the park itself as would improve the composition of these landscapes.

AmCyc Park - Windsor Park.jpg

Windsor Park.

The scenery of the old parks often has great beauty of a special character, which is the result of the circumstances under which the more ancient and famous of them have been formed. These were originally enclosed many centuries since for keeping deer. In choosing ground for this purpose, rich land having broad stretches of greensward pasturage, with trees more sparingly distributed than usually in the forest, was to be preferred, and this character would be increased intentionally by felling a portion of the trees, and unintentionally by the browsing of the deer; water, either flowing or still, was a necessity. In process of time the proprietors of parks established residences in them, and at length the size of their trees and the beauty of their grouping came to be matters of family pride. As the old decayed, new trees were planted, with the purpose of maintaining the original character, or perhaps of carrying it nearer its ideal. Properties of this class, being associated with that which was oldest and most respectable in the land, came to be eagerly sought for, and to be formed to order as nearly as possible after the older type; and they are to be seen now in England by thousands. As a general rule, each element in their scenery is simple, natural to the soil and climate, and unobtrusive; and yet the passing observer is very strongly impressed with the manner in which views are successively opened before him through the innumerable combinations into which the individually modest elements constantly rearrange themselves; views which often possess every quality of complete and impressive landscape compositions. It is chiefly in this character that the park has the advantage for public purposes over any other type of recreation ground, whether wilder or more artificial. Other forms of natural scenery stir the observer to warmer admiration, but it is doubtful if any, and certain that none which under ordinary circumstances man can of set purpose induce nature to supply him, are equally soothing and refreshing; equally adapted to stimulate simple, natural, and wholesome tastes and fancies, and thus to draw the mind from absorption in the interests of an intensely artificial habit of life. — Private and public parks differ only in the extent of their accommodations for certain purposes, and most of the public parks in Europe are old private parks adapted to public use. When this is not the case, and a park for public use has to be formed essentially from the bare ground, its value will chiefly depend on provisions that cannot be fully matured or have their best operation for many years after their groundwork is established. For this reason the selection of a site, the design for laying out, and the system of continuous management of a public park should be determined with great caution. The aim should be to produce the park rather than the more elaborate pleasure ground or garden style of scenery, not only for the reasons above indicated but because a ground of this character can be consistently and suitably maintained at much less cost; because, also, it will allow the necessary conveniences for the enjoyment of it by large numbers of persons to be introduced in such a way as not to be unpleasantly conspicuous or disastrously incongruous; and because it favors such a distribution of those who visit it that few shall be seen at a time, and that the ground shall not seem overcrowded. It is a common impression that the loftier and more rugged and mountain-like the site of a public ground may be, and the more wild, picturesque, and grand scenery can be imitated in its improvement, the better it will answer its purpose. A principle of art however interposes, which M. Taine, in a discussion of the unimpressiveness of certain forms of mountain scenery, explains as follows: “A landscape in order to be beautiful must have all its parts stamped with a common idea and contributing to a single sensation. If it gives the lie here to what is said yonder, it destroys itself, and the spectator is in the presence of nothing but a mass of senseless objects.” It is extremely difficult to provide suitably extensive and varied conveniences for the public use of a piece of ground, the elements of which are strongly picturesque with an approach to grandeur, without destroying much of its original character; and the result of such attempts, unless under unusually fortunate circumstances and the guidance of unusual taste and skill, with the use of large means, is sure to be confusing and ineffective. Sites of much natural grandeur or even of bold picturesqueness are, therefore, to be selected for a park only where all necessary improvements for the convenience of a great number of visitors can be so managed that they will in some way strengthen rather than weaken the prevailing character. No instance of a public park exists in which this has been accomplished, but the principle is illustrated in various landscapes of the great painters. Examples may be found, for instance, in almost any book of engravings after Turner, in which the original effect of a crag of rock is shown to be augmented by buildings designed for the purpose, the bases of which are skilfully merged in its face, or where a single great building of very simple outline is given a firm and tranquil standing in a wild and broken landscape of steep declivities and rugged heights. Under good direction, sites with features of much natural grandeur, on a scale so large and of such a character that the necessary constructions for the intended visitors can be insignificant, are to be preferred to any other; but such sites have not yet been appropriated to the purpose with the advantage of a sufficiently long continued adequate direction of their improvement, and there can be but few cases where they will be. After them, and more commonly attainable, are sites the natural character of which would usually and significantly be termed “park-like.” If the ideal of the old English park scenery is kept in view, rather than either that of a more picturesque or more artificially refined, finical, and elaborately embellished kind, it will be readily seen that in the site for a public recreation ground it is desirable that views of considerable extent should be controllable within its borders, and that in order to command them it should not be necessary that views beyond its borders be opened the elements of which cannot be controlled, and are liable, even in the distant future, to be made inharmonious with those of the park; especially so, where such elements will have urban rather than rural associations. It is generally better, therefore, that the outer parts should be the higher, the central parts the more depressed; that the surface should be tame rather than rugged, gently undulating rather than hilly. Water is desirable, and it will be best situated where it can be seen from the greatest number of widely distributed points of view. Relatively to the residences of those who are expected to benefit by it, the park will be best situated where there can be but little occasion to make thoroughfares through it. Otherwise, the less the distance and the more convenient and agreeable the intermediate roads, the better. As roads which radiate from a town are usually more important to be kept open than those which cross them, and as land near a town is relatively more needed for other uses than that more distant, it is commonly better that the breadth of the site should increase with its distance from the nearest point to the town, as in Prospect park, Brooklyn, N. Y. In the improvement of the site, attractive and suitable scenery has to be formed, and unsuitable elements of existing scenery changed or obscured; and at the same time and on the same ground accommodations of various kinds are to be prepared for great numbers of people, many in carriages and on horseback, many ignorant, selfish, and wilful, of perverted tastes and lawless dispositions, each one of whom must be led as far as possible to enjoy and benefit by the scenery without preventing or seriously detracting from the enjoyment of it by all others. The most essential element of park scenery is turf in broad, unbroken fields, because in this the antithesis of the confined spaces of the town is most marked. In the climate of Great Britain turf will endure on favorable soils twice as much foot wear as it will in that of Paris or northern France or the United States; yet in the more frequented London parks it is found necessary to surround with strong iron hurdles the glades on which their landscape attraction is dependent. For this and other obvious reasons, a great extent of ground must be prepared expressly for the wear of feet and wheels. In the two principal recreation grounds of Paris, the woods of Boulogne and Vincennes, though both are suburban parks and not readily used by the mass of the people, the extent of such flooring, prepared by macadamizing, paving, and otherwise, is 480 acres, or ten times the whole recreation ground of Boston, “the Common.” In the Central park of New York it is 100 acres, and there is a constant public demand for its enlargement, which can only be met by reducing the verdant elements of landscape, and consequently the benefit to be obtained by the use of the park. In a public park for a city, therefore, the purpose of establishing such natural beauty as soil, climate, and topography would otherwise allow to be aimed at, must be greatly sacrificed under the necessity of providing accommodations for the travel and repose of many thousands of men and horses; and on the other hand, the extent of such accommodations must be made less than would otherwise be thought desirable, in order that the special objects of the park may be secured in a suitable degree. A plan for a park is good, indifferent, or bad, mainly according to the ingenuity, tact, and taste with which these conflicting requirements are reconciled, and to the degree in which local circumstances are skilfully turned to account if they can be made favorable, or skilfully overcome if unfavorable for this purpose. The problem is sufficiently difficult under the simplest conditions, and it is undesirable that it should be unnecessarily complicated by a requirement to provide for various purposes which have nothing in common with that of tranquillizing rest and exercise, and to which the element of landscape beauty is not essential. Soldiers, for example, drill and manœuvre, horses race, gymnasts and ball players exercise, on a piece of flat ground surrounded by buildings as well as in the glades of a wood. It is true that, when a suburban park is very spacious relatively to the number of people resorting to it for park recreation, a limited use of the larger turf areas for athletic exercises will injure it but little; but their frequent use for such purposes, especially if large assemblages of spectators are likely to be attracted, will be destructive of the value of the ground as a park, in the specific sense of the term. It is also to be considered that the proper rules and police arrangements for a park are different from those for a parade, ball, or gymnasium ground, or for a race course. Hence, when the most suitable ground near a town for these purposes adjoins that which is most suitable for a park, it is yet much better that there should be a marked division between them. Public buildings can be reconciled with the purposes of a park only in a limited degree. Ground about any building designed for an important public service should be laid out with a view, first, to convenience of communication with it; secondly, to its best exhibition as a work of architectural art. The neighboring grounds should be shaped and planted in strict subordination to these purposes, which will involve an entirely different arrangement from that which the purpose of forming a quiet rural retreat would prescribe. A similar consideration will prevent monuments and statues from being placed profusely in a park, or at all in situations where they will be obtrusive. The same cautions apply to the introduction of botanic, zoological, and other gardens. Their main object is as different from that of a park as that of a billiard room from a library. Both one and the other may serve for recreation, and there is an advantage in being able to pass from one to the other; but the kind of recreation to be gained by one is not that of the other, the appropriate furniture of the one is not that of the other; and their perfect combination being impracticable, the two can be much better used apart, one at a time. In the larger part of the civilized world, circumstances are as unfavorable to park-like scenery as to grand scenery in the vicinity of large towns. The climate of France is nowhere as favorable to it as that of Great Britain, and even in the north it cannot be found in perfection unless on unusually suitable soil. In the south of France, in Italy, and on all the borders of the Mediterranean, in Mexico and California, and in short wherever a rich close perennial turf cannot be established, parks properly so called ought not to be attempted. In these cases, the two natural elements of scenery to be developed in a suburban public ground of great extent are forests (or “woods”) and water. While trees in woods are by no means as beautiful as trees in parks, and a forest is apt to be gloomy and to produce an oppressive sense of confinement, the mystery of this confinement, so different from that of the walls of a town, makes it interesting and recreative. In the midst of well grown woods, public accommodations, no matter how obviously artificial, nor within reasonable limits how large they may be, detract but little from the main impression, and if fairly well designed supply a grateful relief to what might otherwise be too prolonged a mass and too nearly a monotone of color. The introduction of long strips of clear ground, even if covered with gravel or poor herbage (as at Versailles and most of the great old gardens), giving vistas through which the light may stream in visible beams, touching the walls of foliage at the side with an infinite number of lustrous flecks, produces a most, agreeable impression. Bodies of water, whether formal or naturalistic in outline, in the midst of deep dark tall “woods,” are still more effective. For the same reason statues, monuments, and gardens of highly colored flowers may be introduced in the midst of woods to much better advantage than in parks. — The use in America of the word park as a general designation for gardens, green courts, and all sorts of public places, is an exaggeration of a French application of the word to the more private or kept grounds of a château connected with a forest. To avoid confusion, open spaces for public use in a city may be termed “places;” grounds in turf and trees within places, “place parks;” and broad thoroughfares planted with trees and designed with special reference to recreation as well as for common street traffic, “parkways.” The value of public gardens, places, place parks, and parkways, in distinction from parks and “woods,” is dependent less on the extent of their sylvan elements than on the degree of convenience with which they may be used; those being the most valuable, other things being equal, through which the greatest number of people may be induced to pass while following their ordinary occupations and without serious hindrance or inconvenience. Hence the most important improvement made of late in the general plan of cities has been the introduction or increase in number and breadth of parkways which, if judiciously laid out, become principal channels or trunk lines of common traffic, to which the ordinary streets serve as feeders, so that a man wishing to go to a considerable distance shall find it a saving of time and trouble to take one of them on his way. In this respect Paris has taken the lead, having formed since 1855 over 80 m. of such trunk lines of communication from 100 to 300 ft. in width, provided with borders of trees or shrubbery, walks and drives of a special character, seats, special lighting arrangements, and other conditions more interesting and agreeable than those of common streets. The total length of boulevards and avenues lined with trees under the direction of the municipality within the enceinte of Paris is 120 m. Most of the large towns of Europe are making similar improvements, and at Washington, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Syracuse, and Brooklyn excellent examples of them exist or are in process of formation. New York, with an area of about 42 sq. m., has 7 m. of planted parkways, all of which are suburban and as yet but partly finished. Simple places, piazzas, or plazas (the two latter being equivalent terms derived from the Italian and Spanish) have the sanitary value of making a city more airy than it would be without them. If furnished with parks (place parks), they have the additional advantage of providing refreshment to the eye through the mind. If a piece of ground of one or two acres in the midst of a busy town is laid out and managed with a view to providing upon it the greatest practicable degree of plant beauty in trees, shrubs, flowers, and turf, and on the same general principles that a private garden for the same purpose would be, it will be of comparatively little use; for the walks will probably be indirect, the low planting of the outer parts will obscure the general view for passers by, and there will be frequent crowding and jostling and disturbance of quiet. Neatness and the maintenance of orderly conduct among visitors in such a ground becomes also exceedingly difficult. Hence, as a rule, at least in the United States, public grounds designed with this motive soon become more forlorn than open places would be. It is much better to decorate them in such a manner as will not destroy their openness or cause inconvenience to those who have occasion to cross them. For this purpose their plans should be simple and generally formal in style, their passages should be broad and direct, and they should be provided with seats in recesses or on the borders of the broader paved or gravelled spaces, leaving ample room for free movement. Their trees should be high-stemmed and umbrageous; conifers, except in rare instances, as permanent dwarfs, should be excluded, and flowers and delicate plants little if at all used except in vases and baskets (corbeilles) or as fringes of architectural objects. Interest will desirably centre in a fountain. — Every considerable town in Europe now possesses grounds which are resorted to for public recreation, and most have several of different types specially prepared and kept at public expense.

AmCyc Park - Fontainebleau — View from the Château.jpg

Fontainebleau — View from the Château.

In France the state has long held and managed extensive “woods and forests,” remnants of the original forests which covered the country in the time of Caesar. More than 20 such are found within a distance from Paris which makes them available for a day's pleasuring by means of railway excursion trains. They vary in extent from about 1,000 acres, as at St. Cloud, to 41,000, as at Fontainebleau. Each of these contains a château which at some time has been a royal residence, in connection with which there is a “park” or garden of several acres, generally containing a lake, fountains, statuary, monuments, parterres (as in the above engraving), and sometimes conservatories, aviaries, or other interesting objects. More or less historical interest also es to each, and in some quaint old customs are maintained, by which visitors are attracted.

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Fontainebleau — View in the Forest.

The forest proper is wilder, and in its depths many animals are found in a state of nature. It is however divided, by a network of broad avenues crossed by first, second, and third class roads and walks, into spaces of five to ten acres, so that in passing through it vistas open at frequent intervals on both sides and in all directions. Some of these forests are distinguished for great rocks, trees, and picturesque scenery; some contain in their depths broad meadows and savannas, others lakes or streams with cascades; all are guarded from depredations and policed by an organized body of men thoroughly trained in their duties under a military discipline. Among the more noted of these suburban resorts around Paris are those of Boulogne, Vincennes, St. Cloud, Marly, St. Germain, Rambouillet, Chantilly, and Compiegne, which together contain more than 170,000 acres. The first five are within 10 m. of the city, and may be reached by rail in less than half an hour. Versailles is another resort yet more famous, and in which the woods are of less importance than the palace and gardens. The woods of Boulogne and Vincennes, being nearest the city, one at its west and the other at its east side, have since 1854 been placed under the jurisdiction of the municipality, and fitted by extensive and important improvements, the better to serve as recreation grounds for the daily use of the citizens.

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Map of the Bois de Boulogne.

A, Hippodrome; B, Bagatelle; C, Zoölogical Ground; D, Military Magazine; E, Nursery; F, Upper Lake; G, G, Lower Lake; H, Pré Catalan; I, I, avenue Bois de Boulogne; J, J, the Seine; K, Palace and Park of St. Cloud.

The wood of Boulogne contains about 2,500 acres, and the fortified line of the city forms its eastern boundary. The soil is naturally gravelly and poor, the trees are generally thickly sown, spindled, and weak, and the scenery flat and uninteresting. Several departmental roads (broad, straight, paved wagon ways) pass through it. Except in the refreshing wildness of a forest, it offered as late as 1855 but little to attract a visitor. Yet because of its close vicinity to the city it was already much frequented by the Parisians, and Napoleon III. saw in the neglect to which it had been abandoned the opportunity of making one of those sensations, to the frequent succession of which he owed so much of his popularity. The coarse, silicious soil was less costly to handle than better earth; good roads could be cheaply graded in it, and the materials of a sufficiently firm superstructure for so porous a base were to be had on the spot by simply screening its pebbles; for the same reason scarcely any artificial drainage was necessary. There were open meadows which could be extended to the banks of the Seine. The plan of improvement was adroitly adapted to turn all these advantages to account, so that in a short time, to those who kept to certain routes, the character of the wood seemed to have been completely changed. On the immediate borders of the new roads, and on the lines of certain vistas opening from them, the surface of the ground and the foliage appear varied and picturesque, and there are certain features of scenic interest, as a cascade and grotto, the rock of which was brought from the distant forest of Fontainebleau and skilfully wrought into masses with patches of concrete imitation of stone. The greater part of the old wood remained, as far as the operations of improvement are concerned, little changed and as uninteresting as a wood might be. The approach to the improved ground from the central parts of the town is first through the Champs Élysées, afterward for a distance of 1⅛ m. by the new avenue Bois de Boulogne (formerly de l'Impératrice). This consists of a driveway 60 ft. wide, a bridle road on one side of it 40 ft. wide, and a walk opposite of the same width, with borders of lawn-like ground on each side, the whole space being 300 ft. in width. In the original design this avenue was expected to become the fashionable promenade of Paris; but, probably because it was not in the outset sufficiently well shaded, fashion pushed further out to the road on the south bank of a new lake in the wood 1⅔ m. in length, where no tolerable provision had been made for it. To meet the demand, the original drive on the lake was widened to 45 ft., and a pad or bridle path introduced by its side, 40 ft. wide. Under ordinary circumstances the greater part of the visitors to the wood concentrate on these roads and the adjoining walk. There were in the whole wood of Boulogne before 1870, when a considerable space both of the old and new planting was cleared in preparation for the defence of Paris against the Germans, 1,009 acres of wooded land, 674 of unshaded turf, 75 of water surface, and 286 of drives, rides, and walks (not including the race track). The race ground of Longchamps, which is a part of the property, contains 195 acres, the ground leased to the acclimation society for a zoological garden, 50 acres, and the leased amusement garden, the Pré Catalan, in the midst of the wood, to which a charge for admission is made, 21 acres. There are 36 m. of public drive (including the old straight forest and departmental highways), 7 m. of ride, and 15 m. of walk. The larger part of the pleasure drives are 25 to 36 ft. broad, the widest 48 ft.; the rides 12 to 17 ft.; the walks 8 to 12 ft. The wood of Vincennes, similar in other respects to that of Boulogne, contained an ancient castle which was the centre of a great military establishment, and a large plain in the midst of the wood, used as a training ground. This has been maintained, but in other respects the design for improvement has been similar to that for the wood of Boulogne, the principal difference being that the accommodations and attractions for foot visitors at Vincennes are relatively more important. The extent of the ground is 2,225 acres, of which about half is wooded. There is a race course on the plain, and a lake of 60 acres. The public ways, not including the race track, take up 183 acres. There are no large parks within the fortified lines of Paris, but several beautiful place parks and gardens. (See Paris.) A detailed account of them and of their admirable method of administration may be found in Robinson's “Parks, Promenades, and Gardens of Paris” (London, 1869), and one still more complete in Les promenades de Paris, by M. Alphonse, the chief designer of the recent improvements. The extent of the public recreation grounds within the fortified lines of the city is about 250 acres. The area of suburban grounds commonly resorted to for recreation and maintained at public expense, not including those too far away for an afternoon excursion, may be estimated at 20,000 acres. The extent of pleasure drive maintained by the municipal government is 87 m., being about 3 m. of roadway to each square mile of the city, or, counting the parkways (boulevards) shaded and with asphalt driveways, over 7 m. to the square mile. New York has less than a quarter of a mile to the square mile. — The parks and open spaces of London are very numerous, and their total extent is larger perhaps than that of those belonging to any other metropolis of the first magnitude. They are very various in area, ranging from one to several hundred acres. It has been long recognized that London owes a great deal of its physical and political health to its parks and open spaces. All the year round they act as great lungs to the mighty city, while in summer and even to a lerable extent in winter they are the Sun- day resort of the weary workers. The open spaces of London are not confined to any quarter.

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Map of Victoria Park.

The East End has Victoria park (300 acres); Finsbury park (115 acres), too new to be so pleasant to the eye, but still rapidly becoming what it is intended to be; and the half dozen “downs,” “fields,” and “commons” that go under the general name of Hackney Downs (50 acres). It has also, lying just outside its boundaries, the two forests of Epping and Hainault, and several green breadths that may be called everybody's and yet no man's land. South London has some of the finest of the parks and open spaces. To the southeast lie Woolwich common, Greenwich park (174 acres), and Greenwich common, and nearer at hand Lewisham common, Peckham Rye, and Southwark park (63 acres). Directly south lie Camberwell (55 acres) and various little remnants of ancient greens and commons, while the grounds of the Crystal palace may almost be said to answer as a park for the wide districts of Sydenham, Norwood, and Penge. Southwest lie Clapham common (10 acres), Wandsworth common (302), and Wimbledon common (628). Tooting Beck and Tooting Graveney commons and Battersea park (230 acres) also belong to this district. In the north lie Hampstead heath (240 acres), the Greenlanes, the grounds of Alexandra park (192), and Primrose hill. In the west are found Hyde park (about 400 acres), the Green park, St. James's park, Regent's park (450), Kensington gardens (290), and several small “greens,” such as Shepherd's Bush. All these parks, commons, and open spaces are within the actual metropolitan district. Taking in a little wider radius, the heaths, downs, parks, and greens within easy reach of London become almost innumerable. First, beginning at the southeast and sweeping round by the south, west, north, and east, we find Chiselhurst common; a little southwest of this Hayes common, a great resort of cockneys in summer, where any day a score of pleasure vans may be seen; a little further to the west Addington common, also much frequented; still further west Mitcham common and Banstead downs, not to speak of those of Epsom, famous for horse races, or of the score of small spaces kept “open” by the strong hand of the law and the general consent of the people. Approaching the Thames by a northwest course, we next meet with Richmond park (2,253 acres) the largest park near London except that at Windsor (3,800), Hampton Court park and Bushy parks (1,842), and Kew park and gardens (684), the finest botanic garden in England. Crossing the river, we come next upon Ealing and Acton greens (leaving Hownslow heath on the left as out of our radius), Wormwood Scrubs, and numerous little greens and commons. North of Hampstead and Alexandra park the open spaces are fewer and smaller, and owing to a more scattered population less required. Northeast lie Epping and Hainault forests, mentioned before, each of them very large and full of natural beauty.

AmCyc Park - Map of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.jpg
Map of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. — A, Kensington Palace; B B, the Serpentine; C, Round Pond; D D, Rotten Row; E E, the Ladies' Mile; F F F, the Ring; G, Hyde Park Corner; H, Marble Arch; I, Prince Consort's Memorial.

Hyde park, the most noted of the public grounds of London, takes its name from the ancient manor of Hyde, which at one time belonged to the abbey of Westminster, became public property in 1535, was sold by order of parliament in 1652, and again recovered to the crown on the restoration in 1660. It was originally of the usual character of English private parks, a broad piece of quiet pasture ground, with numerous fine great trees scattered over it singly and in groups and masses. In 1730-'33 a body of water was introduced (the Serpentine), but with no care to give it a natural or even a graceful outline. Roads have also been formed in the park from time to time, less with a view to public pleasure driving than for convenient passages. What is called the Rotten Row (a corruption of the French route du roi) was originally the passage for the king and his cavalcade between Westminster and his palace of Kensington; it is a mile long and 90 ft. wide, has a surface of loose fine gravel, and is used by the public only on horseback; it is separated from the Serpentine and “ladies' mile” (45 ft. wide), the fashionable drive of London, by a walk and strip of turf of variable width. It divides and overpowers what might otherwise be a pleasing landscape expanse, and no attempt has been made to mitigate the harshness of the invasion. Parts of Hyde park have lately been made into gardens, and in these during parts of the summer there is a very brilliant display of flowers, “specimens,” and subtropical plants; but the old trees are disappearing more rapidly than young ones are brought forward; the turf is not well kept, and to avoid its destruction in many parts iron hurdles are placed along the walks. It is thus gradually losing its beauty as a park, for which its streaks of fine gardening here and there offer no compensation. The crystal palace was erected in Hyde park in 1851, and on the site now stands the Albert memorial, completed in 1872. (See London.) Regent's park, formerly part of old Marylebone park, was laid out in 1812. There is a drive of nearly two miles around it, and within are the botanic and zoölogical gardens, and a lake. Victoria park in E. London was opened to the public in 1845. A fine drinking fountain, 60 ft. high and costing £5,000, given by Lady Burdett-Coutts, was erected in it in 1862. St. James's park was formed and walled in by Henry VIII., was much improved under Charles II., and was arranged as it now appears chiefly under George IV. The public property in many of the larger commons of London is so complicated by ancient manorial and local rights that its extent cannot be accurately stated. The aggregate area of the several public and crown parks that have been named, together with so much of the commons lying within the metropolitan district as is under the board of works, is about 13,000 acres. There is also in the squares and gardens (place parks), most of which have been established by landlords and are private property but of great public advantage, about 1,200 acres. —

AmCyc Park - Map of Birkenhead Park.jpg

Map of Birkenhead Park and adjoining Villa Sites.

Liverpool and its suburb Birkenhead have six parks, five of which are recent acquisitions and yet incompletely prepared for public use. The largest, Sefton park, contains 387 acres. Birkenhead park contains 120 acres, besides the leased villa grounds (60 acres) by which it is surrounded. It was undertaken as a land speculation, and though too small in scale and too garden-like for the general popular use of a large community, is very pleasing, and is one of the most instructive to study in Europe, having been laid out and the trees planted under the direction of the late Sir Joseph Paxton, over 30 years ago. The corporation of Leeds has lately purchased a noble park of 800 acres, containing a fine stream of water and a lake, formed by the previous owner, of 33 acres. Its scenery is diversified, and it commands fine distant rural views. These advantages and its exemption from injury by factory smoke compensate for the necessity the citizens will be under of reaching it by rail, its distance from the town being 4 m. Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford, and other manufacturing towns of England have acquired parks by subscriptions of citizens or by joint-stock companies. At Halifax a park has been formed and given to the town by a benevolent citizen. Derby is provided in the same way with an arboretum. The city of Lincoln is forming an arboretum on land purchased for this purpose. Most of the small towns of England have some place of recreation, as for instance the old city walls and the river banks above the town at Chester, the common and the old castle grounds at Hereford, and the cathedral greens at Salisbury and Winchester. These consist in each case either of a long broad walk pleasantly bordered and leading to fine views, or a few acres of smooth turf with shaded borders. Most villages in England have a private park near them, which people are allowed to use. When this is not the case, even a hamlet almost invariably has at least a bit of cricket ground or common, where, on benches under a patriarchal oak or elm, the old people meet to gossip and watch the sports of the vigorous youth. Phœnix park at Dublin (1,752 acres) is a fine upland meadow fringed and dotted with trees, but badly laid out and badly kept, being much larger than the town requires or can afford to take suitable care of. — The old towns of the continent have generally provided themselves with recreation grounds by outgrowing their ancient borders of wall and moat and glacis, razing the wall, filling part of the moat, and so, with more or less skilful management of the materials, making the groundwork of a garden in the natural style. This is done admirably at Frankfort, Leipsic, and Vienna. Elsewhere simple broad walks bordered with trees have been laid out upon the levelled parts. The principal promenade of Vienna is the Prater, the chief feature of which is a straight carriage road over a mile long, with a walk on one side and a riding pad on the other. It contains near the town a great number of coffee houses and playhouses; but as it is 5 m. long, considerable portions are thoroughly secluded and rural. Before the recent improvements of the Bois de Boulogne, it was the most frequented large recreation ground in the world. There are numerous other public grounds at Vienna, both urban and suburban. The English garden at Munich was laid out under the direction of Count Rumford by the baron von Skell. It has serious defects, but its scenery in the English style has been considered more agreeable than that of any other public park on the continent; it is about 4 m. long and half a mile wide. The Thiergarten at Berlin contains over 200 acres of perfectly flat land, chiefly a close wood, laid out in straight roads, walks, and riding pads; its scenery is uninteresting. The Prussian royal gardens of Sans Souci, Charlottenburg, and Heiligensee are all extensive grounds, the two former in mixed, the latter in natural style. Public grounds worthy of a traveller's attention exist at Cologne, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, Hanover, Brunswick, Baden, Cassel, Darmstadt, Gotha, Weimar, Wörlitz, Schwetzingen, Teplitz, Prague, and Hamburg. Coffee or beer houses are important adjuncts of German public gardens. The refreshments furnished are plain and wholesome, and the prices moderate. Many families habitually resort to these for their evening meal, especially when, as is usually the case, there is the additional attraction of excellent music furnished by the government. The gardens of Antwerp, the Hague, and Warsaw, and the “city grove” of Pesth, are also remarkable. The famous summer gardens of St. Petersburg are not extensive, being but half a mile long by a quarter of a mile wide, and formal in style. They contain fine trees, are rich in statuary (boxed up in winter), and are the most carefully kept public gardens in the world, as shown in the exceeding freshness and vigor of the plants and flowers and in the deep vivid green of the turf, the more fashionable promenade of St. Petersburg is in the gardens of Katharinenhof, where on the first of May an annual procession of private carriages of almost endless length is headed by that of the emperor. A remarkable ground is that of Tzarskoye Selo, in which is the residence of the imperial family, about two hours from St. Petersburg. Besides the palace, it contains temples, banqueting houses, and theatres, a complete village in the Chinese style, a Turkish mosque, a hermitage, and numerous monuments of military and other achievements. But beyond this museum of incongruous objects there is a part in which there is natural and very beautiful scenery both open and wooded, and much of it is simple. The keeping of the ground employs 600 men. Stockholm has a great variety of delightful waterside rural walks; but the chief object of pride with its people is the Djurgard or deer park, which is a large tract of undulating ground about 3 m. in circumference, containing grand masses of rock and some fine old trees. The Haga park, also at Stockholm, is picturesque, and has the peculiarity of natural water communications between its different parts and the city, so that it is much visited in boats. The environs of Copenhagen contain many grounds of public resort, but the notable promenade of the city is the royal deer park (Dyrhave). In all the Italian cities, the chief public rural resorts are gardens attached to the villas of ancient noble families. The Cascine of Florence is an old pasture of the dairy of the former grand dukes on the banks of the Arno, passing through which are broad straight carriage drives. It contains little that is attractive, but commands delicious views. At a space whence several roads radiate, a band of music usually performs at intervals during the promenade hours. The municipality is now preparing promenades and recreation grounds which promise to be of remarkable interest. The fashionable promenade of Rome has been on the Pincian hill, which has few attractions except in its magnificent distant views. Since Rome was made the capital of the new kingdom of Italy, large public grounds in other quarters have been projected and in great part formed by the municipality. At Naples the fashionable promenade is the Riviera di Chiaja, a public street. It is divided into a ride, a drive, and a walk, and is nearly a mile in length, with a breadth of 200 ft. A part of it is separated from the shore of the bay of Naples by the villa Reale, planted in the garden style. Most towns of Spanish or Portuguese origin are provided with a promenade of formal avenues, to which, generally at dusk, custom brings the ladies in open carriages and the gentlemen on foot or on horseback. —

AmCyc Park - Map of Central Park.jpg
Map of Central Park.

A, the Mall; B, Belvedere; C, Terrace; D, Green; E Ball Ground; F, East Green; G, site for Art Museum; H, Ramble; I, I, I, Reservoirs of City Water Works; K, K, the Meadows; L, Harlem Heights; M, Mount St. Vincent; N, N, Subways for street traffic; O, temporary Museum and Offices; P, temporary Museum, Refectory, and Offices.

Until some years after the middle of the present century no city in North America had begun to make provision for a park. To a certain extent cemeteries were made to serve the purpose. In 1849 Mr. A. J. Downing began in the “Horticulturist” a series of papers which were widely copied and did much to create a demand on this subject. At length a large tract of land was provided in New York, upon which in 1858 the preparation of the present Central park was begun. The topography of the ground was in all important respects the reverse of that which would have been chosen with an intelligent understanding of the desiderata of a park. The difficulties presented could only have been tolerably overcome by an enormous outlay. The popularity of the parts of the park first prepared, however, was so great that the necessary means for improvements on a large scale were readily granted. The magnitude of the operations (nearly 4,000 men being at one time employed on the works), the rapidity of the changes wrought, and the novelty of the scenes presented, soon gave the enterprise great celebrity; and the rapid rise in the taxable value of the land near it more than met the interest oh its cost. An efficient management of its public use was maintained, and though frequented by great crowds of people it was found, contrary to general expectation, that a degree of good order and of social amenity prevailed, nowhere surpassed and rarely equalled in the public places of Europe. Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Albany, Providence, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Montreal, and San Francisco have since each acquired land for one or more parks of considerable extent, the average being over 500 acres. As in the case of New York, the selection of ground has often been made more with reference to other considerations than to that of fitness for the intended use. Some are as yet only held for future use, while in others provisions essentially temporary, and which will be in the way of substantial improvement, are made; none are so far complete and well fitted as fairly to illustrate the ends which a park should be designed to serve. — The Central park of New York is 2 miles long and half a mile wide, but this space is practically divided by the reservoirs of the city water works, which are elevated above its general level and occupy 142 acres. Deducting besides this certain other spaces occupied for special public purposes, the area of the park proper is 683 acres. Of this, 55 acres is meadow-like ground, 54 in smaller glades of turf, 400 of rocky and wooded surface, 43 in six pieces of water, the largest being of 20 acres, 15 in riding ways, 52 in carriage ways, and 39 in walks. There are 5½ m. of rides, 9½ m. of drives, and 28 m. of walks. Omitting a few by-roads, the average breadth of the drives is 50 ft., and of the walks 13 ft. There are 8 bridges (over water) and 38 tunnels and subway arches, 15 of which are concealed from view by plantations carried over them, and all of which are expedients for reconciling within narrow limits the large amount of foot, horse, and wheel room required with sylvan and pastoral landscapes. On the east side, near the middle of the parallelogram containing the park and reservoirs, ground is reserved for a great museum of art; and beyond its boundary on the west side another plot is held for a museum of natural history. The first block of each is now building. There are carriage and foot entrances at the two southern corners, and between them on the south end, at the termini of street railroads, there are two foot entrances; and 14 other entrances are in use or provided for. From the S. E. or Fifth avenue approach, which is most used, the visitor is led by a nearly direct course to a slightly elevated point in the interior of the park, northwardly from which, at great cost in reducing the original rocky knolls, broad green surfaces have been prepared (D, E on the map), and views of a tranquil landscape character obtained of considerable extent. At the most distant visible point a small tower of gray stone (B) has been built to draw the eye, and the perspective effect is aided by the character and disposition of the foliage, and especially by an avenue of elms (A) leading toward it. At the end of this avenue, termed the mall, the ground falls rapidly to the arm of a lake, and here a structure called the terrace (C) has been introduced, which, though mainly below the general plane of the landscape and unobtrusive, supplies a considerable shelter and place of reunion. It is designed to be richly decorated with sculptured works. On one side of it is the concert ground of the park, on the other a fountain surmounted by a bronze typifying the angel of Bethesda. The concert ground is overlooked by a shaded gallery called the Pergola, back of which is a small house of refreshment in cottage style. On the opposite side of the water is a rocky and wooded slope, threaded by numerous paths, called the ramble (F). These with the green (D), play ground reserved for the scholars of the public schools, two irregular bodies of water, and several rocky knolls (on one of which is the Kinderberg, a place for little children), form the chief features of the south park. Those of the north are a central meadow (K) divided by a rocky spur, the high wooded ground beyond it (L), with a steep rocky face on the north, and an intermediate glen with a chain of waters. The number of visits to the park sometimes exceeds 100,000 in a day, and is about 10,000,000 a year. —

AmCyc Park - Map of Prospect Park.jpg
Map of Prospect Park.

A, A, A, the Long Meadow; B, the Nether Mead; C, Deer Park; D, Lookout Hill; E, Breeze Hill; F, Concert Grove; G, Promenade; H, Children's Play Ground; I, Picnic Ground; K, Parade Ground.

Prospect park of Brooklyn, N. Y., contains, with the adjoining parade ground, 550 acres. There is included in it a considerable amount of old wood, and for this reason, and because of the better soil, climate, and early horticultural management, it has a finer rural and more mature character than the New York park, though its construction was begun eight years later. It has about 6 m. of drives, 4 m. of ride, and 20 m. of walks. Its artificial water covers a space of 50 acres, and is supplied from a well by a steam pump. It commands a fine view over the ocean. (See Brooklyn.) There are 33 smaller public grounds in New York and Brooklyn, all but three of which are improved and in use, the total pleasure ground space of the two cities being 1,600 acres. — Fairmount park of Philadelphia is a body of land 2,740 acres in extent, having a great variety of surface, all of it of considerable natural beauty. The heights command fine distant prospects; it bears many noble trees, and at the part most remote from the city there is a glen through which dashes a charmingly picturesque stream. It is divided by the Schuylkill river and crossed by a common highway and in two directions by railroads, the cuttings and embankments of which unfortunately completely break the naturally most quiet scenes. These with other structures, some of which have been recently erected and are designed to be permanent, greatly disturb its natural beauty. The object of the city in acquiring the ground was to control it against such occupations as would peril its water supply, and its permanent disposition is not fully determined. Appropriations have been already made for two large reservoirs, for pumping works, and for a zoölogical garden. No measure has yet been taken looking to the permanent preservation or special preparation of any considerable part distinctly as a park; but drives, rides, and walks have been formed, mainly temporary, by which all parts are traversed or laid open to view. Several houses which were originally private villas are used as refectories; the river is well adapted to pleasure boating; the spaces are so large that few restrictions on the movements of visitors are necessary; and in spite of the defects to which allusion has been made, the ground offers better and larger opportunities for popular rural recreation than are possessed in a single property by any other city in the world. Druid Hill park in Baltimore, of 600 acres, is a very beautiful old wood, acquired by the city in 1860, the original private improvements of which have been enlarged and extended for public use. Buffalo is forming the most complete system of recreation grounds of any city in the United States. It will consist of an inland suburban park of 300 acres, of very quiet rural character, with an ample approach from the centre of the city, and parkways 200 ft. wide extending from it in opposite directions, one to a promenade overlooking Lake Erie, the other to a parade ground and a garden on the opposite side of the town. There is a fine natural growth of trees in the main park, a lake of 46 acres has been formed, and several miles of fair macadamized roads and walks constructed, together with various suitable buildings. The work was begun in 1871, and has been advanced very steadily and economically. The aggregate area of ground occupied, including the parkways, is 530 acres. Chicago is situated in a region most unfavorable to parks, and should she ever have any that are deserving the name, it will be because of a persistent wisdom of administration and a scientific skill as well as art in the constant management of those which she is setting about, such as has been nowhere else applied to a similar purpose. The grounds appropriated are flat, poor in soil, and devoid of desirable natural growth, or, except two which look upon Lake Michigan, of any natural features of interest. In one it is proposed to transform a series of marshes partly overflowed by high water of the lake into lagoons, the quiet water surface of which is designed to take the place ordinarily given to lawns in sylvan landscapes; this, if the idea is consistently carried out, will be unique and interesting. The Chicago park system contains nearly 1,900 acres of land in six parks of an average extent of 250 acres each, three in one chain, and all with one exception connected by parkways. About 20 m. of parkway, from 200 to 250 ft. wide, has been laid out (in the city and suburbs), nearly half of which is already provided with good macadamized or concrete roads and well planted. St. Louis now controls 2,100 acres of lands held for recreation grounds, of which about 100 are in place parks, the greater part improved and in use, and the remainder suitable for parks proper, the smallest field being of 180 acres and the largest of 1,350. Of the latter, one only, Tower Grove park, containing 277 acres, is yet at all adapted to use. A parkway 120 ft. wide and 12 m. long is under construction. Cincinnati has a little over 400 acres of public recreation ground, 207 being in Eden park, which lies on undulating ground commanding fine distant views, and 168 in Burnett wood, which has a similar surface with a fine growth of indigenous trees. There will be about 3 m. of pleasure road in each. Cincinnati possesses in Spring Grove cemetery the best example in the world, probably, of landscape gardening applied to a burial place; and her parks are likely to be improved with the same taste and skill. San Francisco holds 1,100 acres of land for recreaation grounds, of which over 1,000 acres is in one body, called the Golden Gate park. This borders on the ocean, and is very bleak and partly covered with drift sand; no trees grow upon it except in an extremely dwarfed and distorted form, and turf can only be maintained by profuse artificial watering; but wherever shelter, fertility, and sufficient root moisture can be secured, a low, southern, almost subtropical vegetation may be maintained throughout the year, of striking luxuriance and beauty. Experiments in arresting the sand and forming a screen of foliage on the shore have been made with promising success. If steadily, boldly, and generously pursued, with a cautious humoring of the design to the unique natural conditions, and skilful adaptation of available means, a pleasure ground not at all park-like, but strikingly original and highly attractive, may be expected. Nearly 7 m. of carriage road has already been formed on the ground, and it is much used. A parkway stretching 3 m. along the shore is provided for, the reservation for it ranging from 200 to 400 ft. in breadth. For other information concerning the parks mentioned above, see the articles on the cities where they are situated; and for accounts of the so-called national parks see Wyoming (territory), and Yosemite.