A MUNICIPAL EXHIBIT
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.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The unnecessary confusion at the curb line is another matter demanding attention, Figs. 8 and 10. Fig. 11 shows one of several types of accessories leading up to and forming part of the Paris Opera House. In other cases, billboards are included in the bases of columns carrying clustered lights, and are even made integral parts of the masonry of the building. The Opera House also offers the example of masterly treatment in the way in which the curbs defer to the architecture and east circulation.
A well laid-out surface, street or square, if of imposing dimensions, demands punctuation and emphasis at certain points. On the surface, measure marks and radiating lines; above it, trees, fixtures, benches, fountains and the massive pedestals for works of sculpture are the principal means employed. Imagine the Place de la Concorde such a parched uneven and cracked surface of asphalt as that before our majestic National Capitol, or imagine a wilderness of trolley poles and wires obscuring its noble buildings. This last is the condition in Copley square, Boston, where, in addition, a feeble attempt at horticultural embellishment adds to the discord in one of the most promising civic centres in the country.
The eight massive monuments in the Place de la Concorde, Fig. 3, are not inharmonious units, but eight transit points punctuating the corners of a noble surface. The rostral columns bearing lamps are the termini of balustrades, and give emphasis to lines of circulation, as do all other standards. The obelisk and its two fountains hold down the centre and line up the square as but a unit in the arterial system of a great city. Thus every unit is subordinated to a function, and the larger ones bring distant objects into line and force. Framed with trees and centred with running water, it appears cooler and more shaded than many squares of one-quarter its area.
The corners of a basin near a great cathedral tower in Spain are punctuated by four monuments, as seen in Fig. 14. Countless other examples might be shown, many of them even more ancient, proving that such accessories have always supplemented the purely utilitarian features to give artistic emphasis. For contrast note in Fig. 10 the modern ash-lift in front of the most costly city hall in the world, and right under the nose of the statue of America's greatest merchant prince. It is thus we do honor to our dead and show our civic pride!
In Fig. 8 the American-Italian, with his wares, is quite as much a fixture as the four curb obstructions erected in accordance with city regulations, and is not half so apt to be run down or left in a state of irreparable dilapidation. By taking views of American cities in contrast with similar views in better ordered communities abroad, a great object lesson could have been brought before the public at the St. Louis Exposition.
In so brief an article it is only possible to touch lightly on a few of the lesser units, which are now essential to municipal house-keeping. That in many cities there are many types of fixtures, simple or ornate, to harmonize with their surroundings all know. That some, as in the famous old square at Brussels, are designed to echo the sentiments of the bygone day still reflected in its architecture, some have observed, and others have noted the patron saint of the city or an ancient emblem which crowns all such public property. Few know, however, that in Switzerland some cities have their coats of arms enamelled in the brightest heraldic colors as an adornment of a mere electric-light standard. Had such a fixture been displayed beside a crooked telegraph pole, with an ugly telephone junction box on top and an arc-lamp dangling from its wire weighted cross-tree, the contrast would have been marked.
In order to show that the initial impulse back of this exhibit was a worthy one, it is interesting to quote from one of the official circulars. Such information may be helpful in assisting others to get up a really representative exhibit now that the ice has been broken. New York, San Francisco, Minneapolis and St. Paul, and Kansas City have shown by their special buildings at St. Louis that our cities are ready for such a comparative exhibit and willing to pay for it. The same thought is further borne out by the exhibit made by the city of Boston, and the groups displayed by various societies and manufacturers.
As the circular announcement reads, the exhibit at St. Louis was "the opportunity to make practical proof of the economy and character to be gained by putting a little time and thought, in coöperation with others, on questions of municipal improvement only one step less imperative than a sewage system. The commercial advantage that the business man finds in the well-appointed office building he must come to see as equally desirable on the larger scale in a well-appointed and well-cared for city.
"In private enterprise the principles involved have long passed the dubitable stage, and in semi-public institutions and large manufacturing establishments the influence of order, cleanliness and attractive surroundings upon the efficiency of the whole plant has been demonstrated over and over. In all these cases the initiative of a central or official influence is felt, and the problem before us is to effect a transfer from the private to the public domain, and to make the enthusiasm of scattered individuals and corporations the enthusiasm of cities and nations. It is to make men feel the same pride in municipal neatness as in personal neatness, and the same shame and personal loss in municipal carelessness that they would feel if forced to appear on the street with unclean hands or disordered dress."
It was realized that as it was to be "surrounded on all sides by the richest forms of architectural construction, it must give a new satisfaction to the already satiated. To do this, and to prove that progress on this line is practical in all communities, the leading notes to be struck are those of simplicity, comfort and convenience. Above all, it means city treatment as opposed to exposition treatment. The problems dealt with will be those certain to exist in the home town of every visitor, and the treatment such as to be directly and immediately applicable there. It will show, not what might be done under ideal circumstances, but what can be economically done anywhere to-day. By every possible means, an air of permanence and stability is to be maintained. All street fixtures will either be selected from those already in use here or aborad, or will be designed primarily for actual use, with direct reference to a cost of production within the means of any city or town.
"In a word, the exhibit will show how much can easily be done in even a small town; and, further, that what is most needful in the improvement of municipalities is not more money, but a more intelligent and earnest general interest in the subject."
Such were the aspirations. What will be the result? First, this beginning will be the forerunner of municipal exhibitions in the United States, which cannot fail to accomplish much in making American cities and towns more nearly beautiful; second, let us hope the imperfect attempt to call attention to the value of the work of the late Charles Eliot, the father of American cit-making, may prove successful.