Saturday, June 25, 2005

Landscape of the American Renaissance: The Life and Work of George Edward Kessler by Kurt Culbertson

This is the unpublished biography of George Edward Kessler [1862-1923], landscape architect from Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri.



CHAPTER ONE: EARLY YEARS
More than any other individual, George Edward Kessler carried the profession of landscape architecture into the heartland of America. As a European immigrant in this country's frontier, he bestowed upon the cities of middle America an urbanity reminiscent of the Old World yet with a uniquely American style. The form and character of many of the great cities of this country can be directly traced to Kessler's work. Yet despite his influence, Kessler has been largely forgotten, his efforts reduced to a footnote in contemporary American planning literature.
George Edward Kessler was born in Bad Frankenhausen, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, Germany, on July 16, 1862, to Ernst Edward1 (in some sources Kessler's father's name is listed as George Carl) and Adolphe Clotilde Zetzsche Kessler. Bad Frankenhausen was a small village in Thuringia, the southwestern corner of what until 1991 was the German Democratic Republic.2
In the wedding records Ernst Edward was identified as a kaufmann2, or salesman, though according to family legend, he was the eldest son of a landed family who was expected to become manager of the family estates3. Unfortunately the demands of the position were unsuited to Ernst Edward's artistic temperament. In order to avoid seeing the lands fall into ruin under his mismanagement, the family first financed him in an export-import business. This enterprise, however, failed due to a partner's dishonesty.
Undetered the patient family then funded a start for Ernst Edward Kessler in America. In 1865 young George Edward, then three; his mother, Adolphine Clotilde Zetzsche; his older sister, Fredericka Antoinette Louisa, age eighteen, and father departed for New York. As did many German immigrants during the period, the family traveled by steamship from either the port of Bremen or Hamburg4.
The Kesslers first found a home in Hoboken, New Jersey, at the time, a predominantly German settlement of 12,9765. That the Kessler's settled in the small town across the Hudson River from New York City is not surprising. For twenty-five years following its incorporation on March 28th, 1855, Hoboken would serve as a popular resort for the citizens of the metropolis.
Two years before the family's arrival in the city, the Hamburg-American Steamship Company established a western terminal for its fleet of fifty-five ships.6 The company was known for its express service between Hamburg, New York, Southhampton, and other parts of the world. That same year the North German Lloyd steamship line was also established in Hoboken. From its location at the foot of Third and River Street, the company's fourteen ships offered tri-weekly service to Southhampton and Bremen, Germany.7
The steamship lines and piers formed a gateway for German immigrants to America. Many chose to settle there, building their homes and establishing themselves close to the waterfront along River, Hudson, Washington, and Bloomfield streets. They were builders, architects, saloon keepers, and owners of furnished rooms. Some became very affluent families.
The most prominent of these German immigrants formed the German Riding Academy; the German Club, Hoboken's oldest social club; and the Quartet Club, another social club.8 Residents of the city found entertainment at the Germania Garden. Many of the city's buildings were designed in the German style. The presence of such familiar surroundings must have eased the adjustment to the new world for the Kessler family.
Why Ernst Edward Kessler chose to leave Germany and come to America to pursue his career is unknown. His lack of business acumen and "artistic temperament" might be viewed as simply personal traits if not examined in the light of the social and economic conditions of Germany in the 1860's.
Germany was experiencing the massive social transformation underway throughout Europe. The continent was seeing the onset of tremendous population growth leaving people without homes or shops upon which to build a family. The revolutionary changes of technology, the large factory, and wage-labor force were imposing unacceptable new lifestyles upon the population. Accumulated pools of wealth fostered major centers of economic and political power. Changes in mass communication, transportation, and information exchange such as the railroad, the cheap newspaper, and the steamship further contributed to the cultural pressures felt by German society. The small family farmer faced with the growth of the rural populations, pressure on land, and the emergence of large-scale commercial agriculture found little chance for the success of the small subsistence farm. The small family businessman faced with modern industry, transportation, and capitalism, was overwhelmed by a scale of competition heretofore unknown. Though the failure of Ernst Edward Kessler's import-export business may have been the result of poor business abilities, it may well have been that Ernst Edward Kessler, like many other German small businesmen of the period, was a victim of the times.
These conditions resulted in the dramatic changes in the political climate in Germany as well. The 1848 revolution in Germany aimed at replacing constitutional government in the hands of people had failed. Otto Von Bismarck on September 22, 1862, had been appointed minister-president and foreign minister of the kingdom of Prussia. The thirty-year rule of the "Iron Chancellor" had begun. Bismarck's rule was often violent ignoring the German parliament, constitution, and people. As a merchant, it was unlikely that Ernst Edward Kessler was close enough to the ruling class to be free of Bismarck's repression.
During these years, a cultural style emerged in Germany which offers insight into the nature of German society's response to the pressures of the period. The Biedermier style, as it was known, was characterized by its "home-seeking, quiet-seeking quality, its preoccupation with private things, and with stability. It was an expression of retreat, of cultural 'inner migration', to stable values of family, the small traditional community, to the eternal patterns of nature. In Biedermeier paintings we find mature and quiet landscapes, small town scenes, home interiors, and especially the family group, harmoniously depicted making house-music."9 In the writing of fiction, the Biedermeier style was characteristically the village novel or tale, celebrating the simplicity, virtue, and truth of the small and stable community, put in deliberate contrast with the rushing, changing, great world that came to be called "modern times." What has often been described as Ernst Edward Kessler's artistic sensibilities may may been a response to the Biedermier movement so prevalent in German society at the time.
The typical German emigrant, like Ernst Edward Kessler, was not a rich man or a very poor man; he was rather the small family farmer, the independent artisan, the small merchant with a steady family trade, the young man for whom that was the proper expectation, or the young woman for whom that was the proper marriage.
The German emigrant to America characteristically was somebody who did not want to go to the German city and its way of life. Among immigrant nationalities of the nineteenth century, the Germans seemed least likely to aim for and to congregate in the great metropolitan centers of North America, nor did they aim for the wilds of the frontier. On the whole, the Germans headed for the slightly populated, open but gentled areas of the Midwest and the old Northwest. Once there they established their homes and they stayed, again unlike some immigrant nationalities who often worked and saved their money in order to return to the old country.
The Biedermeier emigration, as it might be called, was particularly strong during the 1840's and 1850's. It peaked in the middle of the latter decade at a quarter-million German emigrants a year. It slowed somewhat in the 1860's due to American nativism, economic troubles, and civil wars in both countries, making it harder and riskier to move.
In contrast to Germany, the United States in 1865 offered great promise to Europeans anxious for a new life. The American Civil War had ended, yet the economic boom that had started in the North under the stimulus of war continued unabated as the country entered upon a period of unparalled expansion. American railroads eager to dispose of their landholdings mounted an advertising campaign of the continent which painted an alluring picture of America. Gottfried Duden's book, Reise Nach Den Westlichen Staaten [Travel To The Western States],10 was circulated widely in Germany. It provided a glowing description of the region along the Missouri River and encouraged large numbers of Germans to immigrate to the lower Missouri Valley.
After a brief period in New York, the Kesslers followed the route of most of the German immigrants of the period who went West, either to become farmers or to settle in such Midwestern urban centers as Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. The family lived briefly in St. Louis and Hannibal, Missouri, and Racine, Wisconsin,11 before finally settling in the frontier town of Dallas, Texas.12 The name of Edward Kessler appears in the 1871-72 City Directory of Hannibal, Missouri, though one cannot be certain that this was young George's father.13 The data contained in this directory was probably compiled in 1870. At that time, Dallas was a small town only forty years onld with roughly 5,000 inhabitants.
In Dallas the two Kessler brothers, Ernst Edward and Frederick Jacob, invested in a cotton plantation near the city. Unfortunately the senior Kessler's business venture in the New World proved to be no more successful than his export-import enterprise in Germany. Again according to family legend, shortly after arriving in Dallas, George Kessler's father died, possibly of a fever, a thwarted, frustrated man. Records of the Dallas District Court, however, indicate that Ernst Edward Kessler received his formal naturalization on May 9, 1879.
The family moved into the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas where his mother taught art. George found a position as a cash boy (by some reports a bill collector) in the Sanger Brothers Department Store, the business of another German immigrant, Alex Sanger.13
A biographical sketch of George Kessler published in the National Cyclopedia of Biography indicated that George Kessler's uncle, (perhaps the same uncle with whom his father purchased the cotton farm) was said to be the first landscape gardener in Galveston, Texas. A review of Galveston city directories of the period indicate that a Frederick Kessler, who lived at the northwest corner of 6th and Avenue L, was the keeper of the Cedar Grove Garden or Park at 56th and P Streets.14 This may well have been Frederick Jacob Kessler. It seems Frederick Kessler's career as a gardener was short lived. The garden (apparently a private pleasure ground) was not listed in the directory after 1880.
Frederick's name subsequently appeared as proprietor of the G.C. and S.F. saloon at his residence at the southwest corner of 31st and Mechanic and later a saloon and boarding house at 37th and Post Office, also his residence.15 Frederick was among over 1000 residents of Galveston who lost their lives in the hurricane of September 8, 1900.16 He was survived by his wife, Julia, and his daughters Fredericka and Nora.
Determined that her son would not suffer the unhappiness her husband had known, Clotilde chose to develop her son's artistic talents and after consultation with her family returned to Germany in 1878 with young George and Antoine. It is not known why Clotilde Kessler chose to return to Germany for her son's education rather than to send him to an American university. Perhaps as a recent immigrant he could not gain admission to the best schools in this country. Perhaps his mother simple chose this opportunity to reintroduce George to the homeland and culture he had left at an early age. Perhaps without a husband and an income with which to support her family, Clotilde Kessler, was compelled to rejoin her family in Germany while her son trained for his profession.
A more likely explanation was the pre-eminence of German educational institutions during the period. Kessler was merely one of thousands of foreign students who flocked to the German centers of learning. For whatever reason, sixteen-year old George Kessler once again found himself in the ancient German province of Thuringia with its dark forest dotted with castles and manors.
The Germany to which the Kesslers returned was far different from the country they last saw in 1865. Until late in the 19th century, Germany existed as several independent principalities. Between 1866 and 1871, however, Count Otto von Bismarck united Germany under Prussian control. His philosophy of "Realpolitik" gave precedence to foreign rather than domestic policy, including the use of war as the instrument of politics. With the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and the subsequent Prussian victory, Berlin became the capital of a united Germany.
Ironically in the years since the Kessler's departure for the United States in 1865, Germany had become an industrial giant exceeded only by the United States. As in America, this rapid growth led to new and serious problems. The rate of urbanization was astonishing. Berlin had become one of the largest cities in the world with accompanying problems of housing, education, health and sanitation, recreation, parks, and transportation.
The next two years of George Kessler's life would provide the foundation for his professional career as a landscape architect. In Europe he would be exposed to much of the greatest of the continent's examples of urban planning and garden design. He would also come in contact with the works of Germany's greatest landscape architects. The design principles expressed in these projects would later reappear in his own efforts.
Young George began his studies at the private school for landscape gardening at the Grand Ducal Gardens in Weimar (the gardens were laid out principally by Grand Duke Carl August of Weimar and his friend Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great German poet).17
One cannot imagine a more inspiring setting for a university education. A small, quiet town on the banks of the River Ilm, Weimar was a city one-thousand years old. As the home of Goethe, Christoph Martin Wieland, Johann Gottfried von Herder, Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, and Baron Alexander von Humboldt, it was the center of German literary heritage. For George Kessler the contrast between Dallas and Weimar must have been startling.
While the young Kessler found a modern country, in Germany young Kessler found a tradition of garden design largely borrowed from the historic formal styles of France and Italy. In fact, many of the greatest gardens in the country such as the Schlossparks Nymphenburg and Schleissheim in Munich and the Schloss Augustusburg and Falkenlust in Bruhl were designed by Simeon Godeau, Charles Carbonet, and Dominique Girard, pupils of the great French landscape architect, Andre Le Notre.18 Baroque style parterres, terrraced gardens, avenues of lime trees, and long canals, became common features in German landscape designs of the period. Italians such as Giovanni Francesco Guerniero in his designs for the water cascades at Sclosspark Wilhelmshohe in Kassel also added to the country's garden heritage.19
The late 18th and early 19th century in Germany saw the emergence of native landscape architects, in particular F.L. von Sckell, and, somewhat later Peter Joseph Lenne. These two gentlemen, while excellent designers, brought not a uniquely German style to the period, but rather worked principally to transform many of the country's baroque gardens into parks in the naturalistic English fashion pioneered by Sir Humphrey Repton and Lancelot Capability Brown.
F.L. von Sckell was perhaps Germany's foremost landscape architect of late 18th and early 19th century. At the Schonbusch at Aschaffenburg around 1780, von Sckell was responsible for creating Germany's first park in the English style. Situated in a loop in the River Miam, the 395 acre park contains a number of fine and unusual trees such as the copper beech and ginkgo,as well as, a maze, a belvedere, a lake, a canal with bridges, the Temple of Friendship, and pavilions. The use of exotic trees and architctural follies would also appear in other von Sckell works such as the Benedictine Abbey of Amorbach; the Englischer Garten in Munich, at 902 acres one of Europe's largest parks within a city; the baroque Schloss Schleissheim in Munich, and the Schlosspark in Eulbach. Though Kessler's later efforts were not as eclectic as von Sckell's the use of exotic plant materials and a variety of architectural delights would at times find their way into his designs.
In Weimar, George Edward Kessler studied botany, forestry, and design and worked in the city's parks and in the Belvedere with "great charge" of surveying and planting as assistant to Garteninspektor Julius Hartwig and Hofgartner Armin Sckell.20 Hartwig had preceded Sckell as hofgartner (estate gardener) at Weimar assuming that position in 1857 before being promoted to garden inspector in 1878.21
Hartwig lived and worked in a small two-story cottage at the edge of Park an der Ilm, the beautiful park along the banks of the Ilm River which had been laid out between 1778 and 1833 by the poet Goethe and Hofgartner von Sckell. The sixty hectare park which includes the valley and sloping banks of the Ilm River through the city, was modelled by Goethe and Sckell on other landscape parks and on landscape paintings in literature. Goethe lived in the park for six years, living in the Garden House on the right bank of the Ilm and cultivating the small garden of his own design. Here Kessler would experience first hand the potential of urban waterways to enrich and enliven the public life of a city. Repeatedly in his own career as a park planner, Kessler would call upon cities to preserve and improve their streams and rivers as essential parts of a city's open space system.
The Hartwig home and office was located just behind the Weimar home of the composer Franz Liszt which fronted on Marienstrasse Belvederer which led from the city center to Schloss Belvedere. Liszt was sixty-seven years old at the time of Kessler's arrival in Weimar. Liszt who had composed his Symphonic Poems during his "Weimar decade" of 1848 to 1858, spent his summers from 1869 to 1886 in this house. Though he was traveling almost compulsively within a triangle of Budapest, Weimar, and Rome at this time, it is quite likely that Kessler had the opportunity to meet the elder musician during his stay in the city.
Hofgartner Sckell was the fifth in a line of a noted family of German gardeners. His great grandfather, Johann Georg Sckell had served as an estate gardener in the Thuringian towns of Wilhelmsthal and Eisenach. His grandfather, Johann Christian, and father, Edward, had both served as first estate gardener, and then, garden inspector, at the Belvedere in Weimar. An uncle, Carl August, served as an estate gardener in Dornburg. Like his forefathers, and son to follow, Armin Sckell began his work in the Belvedere as gartenkondukteur (a garden guide) in 1862 at the age of twenty-six. Eleven years later he rose to the position of hofgartner [estate gardener] in 1873.22 He was forty-two when Kessler came under his charge, and would hold the position of hofgartner until 1900 when he assumed the position of garden inspector upon Hartwig's retirement. Sckell had worked closely with Goethe in designing the Park An De Ilm as well.
The Schloss Belvedere was built in 1724-32 as a baroque hunting and entertainment castle, and contains a beautiful Orangery with garden houses once used by Goethe. The original park grounds of Belvedere were transformed in 1814-40 into a landscape park by Maria Pawlowna, daughter-in-law of Duke Carl August.23 Maria Pawlowna also created the Russian Garden at Belvedere, an imitation of the private gardens of the Russian Czar family in Pawlowsk. Around 1824 the Orangery buildings and nursery housed more than 5,000 kinds of plants, a broad collection of domestic and foreign plants.
While in Weimar, it was likely that Kessler also had the opportunity to study Schloss Tiefurt, a farmhouse built in 1760 and in 1776 developed as the residence of Weimar Prince Constantin. From 1781-1806, the castle was the summer home of Duchess Anna Amalia and a center of literary and social encounters. Goethe, Wieland, Herder, Schiller, and Humboldt, were often guests.24
The castle has a beautiful park which was begun around 1776. Anna Amalia expanded the park to the valley slope on the opposite side of the Ilm and built memorial monuments, grottos, temples, and a garden salon. A final expansion and renovation was undertaken by the landscape architect Eduard Petzold from 1846-50. The renaissance and rococo Dornburg Castles and gardens and the gardens of the Castle Kochberg were also likely inspiration for the young Kessler.
In addition to his studies in Weimar, Kessler also spent several months of work with the firm of Haage and Schmidt, a major German plant nursery in Erfurt.25 The Haage and Schmidt nursery was confiscated by the Communist government following the Second World War and now serves as the campus of the school of landscape architecture in Erfurt.
A few dozen kilometers east of Weimar lay Jena, home of Germany's premier university. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Romantic movement sunk its first roots into German soil here under Holderlin, Schlegel, Novalis, and Tieck, while philosophers Schiller, Hegel, Fichte, and Schelling argued for a new conception of intellectual and political freedom. Here Kessler received instruction in civil engineering while his sister, Antoine, pursued studies in landscape art and design.
Perhaps the most important portion of George Kessler's German education came in Potsdam on the outskirts of Berlin. Potsdam, a stunning city of palaces and lakes, served as the summer retreat of the Brandenburg and Prussian nobility. Between the middle of the 17th and 18th century, numerous summer palaces were constructed, the principal structures being the Sanssouci Palace, one of the premier rococo structures of the period. Unlike other Prussian undertakings, the palace was not designed to reflect the might of the state, but rather to provide a place of rest and contentment for the nobility, hence Sanssoui, "without care", or "free from worry."
The palace actually consisted of a complex of buildings including the Bildergalerie [Picture Gallery], Orangerie, Charlottehof Palace, and Neues Palais [New Palace], set within a park. Between 1787 and 1791, the Neuer Garten [New Garden], was built as a pastoral retreat rather than an opulent summer palace. Over 13,000 trees from various parts of the empire were transported and planted here, providing a wonderful place for the young Kessler to study.
Here he received further training at the Gaertner Lehr Anstalt in Potsdam. This famous garden school, founded in 1824 by the famous German landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenne, was located in a two- story structure at the edge of the great San Souci garden. Kessler's name does not appear in the directory of students at the school, apparently indicating that his stay was for only a few months.26
While in Potsdam, he also studied with Hofgartner Theodore Neitner at the Neue Garten. Neitner was the author of a world famous book on roses, Die Rose, ihre Geschichte, Arten, Kultur, und Verwendung [The Rose, Its History, Species, Cultivation, and Use].27 Neitner had been at the Neue Garten since 1879. Further studies at the Charlottenburg Polytechnicum, the premier horticultural library in Germany, completed Kessler's studies.
In Potsdam and nearby Berlin, Kessler was exposed to the works of Peter Joseph Lenne. One of Lenne's most important works was the Schloss Charlottenburg in Potsdam which held a summer palace for the wife of King Frederick I. The Schloss Charlottenburg was originally built in 1697 by Simon Godeau in the formal tradition of LeNotre. Around 1816, however, it had been remodelled in the English style by Lenne. Unlike Capability Brown in England and to a lesser degree von Sckell in his own country who wiped away all traces of the earlier formal garden schemes, Lenne often kept portions of the original gardens in his designs. At Charlottenburg the grounds behind the palace were kept as a baroque garden including parterres with changing displays of color.
Kessler undoubtedly found inspiration in the imperial capital of Berlin. In the heart of the city lay Unter der Linden [Under the Linden], the grand tree boulevard which terminated at the Brandenburger Tor, the imperial entrance to the city. Along this boulevard stood the principal civic buildings of the city.
Berlin also held the majority of the works of Lenne. In 1816, Lenne had remodeled the formal French garden of the Schloss Charlottenburg as an English landscaped park. The 287 acre Park Kleinglienicke in 1826, the 413 acre Tiergarten in 1838, the Kurpark in Bad Neuenahr, and the Flora Park of Cologne in 1864 followed. Six years later, Lenne modeled the Pfaueninsel [Peacock Island] in the River Havel in the English style after the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. It was Lenne's masterful blending of formal baroque elements and the naturalistic English style, coupled with the German love of horticultural displays that created a German design different from the landscape architecture of Great Britain, France, and Italy. At the Gaertner Lehr Anstalt and the Neue Garten, Kessler was undoubtably taught in the Lenne tradition. These same principles would often appear in Kessler's professional work.
For four years Kessler studied under the professors of these various schools though he never enrolled as a formal student. During this period, his sister Antoine also studied landscape art and design, though the nature of her curriculum is unknown.
Kessler furthered his education in civic design by his extensive travels throughout central and western Europe, including the principal cities of Germany, and southern England, including the large parks and gardens in and about London. One cannot be certain of the sites the young landscape architect visited during his travels, but it is likely that he saw the grand boulevards of Baron Georges Eugene Haussmann's Paris and the new public parks of England such as Birkenhead in Liverpool.
In Germany, the young artist was profoundly moved by the work of Prince Puckler-Muskau. Prince Puckler-Muskau created a beautiful park on his ancestral grounds at Muskau, Germany, between 1828 and 1845. Applying a critical eye to the work of the English landscape gardening school, particularly the works of English landscape architects, Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton. Puckler created not a spectacular design, but one whose beauty lay in quiet simplicity and straightforwardness.
The property with which Puckler worked contained not only his ancestral Schloss Muskau but the town of Muskau and the villages of Berg, Lucknitz, Kraunsdorf, and Kobeln. Puckler retained all of these, rehabilitating and repairing where necessary, utilizing these elements as integral parts of the "locality and history" of the place.28
Puckler diverted a small part of the Neisse River which flowed through the Muskau property. The new stream led toward the town. The stream continued northeastward forming another small lake and returning to the Neisse. He converted the existing moat into a lake which partly wrapped around the castle.
The entire scheme was tied together with a flowing system of roads, paths, and bridges, that provided routes of great variety and ingenuity. The great strength of the park, however, came from the clear structuring of beautiful pastoral spaces along sight lines.
Puckler explained this plan, "the indispensible foundation for the building of a park is a controlling scheme. It should be begun and carried out with entire consistency." This quality, he urged, is "the same principle which. . . makes of the true work of art a microcosm, a perfect self-contained world in little."29
Puckler understood the importance of recognizing topographic units and treated them homogenously. Since the park is set in a valley which allows the skyline to be controlled, he directed the interest inward, and provided a sense of cohesion.
Puckler understood the outward reach of space as well. "It is obvious that every interesting feature of the distant landscape should be included in the park...distant views...lying away beyond the actual grounds, give an appearance of measureless extent."30
Prince Puckler design also reflects the value of a perceptible sequence of space and views. "Drives should be laid out so that chief points of interest and the most noteworthy objects in the entire park may be visited one after another without passing the same object twice - at least not in the same direction- on the round trip."31 In his work, Kessler applied the principles learned in his understanding and studying in the work of Puckler and others in Germany.
In October 1881, Kessler returned to New York. Why the Kessler's returned to America rather than remain in their native land near family is unknown. The political and economic climate was not substantially different from the conditions under which they emigrated sixteen years earlier. Perhaps more importantly, George and Antoine Kessler had lived virtually all of their lives in the United States. They were now Americans, though they retained an appreciation and love of their German heritage.
The construction of Frederick Law Olmsted`s Central Park, begun in 1858, was virtually complete at the time Kessler arrived in the United States. Although Olmsted`s early work had been immensely successful in bringing landscape architecture into public work this new vocation had but a handful of practitioners in its early years. "When I came to Kansas City," Kessler later remarked, "there were hardly half a dozen landscape architects in the country."32
In addition to Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux, Jacob Wiedenmann, a former associate of Olmsted`s, Horace Cleveland, and Robert Morris Copeland, were the most notable of this group. In the 24 years since the initial work began on Central Park, landscape architecture had begun to have an impact on the nation. In addition to his work with Vaux in Central Park and Prospect Park in New York, Olmsted had produced his plan for the Back Bay of Boston. Wiedenmann had laid out the public park in Hartford, Connecticut. While Olmsted and most of the other professionals focussed their efforts on the Eastern Seaboard, Horace Cleveland, with projects in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Kansas, carried the new profession westward. In 1873, Cleveland published a little book entitled Landscape Architecture As Applied To The Wants Of The West, which expressed a concern for the visual fate of the "vast regions lying undisturbed between the Mississippi and the Pacific."33 Other than Cleveland's work, few examples of landscape design existed west of the Mississippi at this time.
Kessler`s formal training set him apart from the other practitioners of the new profession in the United States. The first course in landscape design would not be taught in this country for another eight years (Harvard, 1900). Most landscape architects at that time originated from one of three backgrounds: they were converted architects, they had apprenticed with a park or garden designer, or they were glorified horticulturalists, knowledgeable about plant material but lacking in design background.
Kessler's return to the United States was particularly timely for a landcape architect trained in Europe. The years immediately following the American Centennial in 1876 found Americans intensely preoccupied with their national identity. This focus produced diverse expressions of American art*****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************
**************************************************************************************************************************************pproved image of culture and civilization reflecting the grand traditions of history and representing what many identified as the "American Renaissance." Many Americans - painters, sculptors, architects, politicians, industrialists, and financiers - identified with the period of the European Renaissance and felt that the Renaissance spirit had been captured again in the United States. Through scholarly works such as Edith Warton's Italian Villas and their Gardens, the Italian Renaissance came into focus.
The American Renaissance was intensely nationalistic. It appropriated images and symbols of the Italian Renaissance and other civilizations to "create a magnificent American pageant." "The civilization envisioned for America was a public life, one of the street, the park, the square, or the mall, or large monuments, memorials, and public buildings in the eternal style, adorned with murals and sculptures personifying heroes and symbolizing virtue and enterprise." The tremendous physical and social changes which accompanied this movement had profound impact on the American landscape. The form of many of America's cities is a result of the successes and failures of that era. The social climate of the American Renaissance era was perfectly suited for young George Kessler, trained in the grand tradition of European art.
Into this climate of growing national awareness and into this young profession, came the young George Edward Kessler. The first record of his attempt to begin work in the United States is recorded in a letter dated January 22, 1882. In a letter to Frederick Law Olmsted, Kessler told of his studies and travel in Europe and mentioned that he had learned of an arboretum being laid out at Boston (Arnold Arboretum) that year and wondered what job opportunity that might present.34
A second letter to Olmsted on February 15, 1882, mentioned that he was "certain of a situation in Central Park through the kindness of Mr. Wales", and had another offer of a partnership with a florist in Woodlawn. "Since November", Kessler wrote, "I have been in the employ of A. LeMoult 172 and 174 Bowery, having charge of his greenhouse, seed and grass stock. Decoration of concert halls were also mostly in my charge."35 With that letter Kessler sent drawings for Olmsted to review.
Olmsted responded early in March:
"Your study and practice so far as indicated has been too much limited to small pleasure ground work in which consistent broad effects of natural landscapes are out of the question. The only illustration of what I regard as the higher field of landscape gardening is that which you refer of the work of Puckler Muskau, which I wish much that I had seen. I don`t wish to sound disrespectful of pleasure ground and home garden work such as is nearly always called for near a house and which always gives much gameful employment to gardeners but only to urge you to be ambitious to be master in higher fields, as to which you can learn little in the Central Park or in any of the situations open or likely to be open to you. Take any of these therefore as means of living and make yourself as perfect as possible in all that and all that you can learn in nature, but by reading and reflection and such excursions as you can afford for enjoyment of natural scenery educate yourself about nature. For the purpose a day`s walk along the rolling of any stream or any of the foothills of any mountain range would be much more to you than a year in the park. I do not mean to advise you to neglect study of improved scenery. There are various places in the Hudson, Hyde Park, laid out by Dr. Hosack, for example, in which magnificent nature gains by fore-grounds of art. You will find most referred to in [Andre Jackson] Downing`s "Landscape Gardening". But, bear always in mind that landscape gardening has natural scenery and the art to conceive art as its highest aim, and that while we are more qualified for work of this higher kind there are thousands in competition for the lower kind.
Hold yourself [illegible] of the universal sympathetic of art, free to light, free to work, on all sides. Aim to free yourself from German associations, not because they are not excellent but because you have been too much confined in your education to them and they are likely to cramp your capabilities and limit your influence and opportunities. Remember that in America the German demand for landscape gardening is likely to be but a small part of all that is to be had and you don`t want to be wed to it or give the impression that you are. Your writing shows that your English is much affected by German idioms and your English vocabulary not as copious as desirable.
[illegible] in the public libraries and read, study deliberately, the older English works of landscape gardening. [Sir Humphrey] Repton, [John Claudius] Loudon, [Rev. William] Gilpin, above all [Sir Uvedale] Price (on the picturesque). All are faulty and to be read discriminately but all are in earnest and of high ideals, and in your present stage will be of invaluable service in keeping nature before you.
A railway company in Missouri may need a man to take charge of a public picnic or excursion ground. The President, H.H. Hunniwell, President of the Kansas City, Fort Scott, and Memphis Railway Company, will be in New York soon and have your address may ask you to call on him. He is a landscape gardener of genuine ability. I mention it only that if he should send for you may be prompt and prepared to present yourself to advantage."36
On March 18th, from a new address at No. 49, West 9th Street, Kessler wrote Olmsted mentioning that his mother and sister had gone to Hot Springs, Arkansas and further describing his work in the Bowery. This present position at LeMoult`s, he explained, paid twelve dollars a week. If he stayed he would receive fifteen dollars a week.37
Despite his propects for future income at LeMoult`s, on March 23, 1882, Kessler wrote to Olmsted that he was taking the position with the railroad in Merriam Park, Johnson County, Kansas. Merriam was a small farming village in 1882, lying just across the Kaw River from Kansas City, Missouri. His salary would be forty dollars a month, less than the fifteen dollars a week he had hoped to receive.38 This first work was to design and supervise the construction of the railroad`s pleasure park. It was a common practice during this period for railroads and streetcar lines to construct parks as a means of increasing ridership. Merriam Park was such an attraction.
In accepting a position with the railroad, Kessler joined the biggest business and most important single economic interest in the United States. During the decade between 1880 and 1890, the railroads of the country saw their greatest period of growth with trackage increasing from 93,000 to 163,000 miles. By far, the lands west of the Mississippi saw the majority of the new construction.
Other developments of the post Civil War years further contributed to the timeliness of Kessler's move to Kansas City. Texas and the Great Plains saw the emergence of a tremendous range-cattle industry whose eastern boundary extended to nearby Abilene, Kansas. Spurred by links to the Southern Pacific and the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroads, two of the country's five transcontinental railroads, and boosted by the introduction of the refrigerated railway car, Kansas City joined Souix City and Omaha as major rivals to Chicago in the meat packing business.
Although Kessler could not have launched his career in a more favorable business environment, Merriam County, Kansas, in 1882, surely lacked the cultural richness of Potsdam which Kessler had left just twelve months earlier. Young George, and his mother, and sister found a home on the farm grounds of John Mastin in Johnson County. Here Kessler served as caretaker of the property in addition to his work at Merriam Park.39 One of the first additions to the Kessler's new home was a piano, undoubtably providing the music of Liszt and the works of other great composers they had enjoyed in Germany.
The Kansas City of 1882 was a far cry from the splendor of Imperial Berlin that Kessler had left only seven months before. The city had added more than 20,000 inhabitants in the last decade reaching a population of 55,785.40 This growth, however, had brought few physical comforts and urban amenities. Though the city had eighty-nine miles of streets, only 500 yards were paved with sandstone and a little over sixteen miles were surfaced in crushed limestone, a surface little better than the other mud thoroughfares. There were few paved sidewalks; most citizens walked upon pine planks. Public transit was by horse car, for trolleys were still in the future.
Household garbage was individually collected and dumped, usually in the Missouri River. Only five percent of the city's houses had flush toilets, and only a third of these emptied into the primitive sewer system. That year, the police department made 3,877 arrests, "principally for intoxication."41 In short, Kansas City was ugly, dirty, and wild.
If Kansas City were far different from the Berlin of Kessler's university years, Merriam Park was surely quite a change from the beautiful grounds of the San Souci and Belvedere. Though the park had been opened on July 2, 1880, with President Grant as master of ceremonies, on October 7, 1882, Kessler described his new position as follows:
"The grounds are situated ten miles south of Kansas City, the railroad affording a very agreeable trip from here. The place is divided in half by a small creek, the grounds on the north gently sloping toward [illegible] upon the surrounding country, i.e., if the views are correctly hewn out."
"The creek mentioned is peculiarly adapted to a beautiful tho` small lake, there being no necessity for artificial outlines of the lake as the natural slope of the land has formed banks which need but little assistance; also a plentiful supply of water. I am extremely sorry to find that my predecessor has cut down for cordwood nearly all the valuable trees, leaving me the pleasure of grubbing stumps and burning brush. The principal material left is composed of old decayed elms, a few hickories, plenty of young oaks and sycamore saplings, a few nice Gleditschiae, etc."
"There is but one building on the grounds intended for the use of visitors, and that is exclusively good for camp meetings, and for nothing else. The place is splendidly adapted for a small park and at a camparatively moderate expense can be easily transformed to a beautiful one."
"The railway official here who controls the work, Mr. Nettleton, general manager, and Mr. L. St. Towne, superintendent, appear to be only lukewarm in their interest in the concern at present, probably remain so till they see it pay. The cleaning up alone will occupy all summer and part of winter with the present number of men and no propects of getting more. The place seems never to have been cleaned before except for some brush and the best timber. Despite the small difficulties here I am very well satisfied, especially to be in the very heart of nature and natural surroundings."42
In this letter, Kessler also mentioned that he had called upon Adolf Strauch in Cincinnati as Olmsted had suggested. Strauch, like Kessler a German immigrant, was responsible for the design of Cincinnati's Spring Grove Cemetery.
After a time, Kessler`s design for the Merriam Park began to be realized. The entire area was enclosed by a high picket fence, with only two entrances, which were locked when the park was not in use. The main gate, an ornate affair with an archway bearing the name of the park, was located on the north boundary and was reached by a winding road of gravel. The road which led through the grounds and over an arched bridge to the Tabernacle, a spacious open air shelter where dances, political rallies, and patriotic meetings were held, later became Kessler Road.
To the right of the main entrance stood the quarters of the caretaker, Pete Johnson. Nearby stood a greenhouse, which supplied plant material for the park, a tool shed, an ice house, a bunk house, and a barn for the parks two work horses. The bunk house supplied housing for some of the twenty to thirty men under Kessler`s direction who were required to keep the grounds in shape.
Near each side of the main gate were two wells. Two others were located near the Tabernacle, two near the hitching rack, and one near the Pavilion, a large shelter where passengers were discharged or waited for trains. Each was covered with rustic well houses, and equipped with oaken buckets.
In the northeast corner of the park against a sloping hillside was a deer pen about a quarter of an acre in size. The wooded hills beyond the pen and all the south end of the park were left in their natural state and were used as a picnic ground. A profusion of dogtooth violets, anemones, wild Sweet William, and ferns covered these areas. Because of the abundance of Dutchman Breeches, the south portion of the picnic area became known as Breeches Hill.
The west entrance of the park gave direct access to the Pavilion. In front of the Pavilion, the name "Merriam" was spelled out in flowers, and enclosed by an iron fence. To the east stood a two-hundred foot flagpole. Immediately to the north was a small frame structure housing railroad equipment and beyond that in an open space was a baseball diamond.
A short distance to the east of the Pavilion, a lake had been created by damming a branch of Turkey Creek. Boaters enjoyed the lake in the warm months, and ice skaters enjoyed it in the winter.
On the hillside in the southwest portion of the park was a bear pit, lion`s cage, monkey house, and cages for raccoon, and other small animals. Tennis courts, croquet grounds, a horse drawn merry-go-round and numerous swings under the trees also provided entertainment. A three-hundred feet square dance floor was constructed in the center of the park by P.J. Crowder, the first superintendent and Kessler`s predecessor, for the enjoyment of square dancers. The best orchestras available, though small in numbers, provided music.43
The park was a tremendous success. Visitors came by carriage, wagon, horse, and train from Kansas City, Lenexa, Olathe, Spring Hill, and more distant places to view the show place of the region. So popular was the park that it was often necessary to make reservations for a days' outing in advance.
Less than two years after Kessler began his work a newspaper advertisement proclaimed the park's its "splendid system of walks and drives," and bragged how "its continually increasing beauty is a matter of universal remark." The park, it said, was "supplied with . . .every attraction and convenience for outdoor meetings."44 Another two years later, the Star praised the park by stating that in addition to its landscape design, this "beautiful pleasure ground" was stocked with wild animals-monkey, bears, and deer among them.45 The reporter further stated that Kessler's nursery, planned with great care, was filled with a great "variety of trees and shrubs" that he was testing to discover which ones best survived the bitter winters and baking summers of the Middle West.
In addition to the landscape design, Kessler also was responsible for sales from the park's ice house. He made arrangements for the many excursions that brought visitors in from out of town to enjoy the park. He probably planned and landscaped the residential development the railroad opened near the park in 1886.
Secure in his position at Merriam, Kessler purchased a comfortable seven-room house in Merriam near the park where he lived with his mother and sister for several years.
In addition to his work at Merriam Park, Kessler in his position as superintendent of the railways station grounds, prepared landscape plans and supervised the maintenance of a key element of many of the cities of the Great Plains. His assistants constantly travelled the lines visiting such Missouri towns as Springfield, Nichols Junction, Monett, Thayer, Hannibal, and Pleasantville, and Kansas towns such as Alma, and reported on the progress of the work there.
In addition to the railroad's numerous station grounds, Kessler managed the company's two experimental tree farms near Farlington, Kansas.47 Forest planting on the prairies west of the Mississippi River had begun with the earliest settlers as a source of fuel, posts, and poles for the homestead and a protection from the sun and wind. Commercial planting of timber, however, did not begin until the late 1880s. In farms in Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas the catalpa tree was planted extensively for use as fence posts, telegrap

rk, the design of the Kansas City park system.


CHAPTER TWO: From Site Specific Work to a City-Wide View (1892-1901)
The city of Kansas City, Missouri, grew at a tremendous rate between 1880 and 1890. In a decade, the city had outgrown its city limits and doubled its inhabitants, reaching a population of 119,668. In 1890, Kansas City was among the among the twenty-eight largest cities in the United States, smaller than Omaha and St. Paul, but larger than Denver and Indianapolis. City fathers were only beginning to awaken to the realization that their sleepy frontier town was rapidly becoming a city. With this growth came the need for urban amenities to support and enrich the population.
Despite this need for civic improvement, support for a parks and boulevard system was not immediately forthcoming. In the years since Kessler's arrival in 1882, Kansas City had made virtually no progress toward the creation of a park system, a fact which undoubtedly contributed to nearby Merriam Park's enormous popularity.
This lack of progress was not due to a lack of effort on a least some of the community's citizens. As early as, February, 1872, James W. Cook, a local landowner, had offered to sell forty acres of unimproved land for park purposes for $2,000 per acre in what was then the southwest park of the city.1 Although Cook stated that he was making the offer at the request of many citizens and that he could make twice this amount by subdividing the property, the city council rejected his offer, five votes to seven.
Five years later, Cook lowered his price and repeated his offer to the city. This time, however, he proposed that the city utilize bonds to obtain the funds to purchase the property and in turn retire the debt through tax assessments on the adjacent land. With this offer, the local press began to awaken to the issue of public parks. The Times gave Cook's proposal editorial support. "Parks are as indispensable to a large city as lungs to an animal," said the Times. "They are breathing places where the laboring poor can go from their crowded tenement houses to rest and refresh themselves...". Anticipating the future growth of the city, the Times urged "Kansas City may get on very well without a park for a while, but improved ground that can be secured for a few thousand now, will cost as many hundred thousands when the population is doubled."2 Citing similar arguments, the Journal echoed the Times.
While Cook's offer was being debated in June, the first partially successful public action to secure a park was made when the council passed a resolution "to have the Old Grave yard graded by the work house force, with a view to a Public Park." The following year, Mayor George Shelley began to raise funds for improvement of the grounds. "An attractive central park" said in the Times, "would be esteemed a substantial blessing as a place of frequent pleasant resort during the sultry summer season; and Cemetery Park. . .is, by location, the most favorable. . ."3 Though Shelley's actions were applauded by the press and by many citizens, some argued that the location of the park in the First Ward was more a product of political considerations than civic mindedness.
Despite the reduced price and editorial support for the proposal, in July the city council took no action on Cook's parkland offer, finding instead that the city charter did not provide authorization for the expenditure of funds for park purposes.
In September, the Times pursued new themes in its support of park development, arguing that people are drawn to visit or move to a city not only for its industrial and commercial advantages but also by its parks. "Hundreds of people go to Paris every year mainly for the enjoyment afforded by its parks."4 The healthful and moral influence of parks would also provide alternatives to the temptations of drink and riot for the working class. "It has been said of Louis Napoleon that he almost compensated for the evil of his corrupt reign by the splendid boulevard he gave to Paris," and that boulevards "have done more to commend the reign of the Third Napoleon to his people than all his other acts."5 This reference to European examples used by the Times would become a recurring theme in the battle for a park and boulevard system for Kansas City.
In December, the Times reported that projected improvements at Cemetery Park included a central fountain, shaded walks, and a bandstand. "The topography and small extent of the ground will not permit of any striking arrangements of landscape," the newspaper admitted, but the aim was only to provide a pleasant area with "easy reach of the busy streets."6
The uncertainty of the city's legal position in park matters was reflected in a request to legal council to present a bill in the state legislature empowering the city to condemn the block for a public park. Despite these doubts, in March, 1879, the council purchased a fence for "Cemetery Park." Though the fountain was never realized, the land was improved with grass, trees, walks, and lighting.
Unfortunately the only concerted private effort to secure a public park did not gain even the limited success of the council's action on the old graveyard. Councilmen representing McGee's Addition tried to determine if the city could claim a vacant square lying within the addition. The land had stood vacant and was used as a recreational area and circus ground. A check of deeds revealed that the land was still held by the original developers of the subdivision.
Undetered and encouraged by the improvements to Cemetery Park underway at the time, the citizens of McGee's Addition held a mass meeting the night of October 10, 1879, and determined to take the only course of action open to them under the law: to assess property owners near the square for purchase of the land and then deed it to the city as a public park.
Later that year, the first efforts to develop a boulevard in Kansas City was begun when a group of businessmen formed the Rosedale Boulevard Association to build a southwest boulevard to link the neighboring towns of Independence, Missouri, and Rosedale, Kansas. Again the Times came to the aid of the cause, arguing once again that the boulevard "can be created now at a cost our people will not feel, " but would require "thousands of dollars," if built later. Parks, the Times stated, were "breathing places for. . . begrimed mankind," and boulevards, "a want felt alike by the poorest and richest."7
In February of the next year, the council failed to take the initiative in the movement for a park in McGee's Addition, when the city's finance committee reported that there were no funds available for park acquisition. By August, the committee urged the passage of an ordinance to convert the tract to a park, but it limited the city's liability to one dollar. Faced with the lack of support from their elected officials, the drive for a public park in McGee's addition subsided. Another drive was begun the next year, but the issue dragged through the courts for almost a decade until finally being killed by the state Supreme Court.
Though city officials had showed little support for boulevard and park proposals during the period and improvements at Cemetery Park were modest, the city government was slowly awakening to esthetic issues. The newspapers, however, remained unsatisfied. In July, 1880, the only place the Journal could recommend for refuge from the summer heat was the fair grounds which at that time lay in the southeastern section of the city. The only hope for improvement lay not with the city council, but with "some rich and philanthropic citizen", who might "in a fit of frenzy, superinduced by 110 degrees in the shade, dedicate his front yard for park purposes and invite the public in."8
On November 16, 1880, the Journal reminded its readers that some of the legal difficulties currently being encountered might be solved by state action. "Kansas City should begin to look up the legislation needed this winter. We have the street question, the park question, the boulevard question. . ."9 For the first time, the city's evening paper, The Star, joined the debate.
Many causes might explain the meager success of the park and boulevard movement in the decade 1872-1882. Kansas City was still a frontier city, with problems of streets, utilities, education, and public safety, problems which were far more prominent than parks in the minds of the citizens. No prominent citizens had risen to support the cause. Despite the efforts of the Times and Journal, no newspaper had mounted a prolonged editorial campaign in support of parks and boulevards. Though the opponents of parks confined themselves to expressions against their cost, attempts to secure public parks probably were made more difficult by the attractive open spaces that lay within the city limits and within easy reach of much of the city's population.
These open spaces would eventually be built over, but for most of the decade they were available to the public. Cook's pasture was not sold until 1881. The exposition grounds were undeveloped until the next year. McGee Park was in use throughout the decade as was Cemetery Park. Several private parks such as Garth's and Gaston's provided further recreational opportunities. The most important of these was Merriam Park. The creation of for-profit privately owned and operated parks was not uncommon in America during this time.
The same year Kessler arrived in nearby Merriam, other individuals - William Rockhill Nelson, August Robert Meyer, and Delbert Haff - moved to Kansas City. These men with Kessler would play major roles in the creation of the Kansas City park and boulevard system. Nelson, the son of a properous farmer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, arrived in Kansas City in 1880. Nelson, then 39, had made and lost a fortune as a lawyer, real estate developer, planter, and bridge contractor before coming the Missouri. He had been active in Democratic politics in Indiana and even served briefly as a newspaper publisher in an effort to serve the Democratic cause. It was his occupation as a newspaper publisher and the opportunities presented by the Kansas City boom town that brought Nelson west. From its founding date, September, 18, 1880, by Nelson the Star grew steadily, adding a Sunday paper in the mid-nineties and purchasing the Times for a morning edition in 1901.
In the late eighties, Nelson bought a farmhouse south of the city, lavished money and care upon it, and altered and expanded it until the great rambling limestone structure resembled an English country house, covered with ivy, set upon a hill, and surrounded with trees and a vast lawn. The home became known as Oak Hall. Whether the design of this garden was the work of Kessler is unknown.
By the end of the decade, he had begun to assemble land holdings around his estate. Nelson realized that no one would purchase his land for homesites until a good road replaced the dirt farm roads that connected the area with the city. Organizing about one hundred neighboring property owners, he lobbied the Board of Public Works to construct his proposed Warwick Boulevard. While the effort failed because the city limits extension ordinance under which the work would have been done was declared unconstitutional, Nelson persisted. He finally got his boulevard from the town of Westport, which was eventually absorbed into Kansas City. Out of his own pocket, Nelson lined the boulevard with elm trees.
The Rockhill District proved to be tremendously successful. While Nelson sold lots and built some houses for sale, he also constructed beautiful rental homes. In a time when builders were creating slums at enormous profits, Nelson built slowly and carefully, with heavy lumber and good materials. Designs varied block to block with each house given a generous amount of light and air. The area was beautified with elms, flowers, and shrubs. Around each block he built low limestone rubble walls, the trademark of the Rockhill district. Then he planted roses and honeysuckle along them. It is not known who designed the Rockhill District for Nelson, though it is conceivable that Kessler contributed in some way.
Nelson had apparently three reasons for his crusade. First, was his genuine love of beauty, expressed in his fondness for nature, art, and architecture. Secondly, the park and boulevard movement meshed well with the "good roads" campaign which the Star had long supported. Finally, Nelson wanted the rough Kansas City of the 1880's to match his vision of a progressive, stable community. He wanted Kansas City to have the parks and boulevards because the cities he visited in Europe and the East had them. They were a badge of municipal maturity. The Star used a simple technique, repetition, to push for park improvements and a simple theme "other cities have them, and Kansas City needs them."11
The Star devoted less attention than the other papers to the achievements of European cities, concentrating instead on the details of park and boulevard development in American municipalities, which had more familiar tax structures and governments. All aspects of park improvements were discussed: legislation, financing, construction, beautification, and maintenance. New York, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Wilmington, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, and San Francisco were but some of the cities Nelson used as examples.
Nelson appealed to the citizens civic pride by stating that "The cities which are seeking to rival Kansas City in population, progress, and business importance appreciate these auxiliaries of metropolitan life more fully than they are appreciated here, and Minneapolis, St. Paul, Denver, Omaha,. . .are putting forth practical efforts to secure. . . parks and boulevards. . ." Such improvements would "render them the more attractive to people from the East who are considering the choice of a Western city for future residence."12 Many of the citizens undoubtedly shared the Star's concern when a city planning expert ranked Kansas City next after Pittsburgh as the American city least provided with parks.
Chicago more than any other city formed the model. Citing Chicago as an example, Nelson called for the purchase and improvement of parks by bonds, "assessing the current cost of maintenance upon the taxpayers." Finally Nelson stated "experience in other cities has proved that the management of parks may be best entrusted to an independent board or commission in order to separate it from the complications and contaminations of local politics."13 Nelson told, too, how Chicago was divided into park districts which were assessed for improvements within their boundaries.
The challenge to park proponents during this period was far more complicated than development of a physical plan for improvement. They had to devise formulas which would insure that a park board had the necessary powers to condemn and control needed land. It was necessary to create a board free from political interference, yet subject to checks, and the board had to be provided with an adequate and independent source of income. These problems resolved, the park advocates had to persuade the state legislature to grant them the powers by law, or they had to convince the citizens to adopt them by charter amendment. Then they had to wait until the state Supreme Court passed upon the constitutionality of their work. The board in turn had to establish its place with the turbulent politic environment of the period.
Through a mutual acquaintance, a newspaperman on the Journal who formerly lived in Dallas, Kessler arranged an introduction to William Rockhill Nelson, editor of the Kansas City Star. With Nelson's encouragement, Kessler began to give form to the thoughts of park proponents. "Not long after I came West, Mr. W.R. Nelson, editor of the Kansas City Star, asked me to submit plans for the improvement of the West Bluff. I climbed into the tower of the Union Depot and made my sketches. These drawings were the first work done on the park system of Kansas City."14 Perhaps more importantly, Nelson introduced Kessler to August Robert Meyer, a prominent Kansas City businessman. By November of 1891, Kessler was preparing plans for Meyer's big new house in suburban Westport.
Meyer was born in St. Louis in 1851 to German immigrant parents who had lived in the United States for some time. Like Kessler, Meyer had at the age of fourteen had been attended school in Europe. He studied at the polytechnic school in Zurich, Switzerland, at the School of Mines at the University of Freiburg, and finally at the School of Mines in Berlin.15
Returning to the United States, Meyer took a job as an assayer, helping to found Leadville, Colorado, which he named. With some partners he took over a small smelting plant in Kansas just a few miles from Kansas City and built it into the enormously successful Kansas City Consolidated Smelting and Refining Company. He became active throughout the city, buying real estate and participating in the Young Men's Christian Association, the First Congregational Church, charity organizations, and the Commercial Club, the precursor of the city's Chamber of Commerce. The two German immigrants, Meyer and Kessler, would place significant roles in the development of the Kansas City park system.
In 1885, the park and boulevard movement was joined by those favoring the extension of city limits in the pursuit of the legal instruments needed to achieve success. The council and mayor at last took the initiative, a committee of leading citizens examined the extension question, and the newspapers (with the exception of the Journal which opposed the parks idea) vigorously presented the case to their readers. The Star envisioned a belt of boulevards and parks surrounding a much larger city than the conservative council seemed willing to accept. The Times echoed the call. The Journal favored small parks in built-up areas rather than large suburban pleasure grounds.
The mayor appointed a citizen's group, "the committee of thirty-six", to study the question and give a recommendation. The committee took a conservative view and recommended the more modest expansion, which the council later, with minor changes, approved.
In late 1886, a new mayor noticed that an act of the legislature dated May 5, 1879, conferred on the council the power to condemn land for public parks and suggested that the aldermen establish a park commission of three members to aid them in selecting prospective parklands. Despite the mayor's suggestions the council failed to appoint the committee and further voted down an attempt to buy suburban land for a park.
The legislation had been drafted by a young lawyer named Delbert James Haff. Like Nelson, Meyer, and Kessler, Haff had been drawn to Kansas City in the 1880's. Haff was born in Oakland County, Michigan, on February 19, 1859. Left fatherless at the age of six, Haff helped his mother earn a living for her four children and went to school at the same time. By fifteen he was qualified to teach in a country school, spending his time away from the classroom working on his mother's farm. For six years he taught, farmed, and saved until he could enter the University of Michigan in 1880. After a year in Ann Arbor, he left to work as a traveling salesman, returning to school in 1882, doubling his course work in law and graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1884. The next year he passed the bar, arriving in Kansas City in 1886. While Kessler was cultivating the grounds of Merriam Park, Haff was cultivating a mustache, pointed Vandyke beard, a growing law practice, and a developing interest in civic affairs. He helped organize the Municipal Improvement Association, served as chairman of its park and boulevard committee, and represented the first park board in its unsuccessful battle before the state Supreme Court. He drafted the 1892 amendment to the city charter which established the second board and the 1893 law.16
In 1887 local efforts to obtain a park system center on the Board of Freeholders. This group had been selected to submit a new city charter to the citizens in place of the one granted in 1875. Parks were not the primary impetus behind the new charter movement, however, the fact that they were even included in the discussion is a sign of the growing importance of parks.
The freehold charter was defeated on January 30, 1888, but another slate of freeholders was elected late in the year. Although a variety of bond proposals for other civic improvements were incorporated into the ballot without provision for parks and boulevards, the Kansas City voters, through the charter of 1889, for the first time sanctioned a board of park commissioners.
Meanwhile, proponents of the parks and boulevard system led by a lawyer, John K. Cravens, submitted in mid-February, a bill which would set up a county park commission with four members appointed by the governor on recommendation of the county court. The fifth member was to be the mayor of Kansas City. The commission was to have the power to create a park district and sell bonds. Though the bill passed the state Senate, it died in the House. Two years later in 1889, Cravens revised his bill and though it traveled to the state capital with the support of the Star and Times, the Board of Freeholders found the bills on the grounds that it gave the park commissioners too much power, particularly the ability to issue bonds. After a bitter fight, the bill passed the legislature on May 17, 1889. The law became effective in November of the following year. Despite the opinion of the city attorney and county court that the state law was illegal, a board of five park commissioners was appointed.
Encouraged by this progress, Kessler applied to the new park board for a position as landscape architect. His application, accompanied by letters of praise from railroad men, stated that "Having had and used excellent opportunities for study and experience in my profession both in the United States and Europe," he wrote, "I feel confident of my ability to produce results satisfactory to your commission and the public. . ."18
Kessler's enthusiasm and that of other park proponents was short lived. The county refused to levy money for park uses. Lacking financial or legal security, the park board asked the Supreme Court to issue a judgment compelling the county to level park taxes. Instead in January, 1891, the court decided that the state park law was in fact illegal.
Led by August Robert Meyer, the Municipal Improvement Association in 1892 successfully launched a spirited campaign to amend the 1889 city charter. The park article amendments required the mayor to appoint without confirmation a board and in turn gave the board power to issue bonds.
A twenty-one acre tract that lay east of the city beyond the last trolley stop was given to the city for park purposes by Azariah Budd. Budd, who died in 1890, had dabbled in law and politics in Jefferson City and Clinton, Missouri, before coming to Kansas City to live out his life in semi-retirement. Budd required that the city pay $3,000 per year to his widow for the rest of her life in order for the city to accept and retain the land. After considerable discussion of the projected life of Mrs. Budd, and in turn, the potential amount the city would have to pay, the council accepted the tract on March 2, 1891. Though the park waited many years for integration with the park and boulevard system, it was a beginning. Soon Kessler was brimming with plans for its improvement.
On March 5, 1892, a park board for Kansas City was in fact appointed, and reappointed the next month under a new administration. President of the first board was August Robert Meyer, who as president of the Municipal Improvement Association, had led the successful drive for the charter amendments which established the board. Members included Simeon B. Armour, who headed the Kansas City branch of the famous meat parking industry, and William C. Glass, a wealthy, retired, wholesale liquor dealer and real estate operator. Also serving were Louis Hammerslough, who immigrated to Kansas City in the 1850s and made his fortune in the clothing business, and Adriance Van Brunt, a successful architect.
Even before being named to the park board, Meyer spoke to the Commercial Club about parks, wrote to cities in the East about their park systems, and traveled throughout the country and Europe gathering ideas. Realizing that a great part of the task of establishing a park and boulevard system would be educational, Meyer often spoke to civic groups.
Though he found no position with the illfated first park board, Kessler at a salary of $200 per month was appointed "secretary" of Meyer's board, a title perhaps intended to emphasize the utility of Kessler's work rather than his ability to create beauty. Curiously Kessler was not compensated for his principal services. He was also appointed "Engineer to the Board to serve in said capacity without pay. . ."19
The establishment of the board and the selection of a landscape architect did not secure the success of park proponents in the city. Other battles had to be fought first. The first fight was a test of wills between the board and mayor over the council's meager appropriation of $5,000 for the board's operating expenses for fiscal 1893. Arguing that the board's request for $25,000 had been dismissed without serious consideration, the board members submitted their resignations to take effect at the mayor's pleasure. The Star supported the commissioners by asking if the meager sum was "a funeral joke, or was it a preliminary step toward forcing the present Park Board to resign?" Brushing aside these pressures, the council passed the appropriation ordinance. A day later, Kessler resigned, "with regret", giving his opinion that the small appropriation "will not permit you to give me any assurance of a permanent appointment.. ."20
While the Star attacked the council, the Journal pointed to the current recession and said "It is a fact that the city is short of funds. It is also a fact that there are other departments that must be cared for before the parks and boulevards can be built."21 Mayor Cowherd resolved the argument by ordering the board back to work. No city department, he said would "lay down" because it had not received all the money it wanted. "I most assuredly will not concur in any cessation of work. . .and believe that you will see it your duty to proceed to do the best with the means at your disposal. . ." Humbled by this encounter with determined politicians who seemed to be doing the best they could with dwindling revenues, the park board reopened its doors. Kessler quietly returned to work.
A few days after the board returned the work, the mayor, taking the initiative, asked the commissioners to consider ways to improve the west bluffs, a collection of shacks piled up in back of the Union Depot, which was far below the busy and wholesale and industrial west bottoms district.
The commissioners stated that what was needed instead was small recreational parks rather than an expensive showpiece such as the bluff improvement. The bluff improvements were after all only for railroad visitors and residents at the top of the bluff who desired an attractive view.
This time the Star sided with the mayor, and with the support of the balance of the council, the mayor won a resolution supporting improvement of the bluffs. Once again the park board capitulated.
The park board's next battle was with the council over a proposed park tax levy. The commissioners lost, despite their efforts and the support of the Star.
The last political battle was the Board of Public Works. Under the charter and a subsequent law, the Public Works board had to give its approval to all the park board's recommendations. Despite threats from the park board, the Public Works board withheld its approval of some recommendations to wait for the outcome of new court tests. The action of the Board of Public Works undoubtedly led to an amendment to the charter which deprived them of its veto over the park board's recommendation.
In October, 1893, the park board released its first report. Written in Kessler's heavy Germanic prose, the report which contained a few drawings and fewer photographs in its hundred-odd pages, was not merely a plea for new parks. Instead it contained a detailed and comprehensive look at the city's topography and traffic patterns, population density and growth, industrial and residential sections, and its prospects for future development. The report was divided into three major sections: a letter of transmittal to the mayor; a detailed report from the board, and a technical report by Kessler himself.
The report proposed three major parks: improvement of the blighted west bluffs; a park on the north bluffs, which were steep cliffs high above the Missouri River at the city's edge and cut by ravines; and the enhancement of the unsightly Penn Street ravine in the southwestern part of the city. These parks were to be linked by boulevards, including a grand formal avenue, and supplemented by playgrounds. Kessler's plan was a bold and comprehensive scheme with tremendous impact.
Certainly the notion of a system of parks linked by boulevards was not without precedent. Olmsted and Vaux in their 1871 plan for the South Parks in Chicago had linked Jackson Park and Washington Park by a landscaped midway. Cleveland`s profoundly farsighted plan for Minneapolis in 1881, which joined a variety of parks with boulevards primarily following the city`s grid pattern, was the first application of this notion to an entire city.
Kessler`s plan was the first to conceive of a hierarchy of parks serving various needs. "A park system may be divided into three parts", Kessler wrote, "the smaller parks and squares, the larger parks, and the boulevards connecting them with each other. . .The smaller ones, in the thickly populated parts of a city become the breathing spots and often playgrounds, independent or more or less connected with each other. These are necessarily merely oasis in a desert of houses and make life more tolerable in crowded sections. . .For just such small places many cities both here and in Europe spend large sums, even removing valuable buildings to make room for a little spot of green. The real parks, however, whose mission it is to bring within the city the charms of country scenes and clear fresh air, must occupy larger space in order to contain within themselves the quiet repose of the country and must sustain the impression of freedom from the city cares and annoyances. . .These parks, arranged in a belt about the outskirts of the city should, to be of any value, be accessible to all by walk, carriage, or rail. . .To make them so, the third part of the system, the boulevards, are placed so that they form convenient passages from the city and to each other. The parks and boulevards when created would quickly demonstrate their value by the constant flow of visitors to them." As Prince Puckler had done at Muskau, Kessler created a "circuit over route which offers a great variety of pleasing and beautiful scenes, isolated from all traffic and in a world entirely distinct from the active business life of the city." At intervals along the boulevard, Kessler placed "little parks and pleasure grounds finally expanding into one of the larger parks."22
Kessler gave particular attention to the west bluffs, a notorious eyesore. The Star, as early as 1884 had condemned the shack covered slope as "a most unfortunate introduction" to Kansas City for travelers arriving via Union Depot. Throughout the 1880's newspaper editorials had called for improvements. In 1891 the city began construction of a short boulevard along the bluffs. Attempts to convert the boulevard into a grand boulevard lined by parks progressed through condemnation procedures only to have the city fail to confirm the awards. Except for this thwarted attempt, the improvement of the west bluff had always been in the minds of park proponents. Even before Kessler's report was released, plans for "Independence Boulevard" were unveiled and legal work begun on the project. In addition, the park board had prepared a park district plan as well.
In his report, Kessler argued the merits of comprehensive planning stating that piecemeal planning was "open to the criticism that it does not permit, on the part of the public, an intelligent judgment upon the value of such improvement." Professionalism was called for Kessler said because "the community as a whole can hardly be expected to be familiar with the topographical and other conditions within and about the city. . ." Without a comprehensive plan "the value of selections for public purposes, their most satisfactory distribution, and the dependence of one improvement upon another, cannot be appreciated. . ."23
Kessler's skills as a salesmen were evident in his report. Though he called for "surroundings completely differing from those found in the city, surroundings that invite to rest and quiet contemplation," it is clear that his aim was to place parks in close proximity to neighborhoods. Kessler stated that instead of purely "scenic" parks he favored securing "urgently needed public squares and local parks within the city" along with boulevards and a few lookout "points". Yet the sites he recommended, though surrounded by urban life, were scenic as well.
In addition to the advantages of parks and boulevards in terms of the provision of rural qualities, better health, and improvement of social relationships, Kessler also argued that they served to divide the city into logical districts according to its function as a residential, commercial, or industrial area.
The boulevard system, Kessler explained would give "due weight to existing conditions and adapt itself to the topography, avoiding as much as possible forced routes and forced construction. . ." The naturalistic boulevards would check the centrifugal effect of homebuilding and ease the strains on the suburban streetcar lines. More importantly, the boulevards would attract fine residences. Commercial development would conform to the restrained residential pattern. Kessler backed his argument with examples of increases in property values around parks and boulevards.
The image of Kessler's parks and boulevards were certainly that of the American Renaissance. Mel Scott in his book American City Planning Since 1890, would later write of Kessler's work: "The whole scheme, flavored with European touches, bestowed on Kansas City an urbanity that was the envy of lesser cities in the unsophisticated midlands of America." Kessler was not strictly bound by the venacular of the era, however, as the plan, where not bound by the structure of the city grid system, flowed easily into the natural landscape of the North Terrace and Penn Valley parks. The design is quite reminiscent of similar work by Peter Joseph Lenne.


In retrospect, one might criticize Kessler for not putting forward a model zoning ordinance, rather than proposing to divide the city by the dubious technique of boulevards. However, one must remember the state of planning law in the United States at that time. In would be another eight years before a zoning ordinance would be implemented with the creation of the Hartford, Connecticut, law. It must be remembered as well that Kessler was working not for a city planning commission but rather a park board without the mandate or power to address zoning issues. This was a board whose powers in even park matters had been and would continue to be the subject of legal debate.
One might also criticize the plan for failing to adequately address the needs of blighted and slum areas. However, Kessler's plan did address three blighted areas: the west bluffs, the Penn Street ravine, and the narrow ten-block-long area between Grove and Flora avenues which became the Paseo. True, he gave no apparent thought to the fact of the slum dwellers who were displaced by these improvements, but neither did any of the other city officials in nineteenth-century Kansas City.
Kessler exhibited a detailed understanding of the landscape and a love of nature in his report. In describing the area around the present Penn Valley Park south through old Westport, Kessler wrote, "This region. . .must have possessed rare beauty before it was touched by the hand of man. . .The attempt to place over this irregular territory a gridiron system of streets results in an appearance of raggedness that is all but indescribable."24
Kessler proposed boulevards one-hundred-feet wide with forty-foot roadways flanked by thirty feet of parkway planted in trees and provided with sidewalks. Under Kessler's scheme, curbs, gutters, and walks would be made of durable granitoid, while the roadways would be paved with macadam. Fortunately this road section left room for widening the boulevards to provide for the demands of automobile traffic which was to come. "The object of boulevard construction is two-fold," Kessler reminded his readers, "to provide agreeable driveways, and . . .to make the abutting land. . .especially sought after for residence purposes. . ." For this reason, boulevards had to meet four requirements: First. The route must offer good grades. . . Second. They must be located in a naturally sightly locality. Third. The lands that abut upon such boulevards must be of a character satisfactory and suitable for good residences. Fourth. There must be no costly natural or artificial obstacles to remove to permit proper widening of the streets selected.
In addition to the bluff parks, Kessler also proposed a large ground to provide for public functions: "One of the obvious needs of a large city is the possession, centrally located, of a fairly large tract of land to be used for the drilling and parade of local military organizations, and for large out-door demonstrations an public gatherings. Such a reservation should at the same time offer opportunities of physical culture and be suited for athletic sports, such as baseball, cricket, and tennis, which require considerable room."25
The only elaborate formal boulevard recommended was The Paseo, a north-south link adjacent to the proposed athletic field.
In describing the proposed park system, Kessler echoed the words of Prince Puckler Muskau in describing how distant views might be captured: "In some cases great breadth of views is not an unmixed advantage, as they often include spots and objects not in harmony with park scenery which the designer would like to screen from view. To accomplish this, plantations of trees and shrubs can be disposed in the immediate foreground to cover undesirable objects and to form frames of foliage for the pictures left exposed to view. These plantations can often be so arranged as to appear to incorporate distant objects of interest and make them seem portions of the park, although actually far beyond and out of control."26
Wherever possible, the natural landscape should be preserved. Park buildings should "never be permitted to become conspicuous either in design or color" and should be simple in design, rather than planned to resemble Roman temples or triumphal arches for such structures were "artificial and more or less out of keeping with natural scenery. . ."27 With few exceptions, the buildings in the city's parks were Romanesque or Renaissance of native limestone carefully set back into the trees.
The report concluded with a discussion of plant materials appropriate to the Missouri climate and a call for nurseries where they could be grown for transplanting to the parks and boulevards.
The work was a thorough examination of the city's needs for recreation and beautification and a detailed description of the solutions. It was a landmark document for the time. Kessler was only thirty-one when it was published.
The immediate impact of Kessler's plan was an indication of its ultimate influence. Extensive summaries and supportive editorials appeared in the press. At the urging of the mayor, the council by a five-to-four vote gave the plan its blessing.
The Commercial Club, the forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce, called no less than three long meetings to discuss the Kessler plan. At the first gathering the city and park board attorneys defended the legal justification for the plan before some seventy-five dubious businessmen. Park Board chairman Meyer also answered legal questions at the second meeting.
At the third meeting, Meyer thrilled a crowd of hundreds with a two-hour slide lecture about the park improvements. Meyer spoke of the relatively low cost of Kansas City's improvements compared to mature cities like Paris and London. He pointed to the rapid rise of land values on the perimeter of New York's Central Park. After the applause and cheers faded, the Commercial Club adopted a resolution in favor of planning. "The burden on the people will be very light" in payment for "the intelligent, comprehensive plan," and called for acquisition and construction "as speedily as practical" for the sake of "all values in the city, promoting public health and comfort and emphasizing the culture and refinement of our people."28 Near the close of the meeting, Robert Gillham, a young engineer who would soon become a member of the park board, outlined the milestones in the civic progress of Kansas City: developing a river port town, securing the first railroad bridge across the Missouri River, building the packing houses, establishing the street railway system, and in the future, the developing of a system of parks and boulevards.
The response to the plan was extraordinary. Meyer had the opportunity to repeat his address before the Municipal Improvement Association. As news of the report spread, Kessler received requests for copies from as far away as Italy and Australia. With public sentiment so clearly in favor of the plan, no group would dare oppose the park proponents.
Kessler was more than a brilliant designer for the park board during these early years of the Kansas City park system. Through 1894 and 1895, he prepared questionnaires for property owners which would allow the board to make more exact advance estimates of condemnation costs. He wrote condemnation ordinances for submission to the council and led councilmen who wanted their information first hand over proposed parklands .
By the end of 1894, the park board had made some small but significant gains in establishing a park and boulevard system. After a careful study of the city's assessed real estate valuation, topography, and population density, the park board divided the city into three park districts and persuaded the council to establish them. Later the council approved a one-mill levy on all property in each district, to be used for park improvements in the respective districts. The commissioners' enemy, the Board of Public Works, gave them permission to beautify a small patch south of the city hall.
By 1895 the North Terrace condemnation case was on its way to the Missouri Supreme Court, and both the city council and Commercial Club were behind a proposal to expand the North Terrace park area. The Independence Boulevard route to the north bluffs was opened in June to carriages, bicycles, and strollers.
The charter amendment of 1892 that created the park board had required the board to issue bonds for improvements, a device liable to the dual objection that it increased the city's bonded indebtedness and forced assessed property holders to pay for land taken in a few quick and heavy installments. In 1895 Kansas City could not afford park bonds. It's bond limitation was only five percent of the assessed value of real and personal property, a valuation that the park board considered "abnormally low." Though the debt of the city was low at the time, a pending waterworks bond would push the city to its bond limit. The state law of 1893 circumvented these limitations by empowering the board to issue "certificates," actually bonds on the land in the park districts rather than on the city itself, which could be repaid to the holders of the certificates at seven percent annual interest over a long term.
The charter amendment of 1895 differed little from the earlier state law. Led by August Meyer and heavily supported by the Commercial Club, the amendment quickly passed. That year, too, it gave the park board its needed fiscal power. Voters approved an enabling amendment to the city charter.
In February, 1895, the court struck down the state law ruling that it was in effect an amendment to the city charter, an act the state legislature could not take. In an article in the Star, Kessler reassured readers that "the decision does not nullify the board or the acts of the board. It was appointed under a provision of the charter amendments [of 1892]. . ."29 The state law was valuable because it gave the board power to issue its own bonds, or certificates, but the board itself was safely established upon the solid rock of the city charter. It was now clear that if the people of Kansas City desired to acquire parks, they would have to amend their city charter to grant the board new powers.
Delbert Haff quickly drafted the needed amendment. Haff's amendment eliminated the Board of Public Works review role over park activities, granted the board the right to condemn land and to sell tax certificates with park districts, set the membership of the board at five, provided for the board's control over parks and boulevards, continued the three park districts, and enjoined the commissioners "to provide at least one park in each park district."
Nelson at last chose to abandon his push for state legislation and threw his support behind the charter amendments. Despite the support of the press, park proponents also organized a "citizens' association for the charter amendments." Meyer and Haff were on the executive committee, along with Charles Campbell, wealthy president of a paint and glass company, and the secretary of the association, Robert Gillham. Within a month both Campbell and Gillham would be members of the park board.
On June 6, 1895, by a six to one majority, the amendment was passed. As with every other piece of legislation, however, a court test was to follow. The agent of the estate, who owned the land which later became the Holmes Square playground, appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the park tax certificates. In May, 1896, in a unanimous opinion the court ratified the charter amendment, and investors were sure that the park tax certificates were safe.
In June the most spectacular change in park fortunes occurred. A shy bachelor named Thomas H. Swope gave to the city a vast tract of 1,334 acres of land bisected by the Blue River for a park. The almost two square miles of Swope Park was at that time the second largest city park in the United States.
Swope had bought "Mastin's Grove," in October, 1893, with the purpose of converting it into a mammoth farm. It was probably the successful charter revision that encouraged Swope to donate the still undeveloped land as a park. Motivated by the park board's interest in a large suburban park to supplement the inner city parks, Swope went to the mayor's office and after a two-hour meeting, offered his land. The donation required that the land be used as a park forever, that it be called Swope Park, that the city present a plan of improvements by January 1, 1898, and that beginning the same date the city spend $5,000 per year above expenses for improvements. Two days later, fifty members of the "south prospect park improvement association" went before the county court to urge the court to build a boulevard along Prospect Avenue to the new park. Kessler was delighted for this was the place for a nursery to house plant materials for other parks and boulevards. The city council quickly suspended its rules and passed the ordinance accepting the park.
The land lay four miles from the nearest city limit and seven from the center of the business section. There were no improvements except a country road, a railroad track, and a few scattered buildings. By horse, the trip took an hour. Yet despite the distance, on June 25th, a huge crowd, estimated at 18,000, gathered in the new park to celebrate Swope's gift.
Despite the enthusiasm generated by the donation of Swope Park, progress under Kessler's plan in 1896 was meager. Yet their were reasons for optimism. The proclamation in celebration of Swope Park was signed by the successful mayoral candidate, James M. Jones.
Encouraged by the creation of Swope Park, the numerous neighborhood improvement associations within the city began to agitate for further park improvements. The most active of these was the improvement association formed by property owners living around the Penn Valley Ravine, a rugged, blighted area lying midway between downtown and the old town of Westport, which was the site of Kessler's proposed Penn Valley Park. While the morning papers carried the news of Swope's donation, park advocates in the Penn Valley area pushed for improvements in their neighborhood. That day, the ordinance to begin condemnation proceedings was introduced, as improvement association members stood by, walking the document through the two houses of the city council to the mayor's office. From introduction of the legislation to the signing of the document by the mayor took a mere fifteen minutes.
Though the actual park construction of new parks failed to occur at the time, boulevard construction went forward according to Kessler's plan. In 1896, the broad width of Gladstone Boulevard was under construction. Construction during that era was primitive compared to current construction techniques, but the mechanized equipment, even though horse drawn, was awesome to contemporaries.
Despite the growing momentum of park proponents, opposition forces continued the battle. On August 13, 1896, the North Terrace Park condemnation jury assessed the prospective parkland for $603,113.04. This meant that the residents of the North Park District would pay that much in taxes for 200 acres of land, much of it steep, wild bluffs cut by deep ravines leading down to the Missouri River.
Less than two months later, the verdict for West Terrace Park came in. This park was intended to transform the rocky west bluffs between the historic Quality Hill residential district and the industrial west bottoms. The crest of the bluff commanded an impressive view of the great bend of the Missouri River as it turned east toward St. Louis and the Mississippi. The jury's verdict was $866,237.32 to be paid by property owners in the West Park District.
Objectors began circulating petitions asking "the city council to proceed slowly in making park and boulevard improvements." The Taxpayer's League, an organization formed to destroy the park plan was lobbied for repeal of the charter amendments on the grounds that they provided for excessive taxation.
Proponents countered with petitions of their own. The Star mounted a major editorial campaign. Labor and professional groups rose to support the park plan based upon the employment and economic stimulation the construction would provide. The council was divided in its opinion.
On the thirtieth of July, the repeal ordinance for North Terrace Park passed, the repeal ordinance of West Terrace Park failed, and the ordinance for Penn Valley Park was referred to committee. The council struggle was inconclusive. On September 27th, the lower house voted down the North Terrace and Penn Valley ordinances.
By the end of 1897, park enthusiasts could recover some of their optimism though none of Kessler's large parks had materialized. In April Mayor James M. Jones had reappointed the park board for another two-year term. Work had advanced along Independence Boulevard, and at the beginning of summer Holmes Square had opened complete with its Romanesque shelter house, walks, plantings, and play equipment. Haff had returned from the East with news that the Paseo, the ornate central boulevard, had sold for a premium.
Early in 1898, the plan became the focus of a city election campaign. Despite the attempts of the "Citizen's Union" to elect candidates opposed to the plan, the Republicans won an even larger victory than in 1896.
In June, the state Supreme Court decided the North Terrace case in favor of Kessler's plan. Kessler was delighted, declaring that North Terrace Park "will be one of the finest parks in the country. . .The views over the river from the park will be magnificent. The idea is to improve it as a big playground park with the view always in mind of retaining the fine, natural, rugged scenery."30
By April, the shanties and minor houses on the site of the proposed Paseo had been swept away, and the area was ready for improvement. Nobody bothered to notice what became of the former tenants, most of them black. It is to Kessler's credit that he thought of the Paseo not only as a boulevard, but also as the planned redevelopment of a slum area. Apparently, Kessler did not feel that the rehousing of the people displaced in the process was any more of his Kessler's professional concern than was the plight of the people of the Penn Street ravine who were suffering on account of the delay in securing Penn Valley Park. The park board was not a housing authority, and its landscape architect was not hired to design public housing. Kessler proudly claimed that the slums displaced by his improvements did not spring up elsewhere and create new blots on the urban landscape. To him, that was sufficient proof that the people were able to find better housing than they enjoyed before. Kessler's technical training did not equip him with a highly developed social conscience, and he may have accepted and repeated the ancient park rationale in his 1893 report without extended or social thought beyond that of the accepted standard of the day. Yet he certainly was not a coldhearted technician unconcerned with the fate of the underpriviledged. His increasingly insistent calls for playgrounds and neighborhood parks proved that he wanted to accomplish all that the park board, unaided, could do.
That summer the city acquired two more playground parks. In December, Kessler completed his comprehensive plan of Swope Park.

The Paseo was the jewel of the developing system. Though it resembles more closely any of a dozen European or United States boulevards, for some reason it was given part of the name of Mexico City's Paseo de la Reforma. The Mexican boulevard is a three-mile diagonal slash. Its major intersections are broadened to circular areas marked at their centers by monuments around which traffic turns, and some parts of it are lined with statues of national heroes.
Kessler followed neither the letter nor the spirit of the Mexico City boulevard. As originally constructed under his plans, The Paseo paralleled the gridiron street pattern, its dual boulevard dropping down a gentle grade from Ninth to Eighteenth Street in the north-central section of the city. The intersecting streets formed rectangles, each one of which Kessler fashioned into a distinctive, individual park.
At Ninth Street a small stone fountain bubbled. The Pergola, a double colonnade with a trellis roof stood between Tenth and Eleventh, and at Twelfth Kessler designed a high stone terrace to ornament and compensate for a steep boulevard grade. Across Twelfth a Spanish cannon captured during the Spanish-American War overlooked a formal sunken garden. At Fifteenth Street stood the wonder of the Paseo, an enormous stone fountain Kessler designed after a fountain at Versailles. A small fountain at Eighteenth Street concluded the formal, elaborate portion. Later extensions were simple, axial boulevards, or roadways that curved around natural ridges and dipped through hollows. The Paseo was more than a mere boulevard, it was "really a chain of small parks,"32 as Kessler phrased it. In that day of slower travel, The Paseo presented a delightful pattern of colorfully shifting scenes to the pedestrian or carriage passenger.
Kessler not only designed The Paseo, but he also helped to build it. Each day during most of the construction he walked over the grounds, supervising, checking, suggesting, and making certain the young trees were planted where he wanted them by stamping the ground with his heel at intervals as he strode along the boulevard. In June of 1899, the great terraced fountain was completed and turned on. An August band concert packed people along the newly paved boulevard. By December, the Pergola and the Plaza (stone terrace) were almost complete.
August Heckscher, commissioner of the New York City park system, would later say of Kessler's design, "The whole scheme, flavored with European touches, bestowed on Kansas City an urbanity that was the envy of lesser cities in the unsophisticated midlands of America."33
The fourteen months between April, 1899, and June, 1900, saw the last major skirmishes in the fight against the plan. In March, 1900, the park proponents added a victory in the federal courts to their favorable state park decisions when a suit by Frederick G. Bonfils, co-owner of the Denver Post and one of Nelson's bitterest enemies, was decided in favor of the park board.
The state Supreme Court decision in June upheld the Penn Valley Park condemnation judgment and by the end of 1900, effective resistence to the Kansas City park and boulevard plan was over. With the future of his park and boulevard scheme at last secure, Kessler found another reason to celebrate in 1900. On May 14th in Kansas City, Kessler married Ida Grant Field of St. Louis, Missouri. Miss Field was the daughter of Jeremiah Field, a merchant of Providence, Rhode Island.1 What brought Ida Field to St. Louis or how the two met while living in two different cities in unknown.
The growing Kansas City park system brought Kessler increasing fame. Kessler received requests from Milwaukee, Mexico City, and other cities asking how Kansas City acquired its lengthening boulevards and increasing park acreage. The Buffalo park board paid Kessler's way to New York for a look at the Buffalo system, but Kessler, absorbed in his Kansas City work and granted a raise by the park board, refused the offer.
Despite the success of his Kansas City and Roland Park work, Kessler was not invited to join a group of primarily New York and Boston landscape architects to establish the American Society of Landscape Architects on January 4, 1899. In a letter to Samuel Parsons, a founder of the society, Kessler thanked Parsons for offering to sponsor his application, but explained why he was not a member of the group. "Would you please take note of the following quotation which is taken from a letter from one of your members dated 1899.'
' "Such men as [illegible] and yourself have not been invited to join this society because your duties are principally those of superintending park work as an executive and not as a designer. We do not think that the best results in design are likely to follow the combination of these two functions.' If that was true in 1899, it is undoubtedly just as true today in so much of my work is carried on along exactly the same lines as it was then and had been for at least ten years prior to that time, except that now perhaps a good deal more."31
Curiously, Parsons was apparently not held in high regard by his peers either. In a January 13, 1882, letter to Olmsted from Jacob Wiedenmann, Wiedenmann wrote of Parson`s new business association with Olmsted`s former partner Calvert Vaux and stated, "but aside from all that, I do not believe that Sam Parson, Jr. has the slightest gift for the art." The landscape architectural fraternity in 1899 may have been a small one, but it was apparently not a close group.
If this snubbing by the American Society of Landscape Architects was not sufficient to alienate Kessler from many of his fellow professionals, constant attempts to attribute his Kansas City work to Frederick Law Olmsted were the crowning blows. Olmsted was the most famous park designer in America at the time, and some civic boosters were anxious promote their city by associating Olmsted with the Kansas City park and boulevard system. Apparently Olmsted did little to correct this impression. Kessler was an extremely modest man, and the misplacing of credit even by his close friends hurt him deeply.
The myth of Olmsted's involvement in the planning of the Kansas City park and boulevard system persists even into the 1990's. Yet with two German immigrants, George Edward Kessler and August Meyer, playing significant roles in development of the system, it is far more likely that the inspiration for the Kansas City park and boulevard system has its origin in the German works of Peter Joseph Lenne and F.L. von Sckell than those of Frederick Law Olmsted or English landscape architects popular during the period.
Though Kessler was forced to endure a snubbing by the American Society of Landscape Architects and constant attempts to attribute his work to Frederick Law Olmsted, the residents of other cities in the region were quickly developing an appreciation for the genius displayed in his Kansas City work. Memphis, Tennesee, was but one of the cities of the Mississippi River valley that would call upon George Kessler to give form to their dream of a park system for their community.
In 1901 with the design of Riverside Park, Kessler began a ten-year association with the park and boulevard system of Memphis. Kessler`s theory was to create a series of terraces, gradually sloping and heavily sodded as a means of perserving the bluff from caving. At the high water line a sloping wall of stone and concrete was built to the extreme low water mark as a break water. Above this wall a park drive was constructed.
Kessler also prepared plans for Overton Park, the second of two parks commissioned in 1900 in Memphis. Only a portion of the twenty-two mile parkway which originally encompassed the city has survived to link the 342 acres of Overton with Riverside. Drawing from the original natural pattern of meadows and dense forest, drainage, and topography, Kessler established the land use pattern of the park. Lick Creek, which runs north-south roughly, divides the park in half. To the west in a series of gently rolling open meadows, were placed the cultural and educational facilities. To the east, 175 acres of near virgin oak-hickory climax forest, laced with trails and an occasional picnic area, formed one of the great urban forests of this country. Vehicular and pedestrian circulation systems are for the most part separated, the former comprised of a series of interconnected loops which follow the natural contours of the site and afford access from their arterial streets which border the park.
The purchase of two park sites fulfilled the goal of city founder Judge John Overton, who in 1819 laid out the first city plan. Overton`s plan, which included a system of public squares and promenades, was largely ignored, with only one of the original squares remaining. The firm of Olmsted Brothers, retained by the park commission, proposed acquisition of two large tracts of undeveloped land, one overlooking the Mississippi River, and the other a tract known as Lea Woods, located on the northeast edge of the city. To tie the two together, a tree-lined parkway around the city perimeter was proposed. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. is reported to have exclaimed of Lea Woods, "nowhere in New York City could one give $5 million for a virgin forest of such magnificence."34 In 1901 the Olmsted proposal was implemented. Lea Woods was purchased by the city for $110,000 and by popular referendum renamed Overton Park. Shortly thereafter, the plan was completed as land for Riverside Park and the Parkway was acquired.
As other cities such as Memphis called upon Kessler to serve as an advisor, he was able to devote less and less time to his park work in Kansas City. In 1903 the park board decided that it would be necessary to name a full time superintendent of parks. Kessler recommended for the position Wilbur H. Dunn. Dunn was born in Lawrence, Kansas in 1864, but after the grasshopper plague of 1876, his family moved to Eugene, Oregon, where Wilbur attended high school and the engineering school of the University of Oregon. In 1881 he abandoned his college career to become a surveyor for the Northern Pacific Railroad, which was then building a line through Montana and northern Idaho.
After two years in the West, Dunn accepted a better position with the construction division of the Kansas City Northwestern in the city. The next fourteen years were spent with that railroad, the Santa Fe, and with Daniel Bontcou in building the first cable car lines in Kansas City.
In the fall of 1896, L.B. Root, Kessler`s chief inspector, approached Dunn: "railroad construction work is slack and it isn`t going to last forever. We need a surveyor in the park department. There`s a great future in it, for we are going to build a great park system here. Why don`t you take the job?"35
Dunn`s responsibility in his new position was preparation of field surveys for the new parks. His work in the building of the park department was obviously good enough to impress Kessler. This work would be the start of a lifelong relationship between Dunn and Kessler.
Kessler's spirits must have been extremely high as he looked toward the new century. With a new wife and his reputation as a landscape architect of first rate established, the thirty-eight year old now looked toward his next major commission, the design of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the St. Louis World's Fair.

The plan for the Kansas City park system clearly established Kessler`s reputation as a park planner and landscape architect of major importance. Though the parks of Kansas City had attracted attention throughout the country, it was his next major project, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, that greatly accelerated his career by placing his work before a national audience.



CHAPTER THREE: THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE EXPOSITION AND THE OPPORTUNITY FOR BROADER EXPOSURE (1900-1904).
Kessler`s success in Kansas City had caught the attention of his eastern Missouri neighbors but beyond Missouri his work was often attributed to Frederick Law Olmsted, a testament to the quality of his work but troublesome nonetheless.
"As to the Olmsteds and Kansas City park system: unfortunately in spite of all of our really large operations here, we have not been authorized to issue a report, consequently I will be unable to gratify your wish, much as I would like to. You are probably in error thinking that the Olmsteds made a report on the Kansas City system. Except in one way, I have been alone in the selections, outlining and finally designing and in construction of the entire Kansas City park work, of course always having not only the support but very active assistance of the members of the Board of Park Commissioners, particularly the first President, who remained in office from its inception in 1892 until 1900, Mr. August R. Meyer. We first studied the city very carefully, then made tentative selections of the parks and boulevard lines and after thoroughly settling on the system as originally outlined, Mr. Meyer desired the judgment and its resultant support of Mr. L. F. Olmsted, Sr.’s study and approval on the properties we had intended to acquire. Mr. Olmsted, with Mr. Henry Codman, visited Kansas City and remained one day during 1893, exactly when I have forgotten. Afterward, Mr. Charles Elliott visited us for another day. Mr. L. F. Olmsted made a report to the Board of Park Commissioners after his visit, approving in general terms the selections made, suggesting some slight possible additions, and beyond that the Olmsteds never had anything to do with the Kansas City park system. I suppose this is the foundation for the idea that the Olmsteds designed or had anything to do with our work here."
(Kessler Collection: Kessler to Mr. R.H. Wader, Secretary, Lincoln Park Commissioners, Chicago, Illinois. August 23, 1902).

Despite the tendency to attribute his Kansas City work to others, his efforts would earn him an important role in planning the world's fair in St. Louis, Louisiana Purchase Exposition. As in Chicago eleven years earlier, the world would come to St. Louis in 1904. The fair would offer a showcase of the countries best: in design, industry, agriculture, and other fields.
The effort to bring the World's Fair to St. Louis had begun well before the turn of the century. After unsuccessful efforts to bring a fair to the city in 1861 and 1870, a delegation led by Missouri Governor David R. Francis traveled to Washington in 1890 to offer Forest Park as a site for the Columbian Exposition, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus'discovery of America.1 Despite their argument that a larger population lived within a five-hundred mile radius of St. Louis than Chicago, the fair was awarded to St. Louis' traditional rival.
Undettered by this setback, proponents of a fair in the city would not give up. In the spring of 1897, the Missouri Historical Society began serious consideration of a celebration of the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1903. At a meeting of business, labor, and civic leaders in June 1898, it was determined that there was not enough time to create a fair that would equal or surpass the Chicago Fair of 1893. This group proposed instead to create a large riverfront park containing a museum.
David R. Francis, however, was determined to have a fair. Francis, who had served as mayor and whose term as governor expired in 1893, was a wealthy and successful businessman. In January, 1899, he led the St. Louis delegation at a meeting of representatives of all the Louisiana Purchase states in St. Louis. After Francis addressed the attendees, the proposal for a World's Fair in the city was unanimously approved, though some of the delegates had earlier favored other schemes. The following day an executive committee was appointed, with David R. Francis as chairman.
In June 1900 Francis found greater success in Washington than he had in 1890 when Congress authorized $5 million for the fair on the condition that it be matched by a similar sum from the City of St. Louis, and another $5 million from private donations. By March 1901, the conditions had been met and the federal appropriation was authorized. In April the supporters of the fair incorporated as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company (LPEC), and the following month, Francis was elected as president.
With funds secured and an organization in place to create and operate the fair, fair proponents turned their attention to the tasks of selecting a site for the fair, preparing a plan for the grounds, and designing the exposition buildings.
In the early months of 1901, St. Louis Mayor Henry Ziegenhein vetoed a bill before the St. Louis Municipal Assembly to offer the city's three largest parks: Carondelet, O'Fallon, and Forest, as sites for the fair. Ziegenhein, a Republican, may have opposed closing portions of any park to the public, even temporarily, but he may also have been attempting to thwart the efforts of Francis, a Democrat.
In April of that year, however, Ziegenhein was no longer mayor. He had been replaced by Rolla Wells, son of the city's streetcar magnate and a longtime friend and ally of Francis. In May a committee of the house of delegates held a public hearing on a bill to offer for the fair all of Carondelet or O'Fallon Park or the western half of Forest Park. Francis testified in favor of the bill pointing out that Chicago had offered all of its parks for the Columbian Exposition and urged prompt consideration since there was not much time remaining to build the fair.
Opponents of the bill focused their protests on the use of Forest Park. Forest Park had been officially opened twenty-five years earlier on Saturday afternoon, June 24, 1876. At the time St. Louis was the fourth largest city in the United States behind New York, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn (still a separate city), and ahead of Chicago. After a ten-year battle in the state legislature and among various St. Louis citizen groups, in 1874 the Missouri legislature passed three acts to establish three parks in St. Louis County, Carondelet Park in the south, Forest Park in the center, and 0'Fallon Park to the north. The Forest Park Act authorized the county to purchase land and established a seven member board of commissioners. After an extended court contest which eventually reached the Missouri Supreme Court, the condemnation of land for the park was secured. The 1,370-acre park was much larger than the 840-acre Central Park of New York City which was the standard for urban parks in America at the time.
On January 1, 1876, the board of commissioners of Forest Park presented to the county a report of over a hundred pages describing their actions and plans. The report contained a plan for development of the park prepared by Maximillian G. Kern, superintendent and landscape gardener of Forest Park.2
Kern's background and training was remarkably similar to Kessler's. A German immigrant, Kern was born in the town of Tubingen. After studies in his hometown, where his uncle was a professor of botany, Kern worked as a gardener at the royal gardens in Stuttgart. The gardens consisted of the Reosensteinpark laid out in the English style by the Italian Giovanni Salucci in 1820, the Schlossgarten, and the Italian Renaissance Villa Berg. Kern later served on the landscape staff of the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.
From Germany, Kern went to Cincinnati where he was almost certainly the author of Practical Landscape Gardening, a book greatly admired by Frederick Law Olmsted. Moving to St. Louis, Kern designed Lafayette Park and would later design parks for Compton Hill and the Chain of Lakes reservoirs. He would also oversee the landscaping of Portland Place and Westmoreland Place.
In 1874, the Forest Park commissioners had considered inviting plans from "the most eminent landscape gardeners in the country," but had dropped the idea, perhaps either to save time and money, or because they decided that Kern was the best available. Kern was assisted in the preparation of his scheme by Chief Engineers Julius Pitzman and later Henry Flad and park draughtsman Theodore C. Link. Pitzman, Flad, and Link were all German-born engineers.
Pitzman immigrated to the United States in 1854 with his widowed mother, settling first in Wisconsin and eventually in St. Louis.3 After service in the St. Louis County engineers office and with the Topographic Engineers Corp of the Union Army during the Civil War, Pitzman took the position of city surveyor for St. Louis. His interest in landscape design had led him to an intense study of the field including a tour of the great parks of Europe in 1874.
Pitzman had developed an important reputation of his own as a landscape architect, or in Pitzman`s term as a landscape engineer. During his career, Pitzman built the city park in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the race course at Nashville, Tennessee. He designed Granite City, Illinois, and roughly four thousand acres of residential subdivisions within St. Louis, notably Westmoreland Place.
The citizens of St. Louis had enjoyed the Forest Park design of Kern, Pitzman, Flad, and Link for twenty-four years. Many were unwilling to see the park modified, even for a World's Fair. E.H. Bickley told the committee that Forest Park "should be preserved as a Sunday promenade for visitors to the city,"4 and that the use of the park might be illegal because the city charter required a vote of the people before any park land could be sold or leased. H.C. Koenig, president of the southside Tenth Ward Improvement Association said, "My heart bleeds at the thought of destroying Forest Park."5 Former Mayor Ziegenhein argued that the fair directors had already decided to use Forest Park and said,"charges ought to be brought against a man who would chop down its trees, and he should be sent to the penitentiary."6
Hiram Phillips, president of the board of public improvements, replied that the bill "requires the World's Fair commissioners to place the park in the condition in which they found it when they are through with it. . .If D.R. Francis and the World's Fair people wanted my house for two years and promised to return it in good condition, they could have it."7
The committee recommended the bill to the house of delegates, which passed it and the city officially adopted the ordinance on May 16, 1901. The Globe-Democrat remarked approvingly that because the city was allowing fair promoters to use one of the city parks instead of having to buy a site, they could "head off all attempts to corner the real estate market against them."8
Despite, or maybe because of, Ziegenheim's charges that Francis and his associates had already chosen Forest Park, an elaborate site selection began immediately. In late May 1901 the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company directors asked for suggestions of sites of at least seven-hundred acres which could be enlarged to 1,000 to 1,200 acres. Francis and his associates may well have preferred Forest Park as Ziegenheim charged, but they stated that they were willing to consider any reasonable offer of land and financing.
Representatives of the American Institute of Architects, St. Louis Architectural Club, and other citizens offered suggestions of selection criteria. Some advised that the site be linked to the major sights of the city by boulevards. They even offered drawings of a suggested system. Consideration was given to transportation facilities for freight and people, utility service, cost of land, the character of the buildings surrounding the land, and finally, the suitability of the site for such improvements, since some of the buildings to be built for the fair were to be permanent.
In all, seven sites were considered. Extensive site visits and hearings before groups favoring each site were held. A group called the Forest Park World's Fair Free Site Association effectively argued its case. Though the park was the only one of the seven sites that was not on the river, they argued that even the Mississippi River could not compare with the Lake Michigan site of the Chicago Fair. The expensive price of the surrounding land was not a disadvantage as some claimed but instead an advantage because it would prevent undesirable temporary developments from springing up around the park. At Forest Park the first impressions of visitors to the city would be the nicest sections of St. Louis. Residents of the city always took out-of-town visitors to Forest Park because they were proud of the park and the fine residential neighborhoods which surrounded it. Finally, the Free Site Association argued that the fair would in fact improve the park especially by the drainage that would be installed. "This is our end and aim;" they stated, "not Forest Park for the World's Fair, not a sacrifice, but the World's Fair for Forest Park; for its perfection, its monuments, its permanent results in giving St. Louis a finished and central garden fully a generation ahead of its time."9
The Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company directors announced their unanimous selection of the Forest Park site on June 25, 1901, one day after the twenty-fifth aniversary of the park's opening day. The city's press unanimously supported the selection as well. The Globe-Democrat called the site "unquestionably the best" and remarked that "no one need fear for the safety of the park. . .The ax will be applied as the skilled surgeon does the knife."10
With a site selected, the Committee on Grounds and Buildings met that same day at the Bank of Commerce Building. Chairman William H. Thompson laid before the committee a resolution received from the executive committee of the Exposition Company: "Resolved that the committee of Grounds and Buildings be requested to submit a plan looking to the creation of a Commission of Architects."11
Under the plan the commission would be composed of nine architects or firms, one of which would chair the commission and serve as director of works. Five of the nine architects were to be from the Louisiana Purchase Territory. To each of the eight architects would be awarded the design of one of the important structures. In addition, the commission as a whole would determine a scheme for the overall master plan for the grounds, review, and approve all designs to insure that "a grand and harmonious combination be presented to the public at large."12 Furthermore, the commission would recommend to the committee the names of architects to be appointed to design other fair buildings.
On June 27th, 1901, the Committee of Grounds and Buildings adopted the plan for creation of a commission of architects with the amendment that an additional landscape engineer and a sculptor be added to act in an advisory capacity to the commission.
The following architects were selected to comprise the commission: Eames and Young, St. Louis; Barnett, Haynes, and Barnett, St. Louis; Widman, Walsh, and Boisselier, St. Louis; Theodore C. Link, St. Louis; Cass Gilbert, St. Paul and New York City; Carrerre and Hastings, New York City; Van Brunt and Howe, Kansas City; Walker and Kimball, Omaha and Boston; and Isaac S. Taylor, St. Louis, Director of Works.
Link had been involved with the park from its creation. He served as a draftsman for the park commissioners and for a time served as city park administrator. With the separation of the city of St. Louis from St. Louis County in 1875 the city limits had been extended to include Forest Park. At that time, Forest Park had become one of sixteen city parks, administered by the city park commissioner, who was appointed by the mayor. The board of Forest Park commissioners was abolished. The separation of government jurisdictions was contested in the courts. From April until the new park commissioner was took office in September, 1875, all of the city parks were administered by Link. Link would later design the St. Louis Union Station, and some of the buildings of the Washington University Medical School.
In addition to the nine architectural firms that were selected, George E. Kessler was chosen as landscape architect, with Julius Pitzman, as landscape engineer; and F.W. Ruckstuhl of New York as sculptor. It is not known how Kessler's name came before the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company board. Maybe the fame of his Kansas City work had attracted the attention of St. Louisans. Perhaps as he had done with the Kansas City Park Board in 1892, he actually applied for the post. It is also possible that Adriance Van Brunt, as a member of the commission of architects and a friend of Kessler, had nominated the young landscape architect.
Why the position of landscape architect to the fair was not filled by Link or Maximillian Kern who had prepared the original plan for Forest Park is not known. It is not known whether Kern was still living at this time. Though he had extensive experience with the park, Link apparently considered himself an architect rather than a landscape architect.
The role of Pitzman, now sixty-four years old, in the landscape design of the World`s Fair would be limited. He would resign from active service in the winter of 1901. The reason for Pitzman's resignation is not known. Perhaps his age and health were an issue, perhaps he felt that Kessler did not need his assistance. Whatever the reason, the primary responsibility for the landscape design of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition would fall to George Kessler, now thirty-nine years old.
Kessler moved quickly to assemble a staff to assist in the landcape design of the fair. Employed as "draughtsmen" were J.V. Brirsen, Henry C. Muskopf, Victor Hill, Eda A. Sutermeister, and Henry Wright. George's sister Antoine also worked as a landscape architect in this office.
Nothing is known about the background of Brirsen and Hill. Muskopf would establish the Muskopf and Irish nursery in St. Louis following his work with Kessler at the fair and would often be a supplier to Kessler of plant material for his projects throughout the Midwest.13
Sutermeister was a native of Kansas City where she graduated from Central High School in 1897. She was a member of the family which owned the Phenix Stone Company.14 Phenix supplied much of the stone for Kessler`s Kansas City park system improvements. Miss Sutermeister studied briefly at the University of Missouri. On October 1, 1897, she became the first student to enter the School of Gardening of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. Here she studied until April 1900.15 The School of Gardening course at that time was a four-year course. The first year was practical work. After the first year, half of the day was practical work and half coursework. In April 1905, Kessler wrote to William Trelease, the Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden regarding the possibility of substituting Ms. Sutermeister's practical work with him for the manual work requirement which she did not complete while at the Garden. This substitution was accepted and Trelease recommended her admission for the examination. Sutermeister passed the test on November 15, 1905, and received her certificate from the school of gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Henry Wright, twenty-two years old, was born in 1878 in Kansas.16 Wright had worked for Kessler previously at the age of 17 or 18 in Kansas City. He had also apprenticed for a time in the architectural office of Root and Siemens in Kansas City. Wright had graduated after two years of study from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in architecture only months before Kessler received the commission for the landscape design of the fair. He first returned to Kansas City and Kessler's employment. As the Louisiana Purchase Exposition moved toward execution, Wright moved with his new bride, Eleanor Niccolls, to
St. Louis to head Kessler's new office.
The creation of the landscape of the World's Fair would require not only Kessler's design skills, but his management experience, gained through years with the railroad, as well. In addition to his design staff, forty other men were employed under Kessler`s direction as foremen or laborers to perform landscape construction. D.W.C. Perry, who had served as Kessler`s assistant with the railroad, held a similar position with the fair, holding the title of superintendent.
Francis and his collegues had elaborate plans for the fair. The United States government would have a pavilion as would most of the states and many countries. Except for the Palace of Fine Arts, to be designed by Cass Gilbert, all of the structures were to be temporary. They were to be built of staff (plaster of Paris mixed with fibers) on a wooden framework. The Palace which had to be fireproof, and thus could not be built of staff, could thus become a permanent home for the School and Museum of Fine Arts, a branch of Washington University. With the president of the museum in Europe, William K. Bixby took a position as a member of the Committee on Art of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company to help plan the building.
A subcommittee of the Commission of Architects was appointed consisting of Gilbert, Link, Barnett, and Eames to prepare the master plan for the fairgrounds. This committee was later expanded with the addition of Walker, Howe, and Carrerre. Kessler apparently had no role in the preparation of the master plan of the Fair. The committee developed three schemes, and then settled upon a plan which called for a fan like grouping of buildings with a central pivot and radiating vistas with a circular outer boulevard.
With the overall disposition of buildings left to others, it appears that Kessler's task was to link the buildings together with plantings, walkways, and water features. This was a role far reduced in scope from the one played by Frederick Law Olmsted at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, the Chicago World's Fair.
In designing the landscape features of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Kessler conceived the fair as a city of gigantic palaces rather than a group of buildings set in a park.18 The plan, therefore, was not only formal but of monumental scale. The most elaborate of the features was the Cascade Gardens. Half a mile in length, extending in a long southern sweep around the end of the grand basin and communicating lagoons, the cascade was three-hundred- feet wide with a rise of sixty feet. At the crown was Gilbert's magnificent Palace of Fine Arts.
In Kessler`s report to the exposition commission, he described the concept for the urban design of the fair. "The general design of the Exposition, the landscape as a whole, was predetermined by the fortunate selection of Forest Park as the site. The topography led naturally to the use of the lower plain on the north as the site of a comparatively compact city of exposition palaces tied together by great formal avenues and around on the contiguous hills by the beautiful structures overlooking the lower levels, the slopes between being so shaped as to give the opportunity for the Cascades and their surrounding gardens.19
"The disposition of the villa-like state buildings on the higher level of the forest area to the south gave to each building a fine setting, the forest serving as a splendid background for the whole and the entire picture suggesting the possibility at least of a beautiful city in reality.
"An entire formal treatment of the level area, or 'main picture' containing the exhibit palaces, necessarily resulted in the arrangement of these buildings on rigid avenue lines, which were in turn subdivided into paved roads, broad lawns, and water surfaces. Opportunity was thus given for planting the large maples that lined the principal roads in the main part of the grounds and, which aside from furnishing welcome shade, served to frame the buildings and show them in pleasing relief against the green foliage."20
"Between the absolutely formal design of the main picture and the state buildings lay the pleasure grounds of the Exposition - the area of the Cascade Gardesn partly formal and partly natural in the execution of the plantations and the formation of the ground. Opportunity was here given for the glorious display of colors and forms of plant life available for garden uses, and for bringing about complete harmony between the even, broad lines of greensward and the sharper architectural lines of the Cascade and the Colonnade."
These trees were silver maples, ranging from ten to sixteen inches in diameter, over two hundred of which were moved from other portions of the grounds with balls of earth about ten feet in diameter.
The central part was a festival hall two-hundred feet in diameter carrying a dome, which towered two-hundred feet above the building`s foundation. Extending east and west from the festive hall were collonades fifty-two feet high, terminating in two restaurant pavilions, each 130 feet in diameter and 150 feet high. Each of the collonades was divided into seven circular bays, before which was placed a statue or a sculpture group of heroic scale representing a state or territory of the Louisiana Purchase. The terrace upon which the statuary was placed was known as the Terrace of States. A notable feature of this terrace and the terraces of the Grand Basin was the use of century plants. At one time four railroad cars of these plants were utilized.
The central and largest of the three cascades had its source in a fount, twenty feet above the level of the terrace, spreading out into a stream forty-five feet wide and fourteen-inches deep. The water leaped from wider to wider terraces down the long slope, reaching a width of one-hundred-fifty feet before taking its final plunge into the grand basin. The other two cascades, similar in form to the central cascade found their source in large basins upon the Terrace of States, and opposite each of the restaurant pavilions. At night the entire feature was lit from below the water.
Between and beyond the cascades were great lawns with rich embroideries of flowers, accessed by cement walks and gentle stairs and lined with sculpture. These gardens closed the main avenue, which leads into the exposition from the northeastern entrance to the grounds. Other major gardens were found in front of the United States government building and sunken gardens. The former were located along the main transverse avenue and were set on a slope to allow the plantings to be in view from both the avenue below and the building above. The sunken gardens were the main feature of this transverse avenue and were set three feet below the street level. One of these bright gardens was seventy-five by seven-hundred and fifty feet in size and lay between the Palace of Liberal Arts and the Mines amd Metallurgy Building. Another garden, seventy-five by 1,300 feet in dimension, lay between the Palace of Transportation and the Machinery Building. Both were framed in great stretches of blue grass and contained flowering plants included phloxes, petunias, geraniums, and verbenas, as well as foliage plants selected to present solid masses of color and bloom the entire season.
Large trees, twelve to eighteen inches in diameter, were successfully relocated to the Forest Park site to line the main avenue. The outdoor exhibits of other pavilions further added to the landscape character of the fair. France provided a scaled-down reproduction of the gardens of Versailles, surrounding the Grand Trianon, of which the building was a replica. Elaborate planting also surrounded the British pavilion which was a reproduction of the Orangery of Kensington Palace. Presumably these gardens were designed, not by Kessler, but by representatives of the various countries.
More than forty acres around the Palaces of Agriculture and Horticulture were given to landscape exhibitions. East of the Palace of Agriculture, more than 50,000 rose bushes covered six acres. On the slope north of this building was a floral clock, one hundred feet in diameter, giving the correct time. Also adjacent to the building was a map of the United States, indicating in useful plants characteristic of each state. Exhibits of grasses and medicinal and poisonous plants surrounded the map. China, Japan, Germany, and other nations also offered horticultural exhibits. The entire fair was embraced by the woodlands of Forest Park.
With a general concept for the landscape architecture of the fair, on September 3, 1901, the first stake was driven for the fair, though the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company did not yet have legal title to the property. The ordinance granting use of the park required that the company file a bond of $100,000 (which could be increased by the board of public improvements) to assure restoration of the park at the conclusion of the fair. Although the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company directors were anxious to begin work, Mayor Wells and Park Commissioner Ridgely decided that only surveying and engineering work could be conducted until the fair board took formal possession of the site. On September 30, 1901, the bond was signed and nine days later without fanfare the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company took possession of the property.
By the middle of October, the property had been fenced and workmen were draining the extended lake to reshape it into the Grand Basin which would form a unifying element of the scheme. A growing force of Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company workers was living and working in the park felling trees - many seventy-five to three hundred years old - burning the wood, and blasting stumps with dynamite. A steam shovel leveled Wilderness Hill near the intersection of Skinker and Lindell. Elsewhere, men carefully transplanted some trees on the fairgrounds or in the park.
As the ground was being cleared, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company directors and the city debated the fate of the River des Peres, which ran through the sites of all but two of the exhibit buildings. Fair officials wanted to cover the river within the fairgrounds and to shorten its course. The board, concerned that changes made to the river channel inside the fairgrounds would affect the flow in the rest of the river and that restoration of the river after the fair would be a problem, at last agreed to the rerouting and a temporary wooden channel for the river. The river would have to be restored after the fair "in accordance with landscape gardening ideas."21 After rerouting the river through the grounds the length was cut in half.
As the work of building the fair moved forward, it soon became obvious that the project was far larger than anyone had realized. The fair eventually covered much more ground than the Forest Park site loaned by the city. Through arrangements of varying complexity, some extending into 1903, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company leased land adjacent to the park on the north and west, almost doubling the grounds to more than 1,270 acres. The area included the entire new campus of Washington University, which delayed its move west until after the fair with the university buildings serving as headquarters and display units for the fair. North of the park, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company leased vacant land for the Pike, the fair's amusement area.
In the spring of 1902, due to the fact that the United States government pavilion and those of other exhibitors would not be complete, the fair directors delayed the opening of the fair one year to April, 1904. The St. Louis fair, like the Chicago fair, was a year late. With the fair opening delayed a year, Kessler found time to prepare plans for the Chitauqua Assembly in Carthage, Missouri22; Walnut Grove Cemetery in Boonville, Missouri23; the Merrill Property in Kansas City24; South Springs Pavilion in Excelsior Springs, Missouri25; and the 2nd Presbyterian Church in Kansas City.26
Relationships established in St. Louis continued to yield rewards. F. L. Ridgeley recommended Kessler for work in Little Rock, Arkansas and with Mr. Beall of the M & O railroad. Kessler’s approach, as always, appeared to be to let the clients come to him. "Would you suggest that I write to them directly, or wait until they have something to say? This, in Kessler’s view, was not the approach taken by others: "Did you take in the Park and Out Door Art meeting at Boston while on this trip? If so, have they gotten rid of their advertising features of Olmstead and Manning, or are these gentlemen still actively using the organization in that way?"
As St. Louis city officials became aware of the magnitude of this undertaking, they worried about the restoration of Forest Park. Calling forth provisions of the ordinance which granted use of the park for the fair, the board of public improvements increased the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company'S bond. In January 1903, the board authorized the park commissioner to hire a landscape architect to examine the fair site and estimate the cost of restoration. Ridgely's selection was Samuel Parsons, Jr., engineer and landscape architect of the park system of Greater New York. It is not known whether Kessler knew Parsons prior to this time or whether they met in conjunction with Parsons' inspection of the fair grounds. Yet both men would remain lifelong friends.
Parsons reported to the board of public improvements that the land would need regrading, topsoil, and seeding. Trees would have to be planted, the River des Peres would need to be rerouted, and the fair's artificial waterways reworked. Parsons concluded that "it would not be at all extravagant to say that $1,000,000 would be needed."28
In response to Parsons recommendations, the St. Louis board of public improvements voted unanimously to require an additional bond of $550,000. After a month with no response from the fair board, the public improvements board members asked the mayor to intervene.
In February, 1904, almost a year later, Mayor Wells reminded Francis that the fair could not open until the bond was posted. Francis indignantly denied that the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company would permit the "desecration of Forest Park."29 Finally, in August 1904, with the fair half over, eight of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company directors, including Francis, signed a bond for an additional $100,000 with the permanent art building as additional security.
The continued debate between the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company directors and city authorities, including Ridgely and his successor and close friend Robert Aull, revealed a serious difference of opinion about "satisfactory park conditions."30 These differences would reappear after the fair when park restoration began.
As work proceeded on the fair improvements, Kessler`s time was not completely consumed by the design and construction of the fairgrounds. In 1903, Walter Williams, of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, retained Kessler for $1,000 per year plus expenses to prepare a general plan for improving and beautifying of the university grounds.31 At Kessler`s request, the board ordered the engineering school to make a topographic map of all university land. In 1904, he was requested to submit plans for the horticultural grounds, the athletic grounds, college farm, and general plans for the improvement of private property adjoining university property. The following year the general assembly made such a small apportionment that the university no longer could employ him. Kessler, however, accepted an arrangement whereby he would be a non-resident lecturer on landscape architecture, tend his service as landscape architect without salary, but receive traveling expenses (he had been listed as a faculty member in the university catalog since 1903 and would continue to be until 1911). The April 1907 meeting of the Board of Curators focussed on a tour of the campus to view Kessler`s scheme.
Kessler's campus work continued when in early 1904, the Regents of the University of Kansas called upon Kessler to direct their plans for expansion and beautification of their campus in Lawrence. The existing campus, centering around Mount Oread, was a collection of "crazy-quilt campus architecture."32
Kessler drew up an impressive design, crowning Mt. Oread with buildings, at whose center would be a massive classroom and administrative structure facing north. As a main approach to the university, in the slope before this new building, would be a major open space of lawns and groves. The original plan had the athletic field at the right of the main entrance and the gymnasium on the left, but both he and the regents later agreed that by placing the gynasium at the crest on the bowl-shaped hill to the south, the playing fields.
The law building, an American Renaissance structure, was designed by state architect John F. Stanton after consultation with Dean Green. Green Hall, as it was later named, was the first step in the fulfillment of the Kessler plan.
Only the left third of the campus shown in the sketch made by Kessler was in existence in 1904. Spooner Library is the building at the extreme left; across from the library is Dyche Museum. Above and a little to the right of Dyche is Green Hall. Above Green Hall is Fraser. Around the curve to the right past Green Hall are Snow Hall and Bailey Chemical Laboratory, the latter then the westernmost building on the campus.
A central mall, leading past a stadium on the right and the gymnasium on the left, ascended the hill to the "Grand Court" and the "Main College Hall" with park areas on both sides. The buildings of the west ridge at the right were indicated on the plan as "Dormitories or other buildings," "Club Houses", and "Homes of Faculty."
The gymnasium with an exterior like "a squat castle, complete with crenallated roofline," was the model for several new buildings including a power plant, mechanical engineering laboratory, Haworth Hall, a mining engineering and geology building, and Marvin Hall, another building for the School of Engineering. In designing them, State Architect John F. Stanton, together with Professor Erasmus Haworth and Dean Frank Ol Martin, followed the Collegiate Gothic style of the gymnasium, something suggested by English Tudor and popular at that time in the nation`s universities.
Kessler`s plan envisioned in the center of the campus a huge central administration building. Strong and the other regents desired "one of the largest and most beautiful buildings in the state," a "monumental affair" which would "stand for a hundred years as the center of the university architecture as well as the university life."34
To give form to their vision they elected M.P. McArdle, a prominent St. Louis architect, professor of architecture, with primary responsibility for design of the structure. He planned a grand classical-Renaissance. The four-story section to contain administrative offices was comprised of a magnificent dome in the center through which light would fall on a rotunda sixty feet in diameter and a facade lined with elegant pillars.
On either side of the central section would be smaller portions two-stories high, holding an art gallery and the classical museum. Beyond this was a three-story classroom wing.
The legislature of 1909 and subsequent bodies failed to appropriate sufficient funds to accomplish the McArdle plan, and the scaling down of the project which resulted stripped the building of everything that gave the original scheme proportion and beauty - the dome, the pillars, and the connecting section which linked the main part and the wings. Rather than stone, the actual facing was an unappealing terra cotta.
As work on the campus plan for the University of Missouri was underway, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition after three years of construction, was at last opened. From April 30, 1904, through December 1, 1904, St. Louisans and visitors who had the time and could afford the fifty-cent per day admission charge enjoyed the fair. More than twenty million people went to the fair, an average of more than 100,000 for each day the fair was open. It was estimated that over one third of these visitors were residents of the city of St.Louis. Fifteen exhibit palaces, all outlined with electric lights, covered one-hundred twenty-eight acres of the 1,272 acre fairgrounds, the largest fair site ever. Forty-four United States cities, states, and territories had built buildings. Twenty-two countries were represented including China, Japan, and Ceylon.
In late November, 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt who had opened the fair by pressing a telegraph key in the East Room of the White House, arrived in St. Louis to visit the World's Fair. President and Mrs. Roosevelt took a carriage ride in Forest Park, "A Quiet Drive Which Was Greatly Enjoyed."39
By that time, David R. Francis and his associates had already begun to consider their next project, dismantling the fair and returning the land to its owners. George Kessler would play a principal role in the restoration of the park and the planning of his new hometown, St. Louis. Though the Louisiana Purchase Exposition did not attract the attention of the design community to the degree of the Chicago Fair of 1893, the broad exposure provided by his work at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition would yield tremendous work opportunities for Kessler in the years to follow. The friendships and business contacts Kessler developed with individuals such as David R. Francis, later Governor of Missouri; Cass Gilbert, and Daniel Chester French, would last through a lifetime and open opportunities for important new work. From a new home in St. Louis, a junction of most of the railroad lines serving the United States, Kessler could quickly reach the rapidly growing cities of middle America. From this base, the next ten years of Kessler's career would see his reputation grow from one of regional to one of national status.





CHAPTER FIVE: FROM PARK PLANNER TO CITY PLANNER
The city plan for St. Louis and the creation of the city's first city plan commission marked a turning point in Kessler`s career. Although he would continue to prepare park system master plans, we has no longer was his attention focused only upon the park and recreation needs of the city. The years from 1907 until 1917 would see Kessler make the transition from park planner to city planner.
With this transition would also come an expansion of the geographic range of Kessler's practice. His work in Indianapolis and Cincinnati began to attract the attention of the smaller cities of Indiana and Ohio. In Springfield, Ohio, was the first several such cities to call upon Kessler's design skills. A Board of Park Trustees was organized in Springfield in early 1898 and held its first meeting on April 19, 1898, with John H. Thomas, John Foos, William Bayley, Frank McGregor, and David L. Snyder. Springfield had been platted in March, 1801, by James Demint, along the banks of Buck Creek. For several miles east and south of the new village was an undulating plain, covered in summer with tall grass. To the north was an unbroken forest of large trees in great variety. The Mad River, with its rapid current, was within a couple of miles of the northwestern boundary of the village.
The valley of Buck Creek must have been very beautiful at this time. The 'Rocks," perpendicular bluffs of limestone found on both sides of the creek as it made its way toward the Mad River, "were covered with cedars, hanging vines, ferns, mosses and flowers; the wild grape-vine hung from the stately trees and dipped its tendrils into the placid stream below: the sycamore bent its projecting boughs over its banks, while the sugar, maple and mulberry, towering above, with the dogwood, redbud, spicewood, butternut, buckeye and other trees with their varigated leaves formed a beautiful and attractive picture. Near the mouth of Mill Run, a little rivulet which flowed near the south and west lines of the village, the scenery was unusually attractive and romantic. The little stream went tumbling over the rocks in order to reach the brief valley below and empty its water into Buck Creek. On each side of this cascade, there were high, projecting rocks, covered with honeysuckles and wild vines and beautiful ferns, which hung down in festoons as a curtain to the chasm below, which was taller than a man's head. On the east side of this chasm, there was a large spring of water flowing from a round hole in the rock, with a strong current, remarkably cold, and depositing a yellow sediment. On the west side, there was another spring of delicious water, which, in after years slaked the thirst of little fishing and picnic parties, who found delight on the banks of Buck Creek in the wild and picturesque valley."1 It was this abundance of springs which would give the village its name. "In places the soft shale underlying the harder limestone has washed away in places, causing huge masses or rock to break away from the main wall. Here and there, these picturesque, overhanging rocks are balanced precariously above footpaths along the streams. Ferns growing over the rocks and miniature waterfalls issuing from crevices characterize the cliffs in and near Springfield"2
It was 217 acres of this magnificent landscape that was donated to the village in 1895 by John and David L. Snyder. The only condition attached was that the city should expend the sum of $20,000 for park improvements. During the lifetime of the Snyders and in memory of their deceased brother William, they erected the iron bridge to connect the different parts of the park not far from the pavilion. When David, the last of these brothers, passed away, it was found that he had endowed the park with the sum of $200,000.
Encouraged by the Snyder donation, the city council on July 20, 1908, passed a resolution calling for the issuance of $225,000 in bonds for the purchase of park lands. To prepare a scheme of park expansion, George Kessler was retained.2 In addition to the magnificent Snyder Park, Kessler also found a significant German community in Springfield. Much of Springfield's population was comprised of descendants of the crews of German immigrants who working side by side with Irishmen in the mid 1830's had brought the National Road to Springfield. Still other Germans had immigrated during the 1850's and 1870's. Driven by social changes in their homeland, they were perhaps attracted to Springfield because local Wittenberg College was named for the town in which Martin Luther had posted the 95 theses. They opened small meat markets, combination saloons and grocery stores, and woodworking shops. Others became farmers or worked as mechanics in the factories.
The schemes of park proponents in Springfield, failed to find the support of Mayor William R. Burnett. Although Burnett stated that he was willing to let the people decide, he further stated that for the life of him he couldn't see where the people were who wanted the Park Extension project. He further declared that he believed if given a chance to vote upon it, that the people would turn it down. "'They call me an old fogy--perhaps I am,' said His Honor this morning [July 28, 1908], 'but all I am trying to do is to learn the sentiment of the people. Understand me, if the park question is put before the people at the general election and is carried, no one will be more heartily in favor of it than I, nor will anyone work harder to make it a success, but I don't believe the people want it. And of course I am against any special election.'"3 Burnett went on to claim that in his opinion it was too much to ask of a city the size of Springfield, with taxes he already felt were high. The issuance of $225,000 in bonds for the proposed improvement will add approximately a half-mill to the present levy which is now very close to the legal ten mills. Instead of parks, the mayor argued, the city should focus upon improving streets. "This argument of the park being an investment is perfectly silly, and all bosh," said his honor. "The city is not adding a single dollar to its tax duplicate by this proposed expenditure. It is a luxury purely and simply. Now the whole question is, can the city stand such a luxury?"4 Burnett vetoed the council's bill, and set the bond election for November 3rd.
The park proponents immediately began a campaign of lectures to gain the support of the citizenry. Armin H. Griffith of Detroit, speaking before the Commercial Club argued that "There is a spirit spreading over the country which calls upon cities to provide museums and parks for the people. It is not the rich who are making the demand, but the great mass of the people as a whole. A city owes it to its residents to do something for them, for their health, for their amusement."5 J. Horace McFarland delivered two addresses in the city. Talks were delivered to the workers at the P.P. Mast and Company shops, at the International Harvester Factory, at the Trades and Labor Assembly, and at a meeting of the African American people at the Center Street church.
The parks committee of the Commercial Club, which led the campaign, obtained options on the subject property and printed 3,000 copies of Kessler's Park Extension report. Here Kessler would say of his plan for the Buck Creek Valley: "It would be a very distinct misfortune if your community did not secure this entire valley, even though your improvements there may be stretched over a long period of time." Kessler saw in this land the potential for one of the most beautiful parks in the country requiring little improvement. "All you will have to do in many places in this valley is merely to cut the weeds and keep it clean and you have a natural park unsurpassed in beauty in any city."6
The Springfield Times supported the bond issue in its editorials arguing that Springfield had the lowest bonded indebtedness of any city of its size in Ohio. The Times went further to explain to its readers that Peoria, Illinois, only slightly larger than Springfield had spend over $250,000 on parks. Bay City, Michigan, with a population of 25,000, had spend $200,000 on two acres of lakefront. Cincinnati paid $1,000,000 for 32 acres of parks, and Springfield, Illinois, with 34,000 population, had already expended $219,000 for parks, and was still building them to satisfy the demands of the people who have "seen the light."7 It was time, the Times argued for the 35,000 residents of Springfield, Ohio, to get busy. The manufacturers of the city came out in favor of the proposal, and several land owners adjacent to the proposed park stated that they would donate land to the city if the bond issue passed.
Despite the promotional campaign, the park bond issue was decisively defeated by a margin of two and one quarter to one. A review of the vote showed that it was the working men and small property owners who killed the proposition. The measure passed in only one of the thirty-eight precincts of the city.
Friends of the park proposal declared that had they only put forward a proposal for improvement of the Buck Creek Valley as far east as Fountain Avenue they would have met with favor from all and would have had little trouble in passing the measure. Park supporters met defeat, they believed, because the entire plan was perceived to be too large to be practical.
Although the bond issue was defeated, park improvements still moved forward. The park board directed Superintendent E.K. McIntyre to prepare plans for creation of a lake in the center of Snyder Park. This was done instead of building the large lake to cover the entire West end of the park as proposed by engineer J.J. Hoppes.8 The new lake was to be circled by a boulevard and flower gardens. The entire project was to cost $20,000.
As Springfield, Ohio, residents debated the need for a park system, in nearby Hamilton, Ohio, a similar discussion was underway. The first park commission was organized on June 20, 1907, with J.J. Pater as president. Mayor Thad Straub, elected in November of that year, established a standing committee on streets and parks composed of Messrs. Welsh, Ruhl, and Holbrook, and allocated $520 for parks during the first half of 1908.9 Other signs of park improvement could also be found. The public service board purchased benches for the park at Lowell Street, and the Civic League established its own organized committees on playgrounds, trees, and lawns and flowers. The Young Men's Christian Association established a playground at 5th and Dayton.
In addition to these suggestions' Kessler also proposed the redevelopment of Ludlow Park. The plan by H.C. Broadwell of Kessler's staff for the rather small park is curiously eclectic, accomodating the playfields of the growing recreation movement, an area of curvilinear paths and naturalistic plantings, and a formal floral display of Henry Street which formed a direct link from the CH&D railroad station to the business district.
Kessler`s work to date had largely involved the design of parks and boulevards, and he had been commissioned by park commissions or boards. Such reports offered poor vehicles to address issues of housing, transportation, or land use. The need for city plan commissions (the first was established in Hartford, Connecticut in 1901) had been slow to take root in the communities of the Midwest and Southwest. In Dallas, however, the groundwork had been laid for the preparation of a broader city plan.
George B. Dealey, vice president and general manager of the Dallas Morning News, had realized the urgent need for city planning in his town, and in 1909, he set about to organize forces for such an effort. The concept of a city plan was first mentioned by Dealey in a paper read before a local literary club in February of that year. "On May 16, 1909, the news gave editorial endorsement to the tentative movement for a city plan."10 From that date the paper became the force in arousing public interest in city planning in Dallas and the surrounding area where the paper circulated. In the year that followed, the News printed about 800 columns on the general subject, including a series of articles outlining the elements of the city plan. Another column by Otto Praeger, the paper`s Washington correspondent, reported on the proceedings of the First National Conference on City Planning, held May 21-22, 1909, in Washington, D.C.
On January 28, 1910, the City Plan and Development League was organized as a branch of the Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of educating the public about city planning. Dealey, elected vice-president of the league, supported the hiring of Kessler to author a city plan for Dallas. On May 23, 1910, Kessler, with the support of the league, was hired by the city commissioners and the park board.
The conditions under which Kessler was hired in Dallas were more sophisticated than those in nearby Fort Worth the year earlier. The population of Dallas reached 92,104 persons in that year, a 116% increase over the previous decade. The business and civic improvement communities were already well established, and the concept of city planning had powerful allies. While in Fort Worth, Kessler was able to assume a leadership position; in Dallas he was more an instrument for the vision and plans of the powerful interests which had effected his employment.
Between 1911 and 1919, Kessler was retained for varying periods of time by the park board. At least twice he was hired on an annual basis at a salary of $1,250. By 1917, he was being paid $100 per day plus expenses for an assistant. Under this arrangement, the costs were shared by the park board, the fair association committee, and the chamber of commerce committee.
"A plan for the city of Dallas," Kessler wrote, "becomes a plan, not for the building of the city, but one formulating recommendations for rebuilding along broader lines. The need for a city plan would not become evident unless both the commercial and social life of the community seriously felt the hampering effects of the existing natural and artificial barriers preventing rational expansion of business and residential districts.
"Every city presents its own unique problems, and since in all cases certain fixed conditions must be met, a careful study is necessary in order to harmonize the old and new. In dealing with existing conditions financial considerations are of the upmost importance, as it is the clearing away that becomes costly. In considering future extensions, however, the new work, if properly directed, will more than repay the capital outlay."
"In exaggerated form Dallas today presents the difficulties attendant upon the expansion into a great city of a village at a temporary railroad terminus, no apparent thought having been given in the interim to the needs of the increasing populations."11
Kessler's plan, completed in October 1910 and published by the city in 1911, reflected an awareness of the need to plan the city practical as well as the city beautiful. City planning was beginning to reflect social issues and Kessler foresaw the need in Dallas for such problem solving improvements, as a central freight terminal, a belt railroad around the city, the opening and widening of streets in the downtown area, and the construction of levees along the Trinity River in order to reclaim an area for manufacturing and the development of playgrounds. The city had begun to segregate its land for various uses along natural lines; the lower grounds for railroads and industrial purposes, slightly higher the retail and wholesale houses near the city`s center, a of the surrounding elevations and the residential areas. "Regard for the interests of the people at large," he notes, "means that a city should be divided into areas and zones, each devoted to its own particular purpose. The greatest possible accessibility for all should be provided in ample and direct connecting thoroughfares and all barriers, such as railroad grade crossing, narrow, congested streets and excessively long blocks, should be removed and corrected."12
This was the kind of practical program which businessmen heartily endorsed, and Kessler, while always aware of the commercial elements of a city, was first a landscape architect. In Dallas, Turtle Creek Parkway, Lake Cliff Park, and White Rock Parkway provided natural beauty within the urban environment.
In 1910, another landscape architect, John Noyes, who like Henry Wright would later earn a national reputation of his own, joined Kessler`s staff. Educated at Massachusetts Agricultural College (later the University of Massachusetts) under Frank Waugh, Noyes worked with Jens Jensen and Warren Manning before arriving in St. Louis. In 1914, he began a thirteen-year tenure as a professor of landscape design at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and the following year he started studying architectural design at the St. Louis Architects Blue Atelier.13
In 1911, Kessler began one of the most unusual commissions of his career, the planning of university campuses in China. The University of Shaghai began in 1900 when Baptist missionaries gathered in Shanghai at the time of the Boxer uprisings and prosed the establishment of a Baptist college in China. The college grew to become one of thirteen Christian colleges in China, through the cooperation of Christians in China and the United States and three Baptists groups - Northern (now American) and Southern Baptists in the United States and Chinese Baptists in China. The new century began a period of rapid change and rebirth for China. IN 1894-95, Japan defeated China in the Sino-Japanese war and took control of Korea. This humiliating defeat together with the increasing impact of Western influence set the stage for change within the country.
In early 1905, the two Baptist groups united to pursue a vigorous program for building primary, elementary,a nd middle (high) schools that would furnish students for the future college and seminary. The college and seminary were to be the capstone of this educational system. The joint mission elected a ten member board of trustees. Among this group were Dr. John Thomas Proctor who would serve as the university's first president from 1906-1912 and Dr. Francis Johnstone White who would succeed Proctor. White was a graduate of Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas. It was perhaps through his contacts in Ottawa that George Kessler becam involved in planning the new campus.
The first meeting of the trustees was held in Shanghai, September 8,9, and 11, 1905. A site and buildings were important discussion at this first meeting. The trustees considered four potential sites all in the eastern and northern sections of the city of Shanghai, apparently because St. John's University (an institution supported by Episcopalians) was already located in the western section of the city. After two days of discussion and site visits, a land committee was appointed and instructed to buy a site in the eastern district. It was suggested that they especially investigate the land beyond the Point (the eastern boundary of the international settlement) on the Whangpoo River. A twenty-seven acre site, six miles from the center of Shanghai, a city of over one million inhabitants, was selected.
The seminary opened in a rented building on North Szechuan Road in Shanghai on October 16, 1905 with thirty students. At a meeting of the board of trustees in Mokanshan on August 18 and 20, 1906, Dr. J.T. Proctor of the East China Mission was elected president of the college.
The next step in the development of the seminary was the preparation of building plans. Careful plans and estimates of costs were made and forwarded to the mission boards in the United States. The plans called for an administration building, two dormitories, a dining hall, and four faculty residences.
The estimates were as follows:
1. Administration Building $ 30,000
2. Two Dormitories $ 6,000
3. Dining Hall $ 4,000
4. Four Faculty Residences $ 24,000
5. Furniture, fences, sidewalks, and general equipment $ 10,000
6. Total Estimated Cost $ 74,000
To this was added $46,000 for land, making a total estimated outlay of $120,000 for land, building, and equipment, an amount equal to $60,000 in United States currency.
Building operations began in the spring of 1907. During the next two years, the seven buildings were erected under the direction of President Proctor. In September of that year, the seminary was moved to the new campus on the Whangpoo River. On February 10, 1909, the college section was opened. the campus is now called the Shanghai Institute of Mechanical Engineering.
IN 1911 and 1912, a revolution overthrew the Qing [Ching] dynasty, the last of the Chinese dynasties, and established the Republic of China. Proctor resigned to become chief missionary in China and in February, 1912, Dr. White was inagurated. The campus at the time contained four houses for missionary teachers; a dormitory for Chinese teachers and married theological students; a dining hall; and Yates Hall, a three-story general college building. To continue the growth of the university, a building program was undertaken. Kessler was called upon to prepare a new plan for the campus. Continuing disturbances in the country undoubtedly delayed these plans. In a letter to Proctor on June 12, 1912, Kessler wrote: "I assume that the disturbances in China really altered your affairs there, therefore, I am awaiting your advice before proceeding further."
Another important issue during the early years of President White's administration was the question of union with other denominations in East China. First discussed on June 2, 1911, the matter occupied the agenda of each meeting of the trustees until the summer of 1913. During that time, an educational commission was appointed by the six mission boards involved in East China and by the boards of trustees of Hangchow Christian College, Soochow University, the University of Nanking, and Shanghai Baptist College. This commission drew up a tentative draft of a constitution for a proposed union institution to be known as the University of Nanking. On May 16, 1913, the board of Shanghai Baptist College voted to support the creation of this union institution. George Kessler and Cady X. Gregory, an architect from New York City, were retained to prepare a master plan for the new campus.
That Kessler would be involved on projects as distant as China is but one example of his growing reputation. In early 1911, his friend John Mauran wrote to Kessler: "Mr. George W. Perkins, late partner of J. P. Morgan, spent last Saturday with me here in Saint Louis, and in the course of conversation he unfolded to me the vast project which he and his associates have before them in the development of a Park Driveway under the Palisade. He, very wisely, wishes to retain all of the natural beauties and to give them their proper value and setting, and stated to me that he was very anxious to find just the man to employ as Landscape Architect. Between ourselves, I may tell you that he feels that most of the men in the East are either too formal or too narrow in their grasp of such a gigantic project, and when I suggested your name he asked me how he could get in touch with you."
Kesssler’s response gives an insight into his approach to securing new work. While he acknowledged that "this of course appeals to me very strongly and is undoubtedly one of the fine opportunities of the United States at this time," he wrote Mauran: "the fact is that I would not like to run this down too hard. I would not like Mr. Perkins to feel that this is of any greater importance to me than it might be to him." (Kessler Collection: February 16 and 17, 1911, to Mauran). Kessler clearly did not believe in overt self-promotion preferring to let his personal relationships and his work speak for him. As he had hoped, Kessler became an consultant to the Palisades Commission.
In 1911, Kessler also began a lifelong involvement with the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Board of Park Commissioners. The Indiana legislature early that year enacted by a near unanimous vote, a park board law which enabled local jurisdictions to tax benefited properties to establish boulevards, parkways, pleasure drives, parks, and playgrounds and to acquire new properties. The boards were, however, limited to a sum of $50,000 per year compared to the $300,000 per year limit allowed the Board of Public Works. The act further allowed, with the consent of the city council, the Board of Park Commissioners to divide the city into park districts. The new law was critical to park proponents in the state's second cities of Fort Wayne, South Bend, Evansville, and Terre Haute. Until that time, only Indianapolis was allowed such powers.
The Fort Wayne park board moved quickly to take advantage of their new authority, dividing the city into four districts, the Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, and Southwest. Calhoun Street to the river, and the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway north of it, formed the north and south line The Pittsburg railway from the St. Mary's River east to Hanna Street and the Wabash Railway from that point east to the city limits formed the East and West line.
As in many cities of the Midwest, efforts toward creation of a park system in Fort Wayne prior to 1991 had been disjointed.. In 1907, a group of women in the city had established the Wagenhals Playground, believing that "the boy without a playgroudn is father of the man without a job." The facility was so successful that The Playground Association was organized to create other play areas around the city.
Early in the Spring of 1911, the group converted nine acres of city land along the St. Mary's River at the foot of Ross Street into an athletic field and children's playground. Leadership for the effort was provided by O.N. Guldlin. A donation by Guldlin and his wife and a $2,500 appropriation from the city council, allowed the group to make $7,000 in improvements including grading and Medart play apparatus to be made. The site was enlarged and connected with a large tract of land on the opposite side of the river by straightening a bend in the river.
Later in 1911, S.F. Bowser, president of an oil tank and pump company, established at his own expense a playground near his factory in the southeastern section of the city. That same year, Theodore F. Thieme, head of the large knitting mills in the city, engaged Kessler to prepare a scheme for improvement of the riverbanks of the St. Mary's River at the east approach to the West Main Street Bridge. Kessler generously provided this plan and a scheme for the completion of the driveway into Swinney Park. The area at the time was covered by billboards and rubbish heaps. With the approval of Thieme and the city , and $7,000 in funding by Thieme, the scheme was implemented.
In appreciation of Thieme's efforts, citizens retained Josef M. Korbel to sculpt a plaque to adore a retaining wall along the river. The scheme typified Opportunity. Upon either side of the central shield was a half-recumbent female figure. The one of the left symbolized by a sleeping girl clasping the shield of art, the natural beauty of the rivers of Fort Wayne. The figure of the right, bearing in her hand a laurel, symbol of art and culture, expressed natural beauty awakened. The Swinney Park driveway was in turn renamed Thieme Drive.
With a rather innovative technique, R.J. Griswold, a member of the Chamber of Commerce's publicity committee, promoted the riverfront improvement scheme. In the assembly room of the chamber, Griswold prepared six maps twelve by eighteen feet in size which illustrated the history of Fort Wayne's rivers, beginning in their primitive state, evolving to their rundown condition, and culminating in their restoration under the suggestion of Robinson and Kessler. Griswold also assisted the Heit-Miller-Lau Company, a confectionary manufacturer, in preparing a billboard with a bird's eye view of Three River Park.
In addition, to the improvement of the St. Mary's, St. Joseph's, and Maumee rivers with the present city, Kessler also suggested the acquisition of four parks of roughly one hundred acres each beyond the limits of the city in anticipation of population growth.
The park movement in Fort Wayne found its origins in the city's Commercial Club and the leadership of Howell C. Rockhill, its president in 1909. Rockhill suggested that the organization focus its efforts that year on the awakening of public interest in the need for a more extensive park system, the removal from the city's waters of pollution from municipal sewerage, and the general improvement of Fort Wayne's water courses. His suggestion led to the appointment of a Committee on Civic Betterment. The committee, led by Chairman Charles H. Worden and Secretary R. B. Hanna, chose as its first action the sponsoring of a week of free public lectures by Professor Charles Zueblin of Chicago University on "the requirements of the modern city and the needs of its inhabitants." The lectures given every afternoon and evening at the Majestic Theater aroused a great deal of enthusiasm. The newspapers of the city also took up the cause.
Zueblin's lectures were followed by a visit to the city by Professor Charles Mulford Robinson of Rochester, New York. Utilizing private donations and an appropriation by the city council, Robinson prepared a study of the needs of the city. One recommendation of Robinson's report that was implemented was the construction of a farmers market on a site given to the city by Judge Samuel Hanna.
An invitation from the Board of Park Commissioners of Indianapolis to visit the city was accepted by the mayor, city council, and the members of all the official boards of the city. There the progress of Kessler's plan inspired city leaders to implement a similar plan and to retain the services of a landscape architect. After reviewing a number of possible candidates, the commissioners unanimously voted to retain George Kessler.
A Riverfront Commission was formed comprised of Mayor Jesse Grice, Councilmen J.J. Bauer, H.W. Felger, and B.F. Sarver, Frank T. Benoy of the Board of Public Works; Oscar W. Tresselt of the Park Board; Frank M. Randall of the engineering department; and Charles H. Worden, L.D. Redding, and Robert B. Hanna. A tax levy of four and one half cents on each one hundred dollars of assessed valuation was provided by the city council for the use of the commission.
Positive steps were also taken to develop existing parks. At Swinney Park, a japanese pavilion was constructed for picnickers, comfort stations erected, two tennis courts constructed, play equipment installed, and snow cleared from the lake in winter for skaters.
Kessler's plan for Lakeside Park also began to be implemented. Additional land was donated by the Forest Park Land and Improvement Company and the median of Forest Park boulevard deeded to the city. The Electro-Technic Band provided free concerts in the parks. To direct the ambitious program, Charles J. Steiss was employed as secretary to the Board of Park Commissioners.
Kessler's park system plan for Fort Wayne envisioned park drives along both sides of the St. Mary's River commencing at Stellhorn's bridge and extending down the river to Swinney Park. The road alignment incorporated existing groves and preserved these areas of natural beauty as park land. Land at the bends of the river were incorporated into the parks as local parks and playgrounds. Similar riverside drives were proposed for the Maumee and St. Joseph.
Two years later in his 1913 report, Kessler chastised the city for failing to move forward with public acquisition of property. "You have indeed made certain progress; been made almost exclusively through the generosity of two of your citizens, mainly the acquisition of the properties popularly known as Foster Park, by gift from the Foster brothers."
Kessler conceded that improvements had been made along Rudisill and Anthony Boulevards and Lakeside Park. "In connecting the Riverside properties," Kessler pleaded, "if you could only continue the parkway along the St. Mary's River from Foster Park to Swinney, you would make a beginning toward the accomplishment of a really fine park system and beautiful setting for the whole city."
The 1912 bond issue question, delayed action on implementation of Kessler's scheme. The discussion ran on through the spring months, and it was not until summer that the city council finally voted down the proposition. They concluded that so significant an expenditure must be put to a direct vote of the people. On investigation it was found that the law provided no method for such a vote. The park board then prepared and introduced an amendment to the Indiana Cities and Town Act of 1905, legislation giving the city council authority to put before the public bond issues for park and other public improvements.
The city council did purchase Weisser Park that year and a special improvement tax passed for Lakeside Park. Dedications of Vesey Park, Pontiac Place, and Hirons Park were also made by citizens and development companies. Unfortunately, the city council also reduced the park board's tax levy, compounding the difficulty in providing parks for an expanding population. The board was further unable to convince the city council to utilize their sinking fund to pay off short term bonds rather than for direct expenditures. Progress on implementing Kessler's plan was thus painfully slow.
Kessler then set about to prepare a plan for improving the nine miles of riverfront with the city. The focal element of Kessler's plan was Three Rivers Park at the point where the St.Joseph's and St. Mary's Rivers unite to form the Maumee. Here a dam was proposed just above the Columbia Street bridge to create a twenty acre water surface and a center for water sports extending five miles up the St. Mary's and more than two miles up the St. Joseph's. The park site was a particularly appropriate center for the park system for it was here that "Mad Anthony" Wayne in 1794 constructed the fort which grew to become the city of Fort Wayne.
This was a bold and far reaching plan, and one which would require the acquisition of several large properties. Kessler, however, encouraged the city to first pursue the less expensive solution. "Let each building remain," he advised, "until your people demand that you shall take them out." Kessler did, however, insist that Fort Wayne be relentless in acquiring its riverbanks for park purposes. Dr. Jameson, president of the Indianapolis Park Commission stated that "Indianapolis [paid] a penalty of at least one million dollars because she did not purchase all her river banks before she commenced the improvement of any portion of them."
In his 1911 park system report, Kessler pointed out that Fort Wayne had but 143 acres of park land for its population of 66,000, for an average of one acre per 462 residents. Kessler's recommended a standard of one acre per one hundred inhabitants, requiring 660 acres of parks to serve the needs of the current population. The Park Board in its annual report stated the case for a $200,000 bond issue for park land acquisition. The board conducted a survey of cities around the country concluding that ninety-nine per cent of such cities reported that the acquisition of such properties increased adjoining land values. Always conscious of the city's competitive situation, the board advised the citizens of Fort Wayne that Grand Rapids and Toledo, less than two hundred miles away had recently passed bond issues of $200,000 and $500,000 respectively. Conscious of the political implications of such a bond issue, the board also pointed out that the rivers passed through eight of the ten wards of the city.
Despite these arguments, the bond issue was not passed until the late 1920's. Shortly thereafter, the Great Depression wiped out the board's taxing base. Mayor William Hosey successfully pressured the park board to deed the Three Rivers site to the Board of Works as the site of a new filtration plant.
Encouraged by the provisions of the new park law, other Indiana cities called upon Kessler for assistance. The city of South Bend, Indiana, retained Kessler in 1911 to prepare a park and boulevard plan for that city. Kessler was hired at a salary of $2,400 for the first year and $2,000 for each succeeding year plus $1,000 annually for expenses.
His recommendations published in the 1912 Annual Report of the South Bend Board of Park Commissioners outlined a system of "greater parks in the outlying sections, local playgrounds serving the several localities; smaller playgrounds, a comprehensive encircling system of fine avenues,"14 but focused upon the potential of improving both shores of the St. Joseph River through the city from Ishawaka to Pin Hook.
The citizens of South Bend diligently followed Kessler`s guidance. The Rum Village and Springbrook properties were acquired as other parks. The Arnold Tract, and the Lipman properties along the West shore of the river, were obtained and linked by the River Parkway. By 1922, Riverside Park was completed (as far as Pinhook). In appreciation of his contribution to the city, Kessler Boulevard was named in his honor.
As work proceeded on the Fort Wayne and South Bend park plan, the commissioners of the State Reservation at Niagara, New York, retained Kessler for the purpose of restoring the Loop Pond at the park in September 1912. By the middle of October, the dredging of the pond was complete and the pond refilled. An island 250 feet long and 75 feet wide was constructed primarily of the dredged material. A bridge was built connecting the island to the mainland. The roadway around the pond improved, and the entire area was landscaped.15
As Kessler's work in Dallas proceeded, civic leaders in Houston looked to Boston landscape architect, Arthur Comey, to prepare a park and boulevard plan for their city. Comey`s master plan called for development of an inner park system encompassing the existing city and an outer system which he estimated would satisfy the need of the city for the next thirty-five years. He believed that where the banks of the city`s bayous were privately owned, they were ill-kept and depressed property values. Believing that as publically owned parklands this land would enhance the economic value of surrounding neighborhoods, Comey proposed the immediate acquisition of all property on the western stretch of Buffalo Bayou from Preston Avenue to Cleveland Park, as Vick's Park had been officially designated.
Future acquisitions according to Comey should include bayou banks from four to six miles beyond the existing corporate limits, including one and one-half miles to the west of Cleveland Park, to be obtained in large parcels to create a forest reservation. The bayou parkway would be formed by two-lane thoroughfares along the crest of the bayou flanks.
In addition to the parkway envisioned for Buffalo Bayou, Comey proposed a civic center in or near the central business district where a monumental grouping of public buildings could be erected. One suggested location was a multi-block site at the west end of Capital Avenue which could be integrated into the parkway. Although outside the central area and not really in the best part of town, its principal advantage was the Harris County Criminal Courts building which had been built there in 1895-96.
Comey`s recommendation had this effect. While his report was still in preparation, voters approved a $250,000 bond issue in July 1912 for park acquisition. The park board proceeded to acquire land on the north bank of White Oak Bayou from the Southern Pacific Hospital in the fifth ward all the west to the Houston Heights city limits, as well as two large tracts along Buffalo Bayou. One of these tracts comprised about twenty acres bordered on the east by Cleveland Park and on the south by the bayou. It lay directly across from the Hebrew Cemetery. Just west of the cemetery, on the south bank was the second tract, bordered on the west by Shepards Dam Road and on the south by San Felipe Road. Comey's report completed in 1912 and dated February 28, 1913, commended the board for their actions and urged future administrations to maintain this committment and to acquire a large park along Buffalo Bayou "that will for all time be of sufficient magnitude for our people."17
In April 1913, the same month the park board closed on the second Buffalo Bayou tract, Mayor H. Baldwin Rice was defeated in the mayoral election by Ben Campbell. Despite their political differences, Campbell shared Rice`s enthusiasm for the park system. However, other than the annexation of Old Masonic Cemetery to Sam Houston Park, little was done during the new mayor`s first year to expand the park system. In the 1913 annual report of department heads to the mayor, Clarence L. Brock, who had become superintendent of parks the previous year, advised that Sam Houston Park should be "reconditioned and modernized" and protected against the depreciation of automobile traffic. Brock concluded that a landscape plan was needed on a system of boulevards constructed to link the parks.
In 1914, two important steps were taken toward realizing Brock`s goal. The first occurred in May 1914 when George H. Hermann gave the City of Houston a two-hundred and eighty-seven acre tract along Brays Bayou. At his death in October of that year, Hermann gave to the city additional land for this park, as well as a square block near Sam Houston Park, to be called Hermann Square. Two weeks later, voters approved a second $250,000 bond issue for additional park acquisition and improvement. Early in 1914, discussions began regarding a replacement of Comey as consultant to the Houston park board. In early 1915, apparently at the instigation of Joseph Stephen Culligan, a public-minded oil operator, George Kessler was appointed consulting landscape architect to the Board of Park Commissioners of Houston.18 Why Arthur Comey was not retained for this work is unknown.
As park enthusiasts in Houston considered Kessler's employment, progress on the implementation of Kessler`s schemes in Indianapolis continued at a rapid pace. On December 9, 1915, the nearly one mile section of Fall Creek Boulevard from Thirtieth to Maple Road was formally opened. Though Mayor Joseph E. Bell was quick to claim the boulevard system as one of the great accomplishments of his administration, the local press credited the success to the tireless efforts of Dr. Jameson.
Kessler`s task in Houston was the implementation of as many of Comey`s recommendations as the city could afford, though he privately commented that $250,000 was not very adequate to accomplish the needed work. The improvement of neighborhood parks and playgrounds was a top priority of the board with the newly acquired parks adjacent to the fifth-ward and south-end schools taking shape under Kessler`s direction. The landscaping of Main Boulevard, a "parked highway" type thoroughfare, and the design of the first phases of Hermann Park improvements followed. In the next two years, improvements to Elizabeth Baldwin, Woodland (the new name of Highland Park and surrounding acreage) and Settegast Parks were improved. It was not until the latter part of 1916, that Kessler began work on the Buffalo Bayou park properties. A formal garden at the main entrance to Sam Houston Park and a scheme for the South Texas Permanent Exposition were developed for the Buffalo Bayou Parkway by Kessler. The former project, the Convention Garden, was carried out to coincide with the meeting of the Society of American Florists and Ornamental Horticulturalists.
The exposition project involved a substantial enlargment of the Buffalo Bayou park system. The system consisted of a seventy-acre tract west of Sam Houston Park, on a seven block, eighteen-acre portion of the W.R. Baker Addition in the sixth ward, eighteen acres of the Hardcastle Addition in the Fourth Ward, and the golf course formerly used by the Houston Golf Club and owned by the William M. Rice Institute.
Although purchased by the city and championed by Mayor Campbell, the project was developed under sponsorship of three service organizations: the Young Men`s Business League, the Rotary Club, and the Red Roosters, who negotiated the land transfers and directed planning of the grounds. Although the park board did not participate in the project, newspaper reports indicated that the grounds were to be parklike, offer space for public recreation and amusement, and provide another link to the bayou parkway. Kessler was called upon to prepare a scheme for development of the site. Between November 1916 and February 1917, he prepared an elaborate plan which encompassed more ground than the city actually owned.
Kessler`s proposal contained an exposition site of three courts on the north bank between Moore Street and the bayou. The bayou was to be channeled as a straight stream, eliminating three oxbows. Lamar and Dallas avenues extended through Sam Houston Park. Shipman Street became a scenic drive along the south bank of the bayou. This totally changed the character of the area. On the former location of the golf course, a half mile track was planned to be bordered by livestock pavilions. Morse Street was to curve southward through the ground, crossing the bayou where it intersected with Shipman and the track. The blocks between Henderson and White streets in the Baker additions were to be transformed into a formal lanscaped mall, which would axially penetrate the central court, proceed across the bayou, intersect Shipman Street, amd continue south to San Felipe as Sherman Street, an existing street in Hardcastle Addition. Included in Kessler`s scheme for clarifying the vehicular circulation were street rearrangements, new bridges, and a continuous pedestrian promenade along the south bank. Oddly, Sam Houston Park was not indicated on the plan, and working class neighborhoods surrounding the ground were shown as apparently underdeveloped tree-shaded blocks.
No part of this ambitious plan was carried out. By November 1917 the 1915 bond funds were exhausted and Kessler was temporarily off retainer. Brock`s 1915 report indicated that the small park budget for 1916 was so small that park maintenance was being cut to a minimum. The city council failed to develop a means to permanently fund the park system, and with new developments requiring bond financing, progress was slow. With Ben Campbell declining to seek reelection in 1917, park and city planning efforts fell from public prominence until the early 1920`s. Oscar F. Holcombe become mayor in 1921. S. Herbert Hare inherited Kessler`s position as city planner to the city.
Kessler`s involvment with J.S. Cullinan, the gentleman who originally championed Kessler's employment by the city also led to the creation of Shadyside, a residential subdivision adjacent to the Rice Institute.19 In the six-month interval between George Hermann`s donation of the parkland which would later bear his name, and his death in 1914, he consulted with Cullinan about real estate adjacent to the park. Hermann was concerned that development of their tracts, which were at the time mostly open pasture or timberland bordering the park and Rice Institute, be carried out in a manner consistent with the civic potential of the property. Intrigued by the idea, Cullinan proposed the purchase of thirty six and two-tenths acres lying just north of the institute and west of Main Street Road. Cullinan would later recall that Hermann had agreed to the proposition but had not agreed on a price at the time of Hermann's death. The matter was reopened in October, 1915, by Jules J. Settegast, Jr., a business associate of Hermann`s and one of three executors of his estate. Settegast continued negotiations with Cullinan and on Februrary 8, 1916, the purchase was closed at slightly less than $30,000.
The property was flat and dotted with light tree growth. Cullinan, an avid horticulturalist and ornathologist, acted quickly to protect existing vegetation from neighboring land owners who were accustomed to cutting timber and running livestock on the property. He also brought from his Pasadena, Texas, farm a foreman and crew to clear the site. To implement the plan and supervise development of the property, Cullinan hired Herbert A. Kipp, a civil engineer from the United States Department of Agriculture who had come to Houston to advise on drainage plans for the city. Kipp was appointed resident engineer for the Houston park board in the fall of 1915. He was charged with executing Kessler`s plans.
Kipp's plan called for from twenty to twenty-two lots, in addition to the two reserved for the Cullinan house, in a serviceable but unimaginative arrangement. Kessler, in the city to consult with the park board in September, 1916, fortunately prepared a modified plat. More fluid, Kessler`s plat still incorporated twenty two lots lettered "A" through "V". His scheme retained the two streets entering from the proposed main boulevard, but the northernmost street curved gently in a full ninety degree arc. It met the southernmost street at a perpendicular intersection then proceeded straight to the lower boundary line road. Where the two roadways met, a landscaped court containing an ample turn around was planned. As on Kipp`s plan, the roadways were divided in several places around groups of trees in the right-of-ways.
Brentmoor Place in St. Louis, planned by Henry Wright in 1909, offers the greatest parallel to Kessler`s scheme. Here building restrictions were framed to encourage harmonious design of houses and landscaping and most of the sites were oriented toward an elongated private parkway around which the central thoroughfares curved. The architecture reflected the taste drawing from European traditions. Two of the homes were designed by James P. Jameson, an architect who had come to St Louis in 1900 to supervise construction of the Washingon University campus for Philadelphia architects Cope and Stewardson. In May 1914, when Cullinan and Kessler met, Kessler had suggested Jamieson as architect for Cullinan`s planned home in Rossmoyne. The two were in contact before the Rossmoyne project collapsed. In June 1916, Cullinan renewed the commission.
Contract for paving was let. In November, 1916 and in early August the Cullinan family had chosen the name Shadyside. The curving street was called Remington and the short, straight street became Longfellow. The roadway between Rice and Shadyside was designated Shadyside.
Cullinan`s contract with Eureka paving included work on Montrose and Main Boulevard. Where the two met, in front of the Cullinan house site, Kessler located a traffic ellipse, called the sunken garden, to mark the principal entrance to Hermann Park. Within the triangle resulting from the convergence of the two streets Cullinan further acted to assure to unify development of the area.
Cullinan`s intention was to subdivide the property and offer house sites "to a few friends and congenial neighbors in acreage lots, or to sell the property on the open market if surrounding property owners threatened unharmonious development."20 The notion was amplified by a suggestion by Ima Hogg, sister of Will C. Hogg, to harmonize with the buildings of Rice Institute be adopted for all future construction and that a single architect be selected to carry out the work.
Kipp prepared the final plat map to coincide the terms of the covenants developed by Cullinan. Setback lines were graphically illustrated. On each lot easements were reserved along common lot lines for underground utilities. A thirty-foot deep reservation for planting ran along the W. Boulevard.
By January 1917 a list of perspective purchasers was compiled consisting of many of Houston`s most prominent citizens. After completion of storm sewers and paving that spring, Kipp began implementation of Kessler`s landscape plans. Live oaks were laid out in staggered rows all along Shadyside`s east boundary to maintain continuity with planting of the Rice Institute. Armour River privet hedges were planted along Montrose and Main to define the subdivision`s edge. Cullinan later wrote that he preferred Spanish oaks or pin oaks for the street trees within Shadyside, as they would be more in harmony with existing tree growth.
Although the Cullinan house began construction in April, 1917, World War I brought a suspension of lot sales in the subdivision. In early 1919, the Cullinan's moved into their new home. Kessler produced a landscape design for the gardesn in February. At Cullinan's request, the plan was simplified, but the landscape architect was assured that the design "would be adhered to."
At the same time Cullinan purchased the Shadyside property he learned that the Hermann Estate, honoring a verbal committment made by George Hermann shortly before his death, intended to donate a portion of this three- acre site to the Houston Art League, for the construction of an art museum. Cullinan, believed the parcel was too small, an opinion supported by Kessler, and thus purchased the remainder of the tract and donated the site to the Art League in August, 1916.
As work proceeded in Houston, progressives in Pensacola, Florida, also worked for the beautification of their city. Heading the drive for civic improvement was the Pensacola Journal`s which warned that "progressive cities are awakening" to the fact that "the suppression of play especially in childhood limits the fullness of life and leads to crime."22 Park proponents argued that the subdivision of the city created a large number of squares which could be used for parks and for the basis of a park system for the city.
The city council worked with citizen groups to employ Kessler to develop a park and boulevard plan for Pensacola. The plan led to the establishment of parkways in the business district on Garden and Wright streets and the removal of trolley tracks from the center of Palafox Street Parkway to the eight side of the central parkway. The planting of palm trees along Palafax were also the result of Kessler`s influence.
While distant projects in Ohio and Florida occupied much of Kessler's time, he still found time for some work closer to home. Kessler`s 1914 plan for Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, was a classic Beaux Art Scheme with buildings arranged around a central quadrangle. The plan was a series of quadrangles with buildings arranged along strong axis lines and connected by a system of curvilinear walks. The central quadrangle contained the administration building, Young Men's Christian Association and Young Women's Christian Association building, and other general campus buildings. To the west of the main quadrangle was a second quadrangle containing the fine arts, domestic arts, and domestic science buildings. South of this quadrangle were the women`s dormitories. To the east of the main quadrangle were the men`s dormitories and the athletic field. Immediately south of the administrative quadrangle was major open area containing the open air theatre, a pond, and the gymnasium.
W.H. Dunn, Kessler`s former business associate, continued his work in the region, with the publishing of his city plan for Paris, Texas, on February 12, 1915. It was submitted with the official approval of the city council, the board of trade, and the Progressive Club. Dunn`s plan was billed a "a basis on which may be built a city of beauty as well as utility."22 The allocation of land uses into zones - retail business, produce square, wholesale and jobbing, and manufacturing and industrial - was a key element of Dunn`s report. The location of railroad lines and the freight and passenger terminals, the grouping of municipal buildings, the location of fire stations, and the development of parks and boulevards were all included among his recommendations.
On November 30, 1915, The Board of Trustees of Indiana University, meeting at the Denison Hotel in Indianapolis employed Kessler to prepare a master plan for the campus in Bloomington.23 During the period between this meeting and spring 1917, Kessler and his assistant H.C. Broadwell, worked with President William Lowe Bryan and developed a scheme for landscaping and the future placement of buildings and other facilities.
Kessler's work on comprehensive plan for Dallas and his other work throughout the country from 1909 to 1917 would expand his view of comprehensive city planning. This experience would prepare him well to assist his country's war effort during World War I, next important phase of his career.



CHAPTER SIX: WAR IN EUROPE AND A NEW DIRECTION FOR PLANNING
As Kessler`s career was moving forward at a tremendous rate with work throughout the Midwest and Southwest, gathering storm clouds over Europe soon threatened to provide an abrupt change of direction. War in Europe would see the country`s talents and resources directed not at solving the problems of the cities but in mounting the war effort. As Kessler had gained fifteen years earlier from his association with architects and other professionals during the World`s Fair, he was to learn a great deal from his involvement with other design professionals in support of the country`s war effort.
The entry of the United States into World War I on April 6, 1917, decidedly broadened the scope of city planning in the United States, and in turn, the work of Kessler. Three federal corporations recruited the services of architects, engineers, and landscape architects to design and supervise the construction of emergency towns needed to mobilize industrial and manufacturing workers. The Town Planning Division of the United States Housing Corporation planned new housing at industrial sites, and the Emergency Fleet Corporation, under the United States Shipping Board, was responsible for new housing for the vast labor force needed at shipyards. The Camp Planning Division of the War Department was organized to plan military installations.1 Kessler gave his services to both the Camp Planning Division and U.S. Housing Corporation.

In early May, 1917, resolutions were adopted by the National Conference of City Planning in Kansas City. The participants urged the government to adopt town planning principles in the selection of land for military bases and for war housing industries. The resolutions suggested the appointment of a committee consisting of Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., George B. Ford, and E.P. Goodrich to consult with the governmental officials in charge of the work.2
On their own initiative, the members of the committee telegraphed architects, engineers, and landscape architects around the country to solicit their participation. Kessler joined Olmsted and James Sturgis Pray (at the time president of the American Society of Landscape Architects), C.F. Pilat, Charles N. Lowrie, James L. Greenleaf, Harlan P. Kelsey, Herbert J. Kellaway, Robert Wheelwright, Charles W. Leavitt, Richard Schermerhorn, Warren Manning, and Thomas Sears as landscape architects responsible for the planning of cantonments.3
The National Conference on City Planning committee's travel to Washington could not have been more timely. The Secretary of War had just created the Cantonment Division in the Quartermaster's Department, to take charge of the construction of military establishments. The committee was called upon to advise in the organization of the division. As a result of the committee's recommendation, the original staff created by the Secretary of War's initial order was expanded to four-hundred and fifty. Colonel I.W. Littell, was made assistant to the Quartermaster in charge of construction.4
In most cases a U-shaped plan, similar to the first plan drawn up by Mr. Wheaton, architect of the Quartermaster's Corps, was modified by Kessler and the other landscape architects to fit the varying site conditions found around the country. This plan provided for an open space in the center, surrounded by officer's quarters at the edge of the open space. Beyond these quarters were barracks for the various branches of the service, and beyond the barracks was the Main Camp Street, along which were located general buildings for enlisted men and small storehouses. Between officers' and men's quarters a road for light traffic was provided. Crossing between these two roads were company streets.5
Although the City Planning Conference had recommended that professional planners be called upon to select sites for the cantonments, the selections were made on the recommendations of the army officers of each department of the country. Chambers of Commerce and other civic groups assisted in the site selection.
As fast as each cantonment site was selected, even before funds were made available for the work, Colonel Littell called upon a board of designers to examine the site and prepare preliminary plans for utility service and the general layout of the cantonment. The board was usually comprised of a water and sewer engineer and a town planner. Their plans were to be based upon the general plans and standards prepared in Washington.6
Working with sites selected in this manner, Kessler planned the cantonment in Deming, New Mexico, Camp Travis in San Antonio, Camp Pike in Little Rock, Camp Doniphan in Lawton, Oklahoma,and Camp McArthur in Waco, Texas, and Camp Bowie in Fort Worth, Texas, were also planned by Kessler.7 He threw himself into this work with an incredible pace of travel. On February 18, 1917, Kessler telegraphed then General Littell and his assistant Captain Gibbs, from Houston to discuss his travel plans to various camps - Cody, Travis, McArthur, Bowie, and Doniphan.12
On May 30, 1917, at the request of Colonel Littell, Kessler traveled from St. Louis to Washington by Pullman railroad car, boarding at the Hotel Powhatan to meet with the staff of the Council for National Defense.8 Five days later he returned via Cincinnati. His cross country travels continued with his departure on June thirteenth to San Antonio to prepare plans for the cantonment at Fort Sam Houston.9 There, assisted by R. J. Harding, of the city water works department and E.N. Noyes [presumably John], he prepared plans and supervised the construction of the water supply system, drainage system, and roads, directed the surveying on the camp site, and developed plans for the general arrangement of the camp. For his seven days in Washington and nine in San Antonio he received a fee of $650.00.
Departing the St. Anthony Hotel, Kessler traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, on June 20, 1917, to examine the progress of the work of Camp Pike.10 Five days later he returned to St. Louis.11
Under ideal circumstances, the planners would have been provided with detailed topographic surveys of each site. However, given the process by which the sites were acquired and the speed with which the planners were being asked to work, this was not often possible. In discussing how to respond to this lack of information, Kessler responded: "Gentlemen, a war is on. This is June. We must have those cantonments ready by September. My advice is that we get out at once and let the topography soak in through the soles of our feet."13
Kessler’s frequent absence from Missouri took a toll on his relationship with Kansas City and was a confirm for his friend J. C. Nichols. "I am not purposely neglecting Kansas City’s affairs, but in volunteering service to the Government in cantonment work, I have been obligated to lay aside everything else. I have just returned from two of these properties and have been asked to be in readiness for further service." (Kessler Collection: June 28, 1917).
Kessler's efforts though damaging to his health, earned the respect of his peers. In June of 1917, Kessler, responding to a letter from Charles F. Hatfield of the St. Louis Convention and Publicity Bureau, "acknowledging your letter of June eighth on the subject of the Society of Landscape Architects. I doubt the value commercially of the meeting of this rather small body of men of which I am not a member." (Kessler Collection: June 11, 1917). The sting of the snubbing that Kessler had received years earlier was no doubt still with him. His work with other landscape architects during this period, however, changed his relationship with the American Society of Landscape Architects. On November 26, 1917, he applied and was accepted as a member, eighteen years after the organization`s founding.15
The travel and work effort also impacted on Kessler's health. By late July, 1917, he went to bed and stayed there for approximately two months. "I am on my back and expect to stay there the rest of this month if not longer. The universally predicted collapse, and I suppose I will have to take my medicine." (Kessler Collection: Kessler to J.C. Nichols, August 17, 1917). As Kessler described it, "While I was in bed the doctors called it indigestion; when I got out they called it a nervous breakdown and made me promise to be good hereafter."14
On September 4th, Kessler was still in bed: "I am still confiemd to the house, with a prospect of getting out, however, within the next week or ten days. Then I am ordered to stay away from business for a while. . " (Kessler Collection: Kessler to J.C. Nichols, September 4, 1917). By October, he was back at work immersed in the new city planning ordinance for Kansas City:
"If, as I sincerely hope, this document becomes an ordinance then the citizens appointed should represent the larger interests involved. These are necessarily the owners or agents of land in the first instance, the commercial or industrial interest of the city in the second. The realty and commercial interests of the city are so closely associated that one man might represent both. There should be the very best man in the city able to represent the architects, another the engineering profession. The success of the whole thing depends so very much upon interested citizenship and an understanding of the real needs, that I very much hope for the passage of the ordinance and a rational selection of appointees." (Kessler Collection: Kessler to Nichols, October 10, 1917)
Kessler urged his friend J. C. Nichols to attend the convention of the American Civic Association in St. Louis, October 23rd to 25th.
While Kessler recovered from his exhaustion, the war effort continued. At the annual meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects, held in New York on January 8, 1918, Frederick Law Olmsted, of the Emergency Construction Committee of the Council of National Defense, and the landscape architects involved in the planning of the cantonments gave a review of their experiences.16
The United States Housing Corporation, a subsidiary of the United States Housing Bureau, was organized to complete 108 projects throughout the country. Of $185,000,000 allocated by the government for worker housing, $110,000,000 was appropriated to the United States Housing Corporation and the remainder to the U.S. Shipping Board. Unfortunately because the former appropriation was so slow in being assigned very few of United States Housing Corporation projects were completed at the time of the armistice.17
Under the United State Housing Corporation, the country was divided into administrative districts. In turn, three divisions: the architectural division, the engineering division, and the town planning divisions were established. A representative of each division - a project engineer, a project architect, and a project town planner - formed the committee of designers for each project. The committee was charged respectively "with architectural matters; matters of municipal engineering including street paving, sewerage, water supply, and in general all public utilities except transportation; and matters of general town planning and especially the adaptation of the project to the topography, the location and grading of streets, building lots and public grounds, and in general all surface improvements outside of buildings." The town planner served as chairman of the committee.18
With Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. at the head of the organization, thirty-two men, almost all landscape architects, served as town planners, including Arthur Shurtleff, Warren Manning, John Nolen, A.D. Taylor, J.S. Pray, and Arthur Comey.19 The government had set about to select the best architects, engineers, and landscape architects in the country. By his selection, Kessler was recognized as the member of an elite group. "While the Bureau gave a compensation which would enable its employees to live comfortably, it was recognized that each was there to 'do his bit' and no such return was given as is customary in ordinary professional practice. The result is that at a comparatively low cost the Bureau was able to command some of the best brains in the country."20
Manning was a protege of Olmsted and apparently one of the individuals who had blocked Kessler's membership in the American Society of Landscape Architects several years earlier. Nolen had been selected over Kessler in 1907 to prepare the city plan for San Diego.21 Comey had prepared the original park and boulevard master plan for Houston, Texas, which Kessler was to implement. Pray was a faculty member at Harvard. A.D. Taylor was nationally for his writings on landscape architecture. With the exception of E.T. Mische of Portland, town planner of the Puget Sound, Washington, projects, and Favrot and Livaudais of New Orleans; and Kessler, all of the other men were from the East.22
Kessler’s relationship with Kansas City continued to deteriorate. "I appreciate the fact that serious problems are arising now," he wrote Nichols, "in connection with the public service there and I hope that both the Board of Park Commissioners’ and the city planning problems will be given more consistent attention that for many years. If the problems in that service can be so adjusted that a satisfactory result can be obtained from my services there then I will be more than pleased to resume active, real service for Kansas City." (Kessler Collection: April 10,1918).
In April, Kessler wrote Nichols that he had traveled to northern Wisconsin for ten days where his wife was visiting and quite ill. From there was going to Cincinnati for park and city planning work for four or five days. "That means I will be with you Friday, Saturday, or Sunday next." (Kessler Collection: April 20, 1918). Kessler’s work schedule appears to have virtually eliminated weekends as days of rest.
If his work on the cantonments, maintaining his private practice, and raising his son while his wife was hospitalized was not enough, on June 20, 1918, Kessler received a telegraph from Washington requesting that he serve as general supervisor of the southwestern division of the United State Housing Corporation and as the town planner for the expansion of the Rock Island, Illinois, manufacturing district. W. H. Kimball served as district engineer, W.S. Shields of the Hartford Building, Chicago, Illinois, as project engineer; Cervin and Horn of Rock Island were project architects of the Illinois projects and Temple and Burrows, 208 Main Street, Davenport, Iowa, were the architects of the Davenport projects.23
Kessler telegraphed his acceptance that same day and on the 22nd of June left on the St. Louis, Baltimore, and Ohio railroad for Washington.24 On the 27th, After Kessler received his formal appointment to the position on the 27th, he returned to St. Louis on July 12, 1918.25
The Rock Island Arsenal occupied a large island in the center of the Mississippi River in what is now known as the Quad Cities area. To house munitions workers, Kessler directed the development of six residential projects included Sugar Hollow Heights in Moline, The Highlands and Deere tract in East Moline, the Rock Island Group in Rock Island, Illinois, and the Park Lane, King, and McManus properties across the river from Rock Island in Davenport, Iowa. The sites had already been selected by the United States Housing Corporation. Kessler's responsibility was to direct the design and construction of the projects. The Rock Island Group, which received an allocation of $1,000,000, was intended to provide 200 houses for 217 families [presumably some of the units were duplexes]; Sugar Hollow Heights received an allocation of $500,000 and was intended to house 117 families in 110 houses. The Highlands received a $600,000 allocation and was intended to provide 111 houses for 126 families. The Davenport projects received an allocation of $1,900,000 and was designed to provide 314 houses for 400 families. John Noyes joined Kessler in this effort as assistant town planner.26
On June 18th, Kessler was asked to return to Washington with district engineer, Shields, for a conference.27 By the 24th of July, Kessler was under contract and work was underway.28 For the design phase of the project, Kessler was to receive $2200 and $2443.97 in expenses. Kessler set up a field office in the Putnam building in Davenport and began work immediately. By August 13th, Kessler wired Washington that the Davenport and East Moline plans were complete, the Rock Island work underway, and the Moline projects just beginning.29
The next day, the Housing Bureau ordered Kessler to Washington with his plans.30 By the end of August plans for the McManus, Park Lane, King, Rock Island, Moline, Deere, and Highlands tract were complete.31 By September, plant materials for the projects were being ordered.32 Kessler drew upon his planting experience in Cincinnati and a plant list from the Cincinnati Park Board to select materials for the project.
The work to house the country's workers proceeded at a tremendous pace. With plans for the Rock Island facilities complete, construction was quickly underway. Signing a contract on October 7, 1918, the Henry W. Horst Company, completed 460 homes including decorating, for the workers at the Rock Island Arsenal in 117 days.33 The project, which was the second largest of approximately thirty-eight such efforts in the country, was comprised of six groups in three localities: one in Moline, two in East Moline, and three in Rock Island. These included the Fernwood and Maple Row additions in East Moline.
In early October, Kessler was given authorization to proceed with the staking of house sites.34 For the supervision phase of his contract with the government, Kessler was to receive $800 in fees and $1773.31 in expenses. Six months were allocated for this phase of the work. On October 18, 1918, Kessler wired the Washington office indicating that H.C. Broadwell and Eda Sutermeister were added to the project staff.35
By November 8th, Kessler was at work on a playground in the McManus tract.36 That Kessler's attention would be turned to the provision of playgrounds during a time of war can be understood by the signing of the armistice with Germany on November 11, 1918.
Six days later, Kessler wired the Washington office that the plate negatives of grading and house locations plans were being completed.37 By early December, plant materials had been ordered from Muskopf and Irish in St. Louis [ possibly the same Muskopf who had been part of Kessler's staff during the Louisiana Purchase Exposition].38
Work in January focused upon the design and construction of the McManus playground,39 and a month later, Kessler was pursuing a playground in the Blackhawk addition.40
On April 8th and 9th, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. came to Rock Island to inspect the work in the Rock Island District.41 The work was beginning to near completion so that Kessler could begin to focus upon other matters.
On May 22, 1919, Kessler asked that his telegrams be forwarded to Niagara, New York, presumably an indication that his consulting work at the reservation was still underway at this time.42 By the 1st of June, 1919, the work of the Rock Island District was complete.43
Kessler`s support of the war effort was not limited to his work. He gave 250,000 francs to the American Hospital at Neuilly, France, and served as 1st sergeant in the 7th Regiment of the Missouri National Guard.44
Completing his service with the U.S. Housing Corporation, Noyes left Kessler's firm in February, 1918, to open his own office.45 Noyes would spend the balance of his career and life in St. Louis. Why Noyes, like Wright nine years earlier, chose to leave Kessler's employment is not known. Perhaps Kessler simply chose to maintain a small office. Perhaps he wished to pursue different kinds of projects from those Kessler preferred.
Despite the demands of Kessler`s work for the country, his private career was not completely halted. On December 1, 1915, the Board of Trustees of Indiana University employed Kessler to prepare a plan for the campus in Bloomington. The plan, which was completed by December of the following year, utilized the work of previous landscape architects and surveys by the university staff.46 Assisted by Mr. H.C. Broadwell, Kessler made suggestions for the location of new buildings, in particular a new stadium, and the general landscape treatment of the campus.47 A plan for the grounds of the university`s president was also prepared. That same year, working with architect Herbert Foltz of Indianapolis, Kessler also prepared a plan for Rose Polytechnic Institute, (now Rose Hulman) in Terre Haute, Indiana.48
In 1917, Kessler made the acquaintance of Edward M. Ashton, the first chairman of the Salt Lake City`s planning board.49 Ashton, a prominent Salt Lake City mortgage banker and real estate developer, created one of the city's most enduring neighborhoods during the period from 1917 till 1919.50 Located just east of the city`s center, on gently rolling terrain, Yale Place is a modest subdivision of curvilinear tree-lined streets with a major ravine preserved as open space.
There is no direct evidence of Kessler`s involvement in the design of Yale Place, save correspondence between Kessler and Ashton regarding an unnamed development in Salt Lake City and the coincidental timing of Ashton`s work and Kessler`s presence in the city. But the similarity of Yale Place to Sleepy Hollow in Omaha and other Kessler projects is undeniable.
The collaboration of architects, engineers, and landscape architects during the years of the United States involvement during World War I would have a profound effect of postwar American city planning. The participants were aware of the advancements they had made and sought to document their applied research regarding "the method of attacking town planning problems in connection with large housing developments."51

The war took a tremendous toll upon Kessler physically. The nearly total abandonment of his private practice during the period undoubtedly hurt him financially as well. What Kessler gained, in some measure, however, was the respect of his peers and a greater understanding of the requirements of the comprehensive city plan. His work following the war reflected this heightened view of the planning process.


CHAPTER SEVEN: THE POST WAR YEARS
At the close of World War I, the United States found itself a predominantly urban nation for the first time in its history. Private automobile ownership grew tremendously, choking central business districts; hurting public transportation; placing demands of cities for better street and traffic control measures; and encouraging suburban residential development farther out from the city.
Spurred by this accelerated growth and drawing from wartime experiences, city planning professionals gained a new appreciation for the importance of systematic advance planning of several elements necessary for a healthy city: housing, main water supply lines, trunk sewers and storm drains, principal thoroughfares and transportation routes, and sites for schools, parks, and playgrounds, and zoning, which at the time usually connoted land-use planning.
The city plans produced by Kessler`s office after the war responded to these trends and reflected his wartime experiences. Plans for Wichita Falls, Sherman, El Paso, Texas, and Terre Haute, Indiana, and continuing work in Dallas, reflected a broadened awareness of the needs of the modern city.
On or about January 24, 1918, H.C. Broadwell, of Kessler's office, prepared a preliminary study for the College of Industrial Arts in Denton, Texas, now Texas Women`s University. The college was billed for three days work at $12.50 per day.1
Work on implementing the Kessler plan was subordinate until 1919 when Dallas experienced a population boom. That year, three organizations formed separately for the purpose of revising the reviewing different aspects of the 1911 plan. The Dallas Property Owners Association that succeeded the City Plan and Development League, was especially influential. This association was formed by George Dealy and Charles L. Sanger of the prominent Dallas mercantile family (and Kessler’s employer as a youth)2. This initial purpose of the Dallas Property Owner's Association was to improve streets and property use in the area of the Sanger Brothers department store and the Morning News offices in the west end of downtown. By March, 1919, the association had rented offices and hired a resident engineer on Kessler's advice. The group also published information and bulletins on civic improvement and created a committee to solicit assessments from property owners.
Another group, the Central Improvement League, was interested in fostering development of the uptown business section as called for in Kessler`s plan. Like the Dallas Property Owner's Association, the Central Improvement League also hired a resident engineer. It also published the Dallas Metropolitan, a planning magazine. The third organization, the Metropolitan Development Association formed as a part of the Chamber of Commerce, joined the Property Owner`s Association in 1919 to reemploy Kessler. That same year, the city charter was amended to provide for the appointment in May of its first official city plan commission.3
Returning from the war in January 1919, Lawrence V. Sheridan moved to Dallas, Texas, to become Kessler`s assistant in his work for the Dallas Property Owner`s Association.4 This group had been organized to promote the development of a portion of the Dallas Business District. While in Dallas, Sheridan began his own private practice in landscape architecture.
Sheridan was born in Frankfort, Indiana, on July 8, 1887. After attending public school in Frankfort, Sheridan entered Purdue University where he received a bachelor of science in civil engineering in 1909 and a master's degree also in civil engineering in 1912.
Following graduation, Sheridan accepted a position with the Central Station Engineering Company of Chicago and Crawfordsville, Indiana, where he remained until April, 1914. At that time he joined the engineering department of the Toledo, St. Louis, and Western Railroad.5 Sheridan held "minor engineering position" with the company for a year when he left to become associated with the Indianapolis Park Board. Here he met Kessler, who at the time was consulting landscape architect to the park board. Until Kessler's death, the two would remain close friends. Much of Sheridan's professional philosophy would be shaped by Kessler.
During the next two years, Sheridan was the engineering inspector for the construction of the Capital Street Bridge, designed by Kessler, and was later named Chief Inspector of Construction.6 Describing the construction of the bridge in The Purdue Engineering Review, Sheridan noted that "Capital Avenue is the principal north and south boulevard of the city, and at a point where it crosses Fall Creek the greatest progress in the development of the extensive parkway system, which has been planned for the city, has taken place. At this point," he continued, "parkways being constructed on either side of the stream are rapidly assuming finished form. Sheridan felt that this structure was a park bridge and, because of this, required a refinement of detail in its design that is not often considered necessary in the average structure."7
Sheridan terminated his employment with the Indianapolis Park Board in 1914 to become a staff member with the New York Bureau of Municipal Research. Here he studied municipal government and the development of park and playgrounds systems. He also assisted with government surveys in various sites. Sheridan left this position in September 1916 to pursue a course of study at the Harvard University School of Landscape Architecture until May of the following year. While in Boston, war broke out in Europe and at a professor`s recommendation he was selected to do a gratis job designing the layout of Camp Pike in Arkansas. Here he once again encountered Kessler who as a member of the Camp Planning Division was in charge of the planning of Camp Pike.8 With the end of the war and the closing of the Camp Planning Division, Sheridan was well suited to continue his work with Kessler in Dallas.

In his 1910 city plan for Dallas, Kessler had envisioned a new union station which opened onto a park. This would provide a favorable first impression of the city for newcomers emerging from the new train station. He also suggested the clustering of several public buildings around the station and park for a civic center. Upon his return to the city in 1919, Kessler presented plans for Ferris Plaza, a sunken garden established on axis with the station entry. Visitors descended staircases at the midpoints of the square parcel to a round fountain or water basin. Italianate pergolas defined the space on the north and south.10
The city of Sherman, Texas, found a champion of the city planning ideal in Dr. O.C. Ahlers. At his urging, a meeting was called in Dallas in January 1916 of the Chamber of Commerce Secretaries of Texas to discuss the importance of city planning in the states towns and small cities. At this meeting, the Texas Town and City Planning Association was founded with Ahlers as president and John Surratt, also of Sherman, as secretary.4 Two additional meetings followed in Dallas and a third in Sherman attracted 600 participants. At these meetings, Kessler and George Dealey were keynote speakers.11
As interest in civic involvement in Sherman increased, the Red River Valley Fair Association was organized in 1915. It immediately undertook to secure bonds for purchase of a fairgrounds and erection of an exhibition hall.
By the summer of 1919, the intense pace of travel and work that Kessler maintained began to take its toll. In August his friend J. C. Nichols wrote of his concern: "Certainly sorry to know of your sickness – but pressure that is the only way you could ever be made to rest." (Kessler Collection: J.C. Nichols to Kessler, August, 1919).
Although Kessler was finding success in other regions of the country, his illness and long absences seemed to be taking a toll of some of his relationships at home: In October, 1920 His friend, J. C. Nichols warned him: "Very confidentially, and of course very frankly, I think that I should let you know that since I returned from my vacation I have heard quite a little criticism expressed as to the amount of time you are giving the City Planning Commission. There seems to be an undercurrent, that for the salary you are being paid, you should at this time, in the beginning of the work, be giving more of your time here in helping and assisting the City Planning Commission. Of course I have always endeavored to answer this. But still I believe it is of sufficient importance that you will want me to let you know about it. I have been rather surprised at some of the sources where I heard this, which makes me fele that it is not pure politics but that it is the sincere feeling of even some of your good friends." (Kessler Collection: October 4, 1920)
That same Fall, Kessler was retained to prepare a park and boulevard plan for the city of Terre Haute, Indiana. 12 At the time, the city could boast of 275 acres of park lands valued at $698,135 and two boulevards with parkways with a length of over three miles.
At a request of the Board of Park Commissioners, Kessler, now referred to as a city planning rather than park planning expert, spoke before a gathering of fifty interested citizens at the Hotel Deming on October 8, 1920. Anticipating a discussion of park-planning principles, Kessler called instead for the creation of a comprehensive city plan. The Terre Haute Plan would sustain real estate values, protect restricted neighborhoods, prevent depreciation of property, make for safe and sanitary conditions, and prevent congestion and segregation. The idea carried the day as meeting participants unanimously voted to request the City Planning Committee of the Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Terre Haute Club set up an organization that would work toward a Terre Haute Plan.13
Led by L. E. Waterman, Chairman of the Joint Committee of the Chamber of Commerce and Greater Terre Haute Club, a campaign was begun to enact legislation, organize a city planning commission, and educate the citizenry regarding the benefits of city planning.14
After careful study of planning methods employed by other cities, the joint committee urged the Board of Park Commissioners to continue with their park planning efforts rather than let efforts to organize a comprehensive planning study delay their work. The committee apparently felt that it was necessary to first build a broad base of support for such a plan and decided to include as members of the Terre Haute Plan Committee all of those citizens who had attended the first meeting as well as other interested citizens. Furthermore, enabling legislation did not exist from the state legislature that would allow the creation of such a plan.
In 1919, Terre Haute had by an election become the first city in Indiana to also be a Park District under state law. The Board of Park Commissioners was given direct taxing power for park purposes. The law had also provided for the payment of landscape architects, engineers, and other professionals required for park work.15
Kessler advised the Terre Haute Plan Committee that $10,000 would be needed to prepare a city plan. A large part of this expense would be needed for engineering work. Without enabling legislation, proponents of the city plan set out to raise the needed funds by popular subscription. The committee sought donations of one hundred dollars each from one hundred citizens, payable in installments to the Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce. No part of the money was to be spent until legislative authority for the operation of the plan was obtained from the legislature.16
In its monthly publication,The Book of Terre Haute, the Chamber of Commerce began an information campaign to educate the citizenry on the merits of a city plan, including the advantages of zoning. As the Chamber of Commerce rallied support for a comprehensive plan for Terre Haute, Kessler began his work on the park and boulevard system.17
Kessler had originally visited the city in May, 1913, to review the potential for park development in the city. "The Wabash River frontage is one of the most valuable assets of the city," Kessler told Terre Haute park commissioners following a tour of the city. "Purchase land along both banks," the landscape architect urged, "and in front of Taylorville as well for beautifying effects the moral and sanitary conditions of the surrounding districts and the conversion of the west river bank into a park would influence Taylorville proper. . Beautifying effects the moral and sanitary conditions of the surrounding districts and the conversion of the west river bank into a park would influence Taylorville proper." "Improvement of the east bank of the river is essential to successful improvement of the west bank, Kessler stated, and "expressed the belief that Terre Haute should follow the lead of Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend, and other cities of the state in purchasing as much of the river bank on both sides as possible."17
Kessler`s suggestion of acquiring land near Taylorville to enhance this poor section of the city received a great deal of support, including one suggestion that the city eliminate Taylorville by purchasing the entire community. Although action was taken to acquire the park land on the west bank, it was not until October, 1920, that Kessler was actually employed by the city.18
Kessler set about immediately to prepare a plan for a new park, a recent donation to the city by Crawford Fairbanks of a large tract of land along the Wabash River in the southeastern portion of the city. As a result of the acquisition, the park board was able to acquire parcels of property along the river bank from Wabash Avenue on the north to Hulman Street on the south. The city's new parklands on the east could then be accessed by this street. The effort to create a riverside drive was furthered by the gift of a right of way across the property of the Sparks Milling Company. The parkway was to be known as Paul Dresser Drive in honor of the author of the "Banks of the Wabash" and a native of Terre Haute.20
As land was assembled for the new parkway, Kessler also prepared a plan for the new fairgrounds which had been given to the city by the county. The property contained one of the most beautiful groves in the city. Kessler's plan for the development of the fairgrounds called for the construction of a grandstand and exhibition building surrounded by beautiful trees and plantings. In addition to a grandstand which would seat 13,400, Kessler called for the construction of a stadium for football, track, and baseball. War Memorial Coliseum, as the stadium was called, was demolished in the 1940's except for the entrance arcade. It was replaced with the Indiana State University stadium. The western portion of the fairgrounds was to be laid out as a picnic grounds filled with trees and with a small pavilion in the center. The entire grounds were encircled by driveways.
In late April, 1921, William Michaels, Kessler’s friend and partner in the Kansas City law firm of Haff, Meservey, German, and Michaels wrote to Dr. George Kessler congratulating him the honorary doctorate received from the University of Missouri earlier that week.(Kessler Collection, April 29, 1921) Kessler responded in his typical humble manner: "Thank you very much for yours of April 29th, addressed to me as ‘Doctor.’ I am not used to that and don’t you try to rub it in when I get over there."(Kessler Collection, May 2, 1921)
At the recommendation of Kessler, in 1920 the park board unanimously accepted an offer from the Deming Land Company to purchase 155 acres of wooded rolling land in the eastern portion of the city. The land was bounded on the west by Fruitridge Avenue, on the south by Poplar Street, on the east by Poplar Street, and on the north by Calvary cemetery and private estates. The offer from the company was to sell the ground to the city for $155,000, of which $100,000 would be given to Rose Polytechnic Institute in the city, and the balance to be spent for the extension of Ohio Boulevard from Twenty-fifth Street through Mr. Deming`s property a distance of roughly one mile.22
Terre Haute city fathers moved quickly to carry out Kessler`s plans for the Fairbanks Park and the connecting boulevard, awarding contracts about the first of February 1922. Other components of Kessler`s plan did not receive such attention. Plans for the newly acquired Heminway Park and Hulman tract were also prepared. Paul Dresser Drive, which the landscape architect envisioned to circle the city and skirt the Wabash River, was never completed. Sidewalks were built along Ohio Boulevard and the street was apparently never called Deming Boulevard.23
As progress on a city plan in Terre Haute moved forward, city fathers in Salt Lake City also began to turn their attention to planning matters. At a meeting of the Civic Planning and Art Commission on June 5, 1916, a decision was made to ask the City Council of Salt Lake City to hire a national expert on city planning.24 That request was approved by the Council in early February of the next year.25 Four months later, Edward M. Ashton, stated that he was going to attend the National Conference on City Planning to be held in Kansas City, and $100 was appropriated for his attendance. On January 28, 1918, the Civic Planning and Art Commission reviewed a letter from George Edward Kessler on the cost of surveying the city. Kessler`s services were retained for one year, during which he consulted with the City Planning Commission on several issues.26 Against the wishes of the Council, Kessler and the Planning Commission recommended against the extension of railroad tracks across Second W Street and against industrial development south of the present business district between Main and West Temple. Although the planning commission urged the council to authorize a survey of the industrial and housing situation through the city between West Temple and 7th West Street and to address the zoning lease, there is no evidence that preparation of a plan was ever authorized.
In a conversation with an unknown interviewer,27 Kessler summarized his thoughts about Salt Lake in a general way which also reflects his thinking about city planning during the period. Two important elements emerged, one a broadened understanding of the issues facing the modern city undoubtedly gained from his wartime experiences and the other the continued emphasis on the economic value of planning efforts.
"What is city planning?", Kessler was asked.
"In its broadest sense a city plan means a simple scheme of things around which the development of a city is centered." Mr. Kessler replied. "It means laying down certain general lines within which progressive improvements should be undertaken and it means undertaking the correction of the blunders which have crept into city-building."
"What do you mean by blunders?" the interviewer asked.
"American cities almost universally, have grown by accretion rather than by force of intelligent direction of growth. This has resulted in innumerable false investments on private and public account which later must be abandoned for many reasons.
"Essentially, no public corporation can successfully govern its development without a fundamental plan. There must be a reasoning out of the conditions which made its existence possible. Its activities must be guided efficiently so that there is a minimum of waste.
"Our cities, as corporate institutions, have heretofore acted on contrary lines, developing without plan and without an understanding of the economics of the use of the facilities they supply to their inhabitants.
"The result has been the establishment of given activities in transportation, in manufacturing, and in commercial and residential service without reference to the immediate or distant future. That is why large portions of many cities reach the junk pile and create an economic waste-- sometimes practically bankruptcy. Cities find it necessary to maintain areas no longer serving their original purpose. If it were not for this fact, very few cities would be so constantly short of funds to develop problems ahead.
"A consistent plan, based upon a close study of present conditions in almost any American city, will prove the need of establishing definite policies in both public and private development. No enterprise is so self-satisfied as to believe there is nothing else to be done in its progress unless it is seriously in danger of bankruptcy. The community as a business corporation is likely to move along in accustomed channels, carrying unusual maintenance charges, encouraging encroachments of one class upon another without seeing the end of such enterprise.
"No business enterprise can stand still. A city is in fact more or less a business corporation. Unless its policies are definitely fixed along rational lines in safeguarding the interests of all its people, it will finally fail in holding its business in competition with others without constant scrutiny of its business methods. The city plan gives opportunity to carry out well defined policies in serving its people to live comfortably, in best of surroundings, both in their homes and in their work.
"Without a comprehensive study of the conditions leading to the development of a city, there can be no rational scheme , no consistent control of the city`s growth. There should, for instance, be ample areas provided for the transportation needs of the city. The manufacturing, or industrial developments, naturally follow the transportation lines and must be provided with ample space for expansion for future growth, and in turn must be so controlled that such development does not intrude itself upon other areas needed for other purposes."
The notion of controlling urban sprawl, an idea which was not to occupy the attention of American planners until nearly fifty years later, was already prominently on Kessler`s mind. "It is a thoroughly well understood principle that economy of development and maintenance follows concentration. Naturally a commercial area, compact in form and sufficient for the business needs, will always be most economical in the public service and the most profitable to the business activities therein. Given the least encouragement through lack of proper control of expansion, the usual very great loss and waste occurs from shifting unnecessarily into new regions, because of some neglect to make convenient or make economical the use of older sections, or in turn permitting the invasion of areas used originally for one purpose by others which are antagonistic thereto."``
The need for zoning controls was paramount. "To summarize the general situation briefly, a city plan must segregate the city's mercantile establishments in well defined districts created for them; the manufacturing plants in areas specially set aside for them; the homes in areas where the comfort and convenience of the residence will not be affected by too close proximity to the business and manufacturing districts; and all these again subdivided into smaller districts --- as for instance the individual homes district, the district for apartment houses; the district for tall buildings and the district for small buildings. In an ideal plan one class will not encroach upon another." Transportation was also recognized as a major issue. "Transportation is probably the fundamental problem of a city plan. Involved in a city's transportation problem are the problems of expansion and the problems of economics in the hauling of passengers and the cost of distribution of materials and supplies. These require careful study."
"The proper `zoning`of a city will go a long way towards guiding transportation into natural channels. It would have the effect of placing and holding within fairly well-defined lines the railways and their attendant factory and warehouse colonies, on the one hand, and simplify the problem of direct communication between the dwelling house areas and the industrial areas on the other. Zoning is a vital result of consistent city planning. It is practical and rational. It means a careful study of the city's activities. It means fixing within reasonable limits and within flexible lines the areas within which it is found practical and efficient, and in the end most economical to hold together in compact space the many activities of the city's development. It means confining the steam railways where they belong -- beyond the city areas where they will prove an economic menace to residential and business property, beyond where they would endanger life and obstruct the normal traffic of the city. It means providing possibility of expansion of open lands, perhaps now used for other purposes; providing reasonable areas nearby for dwelling house purposes for those employed in manufacturing areas, preventing, however, by reasonable provisions the invasion upon the other to the detriment of both; accepting the commercial areas, principal and outlying sections of this character and anticipating the probable direction of expansion of these principal activities upon areas now used for residential purposes; providing security in the many other sections of the city for purely residential use in detached homes, in apartment houses and their greater numbers of people, and gradually reaching into the business section of mixed conditions of residence and business."
"Housing forms another element of the city plan. There is a single phase of its service which alone will more than justify the existence of any city planning commission -- and that is in the study and consideration of the problems of extension of urban districts. A tendency throughout the world is to congregate vast numbers of people within the cities in congested areas. This is true of great commercial establishments and office buildings, where people are crowded together in their work, just as it is in the matter of their dwellings. These same people are also crowded into tenement barracks within the cities, producing in its varying forms what are known as the 'slum districts'. These occur not only in sections that produce a congregation of vicious inhabitants, but even the better, somewhat less crowded dwelling house districts create conditions that gradually lead to housing and social conditions that gradually form a great vicious element of population. This is entirely unnecessary, if through proper housing and building laws the regulations are provided and systematically guarded that will prevent overcrowding of districts convenient to business centers."
"As a result of such conditions there is too frequently a tendency toward the opposite direction, of spreading a large population over territory contiguous to the city and producing an intervening space only partially occupied; thereby creating unusual public and private expenditure in the service to the outlying districts, as I have already described."
"As a matter of course, it is absolutely essential to encourage, so far as possible in our great cities, the individual home and garden. Wisely undertaken, and maintained at points not too far beyond the centers, it finally brings about a condition of stability in every phase of life, a stability of labor conditions absolutely essential to the permanence of our communities."
"The skyscraper and the accompanying congestion of urban districts was also of concern. Kessler`s role as a landscape architect as well as city planner accounted for his continued emphasis on the visual quality of the city."
"While the chief result of a practical city survey and city planning rests almost entirely in giving stability to improvement and safeguarding against the wrong use of lands and through the classification of the use of lands, the element of good appearance--'The City Beautiful'--is really of equal importance--especially so in a city like Salt Lake City, with its wonderful, beautiful avenues and its impressively ample public spaces.". . .Through a planning commission, around which may be centered these activities, encouragement will be given to consistent effort in reestablishing and permanently maintaining the things that make a beautiful city."8 Kessler went further to call for the provision of street trees and the development of recreational facilities in the city.
Kessler apparently was not called upon to prepare an actual city plan for Salt Lake. Other than generally outlining the components of a city plan, his principal service to the city was in reviewing the extension of railway lines in the industrial districts.
Though Kessler provided advice on planning matters as early as 1919, it would be eight years before the Salt Lake City Planning Commission established the first zoning ordinance in the city.
The residents of Salt Lake City were not the only individuals to appreciate Kessler's talents.
In 1921, the University of Missouri conferred upon George Edward Kessler an honorary Doctorate of Law degree.100
The health problems that occurred following his extensive service during the World War continued to trouble Kessler. On Feb. 3, 1921, his office wrote Nichols that "as you probably know, Mr. Kessler has been quite ill during the past six weeks, and he is not yet able to attend to business maters to any extent." (Kessler Collection: Feb. 3, 1921).
In 1921, Kessler presented his city plan for Wichita Falls, Texas. The twenty-seven page typewritten report was accompanied by fifteen maps.29 The report was divided into a number of sections including highways, residence streets, subdivision of sidewalk spaces, street lighting, street signs, street corrections and extensions, county highways, regulation of new subdivisions, railroads (including grade crossings, subways, new railroads, railroad yars, and union passenger station), street railways, drainage and water supply, new irrigation project, public buildings, the park and boulevard system, inner boulevards, and schools and school playgrounds.
Kessler echoed local sentiments in calling for an encircling system of parks formed by Holliday Creek at the south and east of the city and the Big Wichita River at the north. Kessler's proposed system would include the shore of Lake Wichita is completing its loop around the town.
While Kessler did not make a specific recommendation for a large park "to supply space for football, baseball, tennis, and possibly golf", he did suggest that the parkway along Holliday Creek and the one north and west of Seymour Road would be ideal for these purposes.
The park and boulevard section was accompanied with a study for an an eighteen acre park property recently given to the city by Mr. Kemp, Bellevue Park, and a new park between Van Buren and Tyler extended, and from Fifth Street to Seventh Street. In addition, a new playground between Harrison and Giddings and the extension of Huff Avenue and Elizabeth Avenue was illustrated.
Kessler felt that no inner boulevards were warranted for the city on the assumption that the completion of the thirty-seven street corrections and extensions he suggested would adequately address the cities traffic needs. Many of these street corrections were necessitated by the rather haphazard platting of the city's subdivisions. For this reason, Kessler also recommended that all new subdivisions be approved by the city commissioners before acceptance by the city. This call for subdivision approvals, and a similar plea for a sign ordinance in the city were representative of a far more stringent attitude toward city planning controls than Kessler had called for in any of his previous reports.
For the first time Kessler are addressed zoning in his report, devoting nine pages to the subject. Kessler identified a five zoning districts (single family, multiple family, business and commercial, light industry and warehouse, and heavy industry), each with an established limit for building height, use, and site coverage. Kessler's particular concern appeared to be the encroachment of businesses into residential districts and the encro
achment of apartments into single family residential districts.
As work on the city plan for nearby Wichita Falls progressed, Lawrence Sheridan, influenced by his friend, Judge Lloyd Claycombe of Indianapolis, left Dallas and returned to Indianapolis in 1921 to assume the position of executive secretary of the newly formed Indianapolis City Plan Commission.9
As Kessler advised the city of Salt Lake on city planning matters and completed his master plan for Wichita Falls, the stage was set for Kessler's last major work, the plan for Longview, Washington.30 In 1918, the Long Bell Lumber Company of Kansas City was the largest manufacturer and retailer of lumber in the country. The Company`s mills had been located in the yellow pine region of the south with the primary outlets across Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas. However, by 1918, the company`s timber holdings were nearly exhausted with profitable regeneration of the lands marginal. A new abundant supply would have to be secured if the company was to maintain its market position.
The company had previously purchased limited holdings near Klamath County, Oregon, and in northern California, and was familiar with the extensive stands of mature Douglas fir in western Washington and Oregon. Although this seemed a logical source of new operations, the market in the foreseeable future would largely remain in the southern Midwest and the expanding communities of California. A new operation in the Pacific Northwest would have to be on a scale to justify the high cost of transportation. The Board of Directors decided to liquidate all southern holdings and to relocate the company administration to a new central mill site in southwest Washington or northwest Oregon.31
After examining several possible locations, a 3610 acre site was purchased on the floodplain at the confluence of the Cowlitz and Columbia rivers. The property was central to the company`s holdings and offered excellent river access. Fifty miles downstream was the Pacific, upstream via the Columbia and Willamette Rivers was Portland, just northwest of the point where the Cowlitze River empties into the Columbia. Three transcontinental railroads, the Northern Pacific, Great Northern, and Union Pacific served the site and provided access to Portland and Seattle. Columbia River Highway and the Pacific Highway also accessed the Cowlitz valley acreage. A relatively wild public area on Mount Solo, the only high topographic area in the vicinity was some two or three miles west of the future town center.32
The major disadvantage of the site was the lack of an available labor supply. It became obvious that the success of a large sawmill would require importation of labor or provision of some kind of company town to house the workers.
As early as 1922, R.A. Long decided against building "another sawmill town."9 When Kansas City real estate developer J.C. Nichols saw the development possibilities of the 14,000 acre valley, he urged the same level of attention to planning and regulation that had been given to his Country Club District. Long was convinced. His town would not be a quickly constructed mill town, but a model city.
Although Long offered him the real estate development opportunity, Nichols was too busy to assume charge of the work and to spend two or three weeks a year on the site directing the work. It would be twenty-five years before Nichols would return to Longview.
Although, he was unable to devote his own time to the project, Nichols knew who could do the job. To develop a plan for the new town, Nichols engaged Kessler and the Kansas City landscape architectural firm of Hare and Hare, led by S. Herbert Hare, to develop a plan for Longview, Washington. A third man, Seattle real estate developer, Letcher Lambuth, was placed in charge of the actual real estate operations.34
The first step in the process was an inspection tour in the spring of 1922 for Hare and Lambuth of ten communities. Their intent was to study certain aspects of city planning which might be incorporated in the new city on the Columbia. In the summer, the planners went to work. Kessler and Hare spent considerable time on the site. By November they had tentative plans for the new town to show the Long-Bell directors. A meeting was held in Kansas City and for ten days, Long and his officers pored over maps on the big table of the directors' room.35
"I remember," said Nichols, "that I explained fully to the directors that they must recognize that if we were going to district this community, they must be prepared to have a larger number of miles of streets and public utility lines to start with than would be needed. I said there would be considerable vacant areas between districts and that it would mean having these areas and over-sized public utility lines for many years without many users of them."36
"Studies were made first for the skeleton plan of the entire area, followed by more complete plans for the development of the interior section. "After the initial planning was completed, special advice on commercial water front treatment and railroad problems was secured. As the building of the city property, scores of detail plans were prepared for park areas, school sites, hospital property, and other public and semi-public developments."37
Two points were emphasized by Nichols in these meetings that went on day and night. Far more land would have to be provided in all land use districts than would be needed for years to come if Longview was to grow as a unit rather than from the inside out; and, a zoning law would have to be in place from the outset to insure that the uses intended for the various districts were respected. The directors were convinced. By August, 1922, Longview had been born on paper.
Hare would describe the main features of the plan: "The framework on which the city is built is a series of main thoroughfares, some radial and some more or less circumferential. These form main lines of traffic from the various bridges to and around the center of the city. Alternate routes and by-passes are provided, so that while traffic is invited to the central business district, it is not forced through it. Four of the radial thoroughfares converge upon a central park area, but it is to be noted that the main business street, providing through traffic, is one block away from this park, so as to preserve uninterrupted business on both sides. The radial leading from this park to the southeast is offset along this through street in such a way as to avoid interruption of railroad trackage facilities in connection with the light industrial district.
"The spaces between these main thoroughfares are filled in for the most part by an orderly arrangement of rectangular streets. This gridiron pattern, however, is not extensive enough in any one unit to become monotonous, and is not carried across the main radials."12 The main business street was not fifteenth avenue, one block off the civic center, as the planners intended but Commerce avenue. The company built the Columbia River Mercantile store with offices for the company upstairs on the corner of Broadway and Commerce, and that was the beginning of the business district.
"The street widths vary from 120 feet for the main thoroughfares and 80 to 100 feet for business streets," Hare related, " to 50 and 60 feet for the residential streets." Twenty-foot alleys allowing for two lines of traffic as well as pole lines are provided in the business districts and in most of the residential districts. The reason for such alleys in residential districts is largely the use of slab wood from the mills for fuel, and the necessity for easy delivery of this wood to the rear portion of the property..."38
There was a designated "central manufacturing district" for light industry and a belt of land along each of the two rivers was reserved as a "commercial district." At the mouth of the Cowlitz an area twice the size of the business district was reserved for the two enormous mills planned by Long-Bell.
The land, except for Mount Solo, was basically flat, with just enough pitch for good surface drainage. A gridiron street system was, therefore, adopted for the business and residential districts with longer blocks in the latter and independent orientation of the grid in each section. A natural drainage channel of the Cowlitz was excavated and formed into a long, narrow, crescent-shaped park containing Lake Sacjawea, with boulevards along both sides.
At the high point of the plain, a six acre civic center, later known as Jefferson Park, was placed as a focus for the central business district. A sight-line running roughly eastward and perpendicular to the mainline railway along the Cowlitz, focused on the railway station. This line became Broadway and formed the base for the business district grid. From Jefferson Park major diagonals reached out as thoroughfares: Olympia Way northwest to the Sunset residential "additions," but southeast only a short distance to permit better access to the town's main retail district. Washington Way extended southwest to the St. Helen`s and Olympic residential "additions" and northeast to the small settlement called West Kelso.
Zoning was a problem from the outset because there was no state enabling legislation authorizing the zoning of smaller cities, and because the city wasn't incorporated until 1924, the control of property use had to be handled through private restrictions on the part of the company.
A zoning map was prepared showing the property to be allocated to the various districts -- residential, apartment, central retail, outlying retail, light industrial, and heavy industrial. Zoning provisions were placed in the deed restrictions of each property. These provisions could be changed at intervals of twenty years upon a vote of a majority of the property owners. Any property owner who wanted to make a change had to declare their desire to do so by petition five years before the expiration of a twenty year period.
"One of the principal problems faced in the planning," Hare said, "was proper provision for reasonable expansion of each separate type of land without early conversion of land from one use to another. It was necessary, under such an arrangement, to start what might be called "nuclei of development," each in its permanent location, and connecting these by a system of main and secondary streets with their accompanying services. This procedure involved judgment as to the probable rate of growth and the economic balance between conversion of uses and the cost of carrying intermediate vacant property. The plan was developed on a basis which would provide for a population of approximately 50,000 on the entire site, without changing property from the designated uses as provided in the general plan."39
Although the new town of Longview attracted tremendous attention, everything did not work out the way the planners had envisioned. Nichols was opposed to signs on commercial establishments extending over sidewalks, and this restriction was enforced for awhile on business property sold by the company. A covenant in deeds given on property sales prohibited signs extending out more than one foot. Before long, however, a group of businessmen signed a petition requested that electric signs be permitted. The group was successful and the restriction was removed.
Many limitations on commercial buildings were unpopular with those who had been used to the right to build any kind of building they chose. Paul Copeland, one of the city's first architects, said: "The retail commercial zone laws call for a minimum of two stories in height with a set figure of seventeen feet, six inches from floor to floor. This latter requirement was designed to provide all stores with mezzanines whether one was wanted or not, and also in some inscrutable and omnipotent manner keep the coping lines even the guarantee a pleasing harmony between the different building facades. Needless to say this expectation was never realized, but it did complicate the solution of a good looking store front for the necessity of high window lights gave even the best design the appearance of an open faced pie. It matters not that the most optimistic census of the Chamber of Commerce cannot possibly provide enough doctors, dentists, architects and other affluent professional men to come within nearly filling the resulting office space. This is a mere detail. As long as the architect, by some queer twist of reasoning, is held morally responsible for the financial success of the building he has created, the question of making it a paying proposition is one to give him some bad moments over the board."40
Copeland went on to explain that the requirements for all store buildings to have second floors led to the creation of a downtown apartment district as so much second floor space was not needed. To Copeland's surprise, many people actually preferred living downtown near the center of shopping and places of employment. "But perhaps the most surprising result of this experiment," Copeland wrote, "lies in the class of tenants who occupy the apartments. Contrary to the usual experience with tenants who occupy the cheap rooms of second rate office buildings that have degenerated into the lodging house type, we have found that the apartment idea appeals to a surprisingly fine and substantial type of citizen."41
By November, 1926, Longview could boost of twenty-four industrial enterprises. Within ten years Longview grew to a population of well over 12,000 with 2,700 permanent homes and numerous apartment buildings.44 R.A. Long of the founding firm had given a public library. There were four schools, a hospital, and nine churches. The city had 160 acres of parks, a golf course, tennis courts, and a stadium. On adjacent land three mills of the Weyerhauser Timber Company had joined the two vast Long-Bell mills. A large grain elevator rose from the extensive docks on the waterfront. This economic and social completeness - rather than any unusual distinction of design is what makes Longview remarkable.
Nichols had warned from the outset that the wide open space between districts would be a problem for years. This prediction proved to be correct. In 1927, Geddes Smith of The Survey, an eastern sociological magazine, had this embarrassing report following a visit to the town:
"I made a hurried visit to Longview a year ago and find myself still puzzled by it. I arrived at night and was driven magnificent distances to a brilliantly lighted and smartly appointed hotel. . From the window of my room I looked into the darkness and heard mellow chimes from an invisible church, but in the morning from the same window, I discovered that close by the six story hotel was a huddle of what looked like sawed-off boxcars. This, I learned was 'Skidville.' When construction was begun four years before, shacks were run in on skids to house the workmen. They were still there and were still housing somebody. I was told in various quarters that some of these two room shacks held families of six, eight, ten, and twelve people; that they rented for $7 per month; that they were only temporary and would soon be removed. Perhaps they are gone now, but off on one fringe of the town I found a row of quite new and apparently permanent house, spaced about three feet apart, with two or three rooms apiece, and like the Skidville cabins, with outdoor toilets to be shared by several families. The sight was somewhat perplexing in a model town."42
"A pre-planned city must of course anchor its business section and its civic center and other focal points and, I suppose, it must then wait patiently for the interstices to fill up, but I began to wonder about preplanning of this sort when I walked or was driven over blocks and blocks of paved but empty streets in Longview. Here stood the hotel, far from the railroad. There beside it, the public library, far from most of its readers. At the center of town, the shops, far from the customers. A town doesn't grow that way left to itself. Is there no middle course between the wasteful process of spreading, tearing down and spreading again, that most cities go through (but which is at least organic and natural) and this business of condemning your early settlers to live for years with the stark, gaping skeleton of a city."43

Longview besides its significance as a milestone in American city planning also represented in one respect the changing of the guard. The efforts of the young firm Hare and Hare were to follow those of Kessler in many of the cities of middle America, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Oklahoma City. Longview also would represent one of the last major projects of George Edward Kessler.



CHAPTER EIGHT: THE FINAL YEARS
As Kessler reached his sixtieth birthday, he found himself as one of the elder statesmen of his profession. He began to receive recognition of his contribution to landscape architecture and city planning in the form of awards and honors from various quarters. Projects in his final years took him far from St. Louis, demonstrating the strength of his reputation.
[Include Chapultepec Heights ]
In Indianapolis, where he had for years worked to create a beautiful system of parks and boulevards, Kessler found new opportunities. The Board of Butler College in November, 1922, determined to exercise the option with the Indianapolis Street Railway Company for Fairview Park as a new campus for the school. The option was contingent upon certain conditions, the most notable of which was the development of a suitable boulevard or wide thoroughfare access to the site. By mid-December the board had chosen a multiple-unit plan for the site and had begun to negotiate with Kessler his fees for services as landscape architect. On February tenth of the next year, the Board met to review Kessler`s plans. Though Kessler's work was well received, he would never see this design implemented. A little more than a month later, Kessler would be dead.
Kessler did live to see the completion of his work in El Paso as well. Kessler had been involved with city planning advocates in El Paso as early as 1907, when he visited the city as his own expense. While there he gave several public addresses and surveyed the city`s development. Shortly thereafter, citizens submitted for his review a carefully drawn program for ordered development of El Paso. His study and approval of the program was the first of several occasions over the years when Kessler offered without charge advise and inspiration to the city.
It was not until 1919 when the City Plan Committee of the Chamber of Commerce was established that city planning efforts in El Paso became organized. This committee performed the groundwork for Kessler`s early studies for a comprehensive city plan. After years of encouragement by the Chamber, city fathers in El Paso established a City Plan Commission by ordinance in 1923. As in Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, Sherman, and Wichita Falls, Kessler was retained to prepare plans for the city.
The City Plan for El Paso adopted in 1925 included seventeen maps or drawings by Kessler. His seven "city plan" maps are all dated December, 1922, indicating that the majority of the analysis found in the report was completed before his death. His other maps and drawings were either updated or were dated in February or March 1923. All of his "city plan" maps and some of his other graphics were revised by the commission in May, 1925, before publication of the plan. Kessler wrote none of the text. Walter E. Stockwell, a local engineer who had worked closely with Kessler in preparation of the plan, was to complete the document after Kessler's death. Stockwell remained with the city as Plan Engineer and Secretary of the Plan Commission until his retirement in 1952. Though Stockwell's contribution was significant, the City Planning Commission in the introduction gave Kessler an immense praise for the inspiration of the plan and the plan, which served the city for thirty seven years until the development of a new plan in 1962, became known as the Kessler plan. This new plan would include a review of the 1925 plan and the statement: "The philosophy of this forty-year-old city plan is not dated. It represents the best thinking, the ideals, and standards of El Paso today. The City has outgrown the land are described in the 1925 plan. However, the City has not outgrown the necessities and standards of city living outlined in that early report."
Kessler's plan displayed the comprehensive approach to city planning gained through his wartime experiences. Proposals were grouped into the following categories: economic development; over-all design of the city; downtown and other commercial areas; civic center; parks and recreation; schools; Streets, Thoroughfares, Alleys, Lighting; Railroads; Drainage and Flood Control; Water Supply; Sanitation; Housing; and Legislation, including a zoning ordinance, building code, housing code, and subdivision standards.
In addressing economic development, Kessler was clearly exploring new ground in his work. While he offered no specific plans for economic development he spoke to the assets of the city and the potential to attract tourists to the region. The very inclusion of this language in the text brought to the forefront issues that had always been implicite in his park and boulevard work.
Kessler's plan urged symetrical development of the City, encouraging development along the west side of Mount Franklin "to correspond with development that has already taken place to the east and northeast." Kessler further urged that a distinctive El Paso Southwest architecture be developed to give a unique character to the City.
Kessler's proposals for the downtown and commercial areas included the installation of street lighting, the provision of more downtown parking, realignment of numerous intersections, and the clearing of all projecting signs and awnings from business streets. This last recommendation was perhaps based upon improving the physical appearance of the commercial areas and it seems gave little thought to protection from the intense southwest heat.
To replace the inadequate city hall, Kessler called for a new civic center including a new city hall, a new federal building, a municipal museum and art gallery. Planners contemplating a new plan for the city in 1962, would find the civic center in place largely as Kessler envisioned.
In addressing parks, the Kessler plan stated: "El Paso has special need for a progressive park and recreational program because nature has denied her the natural attractions of grass and trees found in a humid climate.
Kessler called for the development of Washington, Memorial, Mount Franklin and Charles Davis parks, the later two as unique desert open spaces. By 1962, Hidalgo Park in south El Paso was improved according to Kessler's design and renamed Armijo Park.
The 1925 plan called attention to a 1922 survey and report by the New York Institute of Public Service on El Paso schools. Kessler called for the planning of schools to serve as yet undeveloped areas and the provision of more and larger playgrounds.
The proposals for streets and thoroughfares included numerous street extensions including the extension of Piedras to a new bridge to Mexico, the construction of a road to Carlsbad Caverns, the elimination of grade crossings, the construction of McKelligon Canyon Drive over the mountain, and the construction of a monumental bridge to Mexico.
In addition to the elimination of grade crossings, Kessler called for the removal of railroads from the center of the city. Though Kessler called for a comprehensive flood water drainage plan, it would be 1958 before any significant improvements in this area were underway. Sanitation improvements were also outlined in the plan.
The housing section of the plan represented the first direct attention given to this subject in any Kessler plan. The plan expressed concern for the "tenement houses crowded with human beings" that occupied the area between the business district and the Rio Grande River. The plan appealed to El Paso's civic pride and the need to present a favorable impression to visitors in arguing the case for dealing with the housing issue. The plan recognized the rich Hispanic heritage of the city stating: "Generally speaking, it would seem the part of wisdom to provide every modern facility for city life, and at the same time endeavor to conserve the foreign spirit, the exotic charm of unfamiliar customs and some distinction of aspect. This should be a show-place, it should furnish a model that might be followed by towns and cities in the interior of Mexico.
The city should provide adequate facilities for the carrying out of all the traditional Mexican formulas of life which are goo; for example, there should be typical Mexican markets, industrial exhibits, places for music and dancing and games, and public laundries and baths.
A large market place and permanent outdoor fair should be provided, possibly as part of the new bridge project."
The plan called for preparation of a comprehensive zoning ordinance. In 1930 the first such code was adopted. The Kessler plan called for the adoption of a building code saying " Its need and legal status are unquestioned."
The plan also called for the creation of a housing code and went on to distinguish between a building code, a housing code, and a zoning ordinance. "Public control of building is exercised in three ways," Kessler wrote, "each occupying a separate field but overlapping to some extent. The Building Code has to do with the structural safety of buildings, and its need and legal status are unquestioned."
"The Housing Code regulates the sanitary conditions of living as affected by the building and has to do with plumbing and drainage, water supply, privacy, light and ventilation and similar questions. The Housing Code applies equally in all parts of the city and while its legality is unquestioned it is usually applied only to the grosser evils as found in the tenement and "slum" districts. Zoning, on the other hand, is for the protection of all property owners against the unsuitable use of property in their neighborhoods." Despite the concerns for crowded and unsanitary housing conditions expressed in the Kessler plan, a "tenement code" was not adopted until 1951.
In calling for the development of subdivision standards, the plan stated: "The subdivision of land is of vital interest and is one of the fundamentals of the City Plan. Little attention has been paid to topography or to proper articulation with streets which have gone before or which are to come after in some parts of El Paso. There should be legislation requiring submission of all plats within the metropolitan district to the City Plan Commission for review of their conformity with the general street plan. With a City Plan. . .it is possible to design new subdivisions for the use intended, instead of adhering blindly to the established standards."
How much of this document can be contributed to Kessler is unclear. The 1925 El Paso Plan provides an important measure of how far Kessler's views of city planning had evolved since his 1892 Kansas City plan. The El Paso project would be Kessler's last work.
By February of 1923, Kessler’s health began to deteriorate. For an individual who appeared to have boundless energy all of his life, Kessler’s letter to his long time friend J.C. Nichols was telling: "Personally I have tried twice now to get into the work and each time found that I exceeded my strength. I am dictating this at home in bed and am told to stay there until I am very much further along. Sometime during the coming week I will probably be able to give you more definite information as to what I can do and when I further work." (Kessler Collection: February 26, 1923) Clearly concerned, Nichols responded: "I am greatly distressed to know that you are again ill. I do hope you will take care of yourself and not allow matters here to worry you." Clearly concerned, he added a hand written note at the bottom of the letter urging Kessler to "please take good care of yourself." (Kessler Collection: February 27, 1923)
In early March, 1923, the sixty-one year old Kessler wrote his nephew, Don Bogan of Green Bay, with disturbing news: "I am going over to Indianapolis today in preparation for a serious abdominal operation necessary now, and because of continual weakness until this time I have not been able to write personally either to your mother or to you.
I am sending this so that you may know of my absence and I expect within two weeks at the latest to be able to advise you of my recovery and quick return to health.
Please tell your mother, your Uncle Jed and to your aunt Ida say as little as necessary, but tell her that in a week or two I will write to her directly.
My sister and the boy are with me and when you write, not knowing exactly the address nor which hospital I will go to at Indianapolis, please send your letters to 423 Security Bldg., St. Louis and there Miss Sutermeister will promptly forward any messages or letters and in a few days she can give you our exact address and name of the hospital over there.
The surgeon and the physician are respectively Dr. T.B. Noble and Dr. Henry Jameson, both old friends and I am going up against the ordeal without any question of success, or any hesitancy in undertaking it although it seems necessary to do so without any anaesthetic [sic] except a local one.
Please tell Ida that the boy is thoroughly well and has written to her. Please let me hear about both Ida and your mother and about yourself." (Kessler Collection: March 12, 1923)
He apparently was suffering from a kidney ailment that would require minor surgery. Always an optimist, always concerned about those around him, Kessler underplayed the severity of his condition.
There was apparently no indication that the condition was life threatening. J.C. Nichols in a letter to Herbert Hare stated that: "Unfortunately Mr. Kessler is quite seriously ill and it will be some little time before work of any kind can be taken up with him, and it may be a month or two before he can return to Kansas City to attend to business. His difficulties develop quite suddenly and it is very likely that an operation will be necessary in order to relieve him permanently."(Kessler Collection: March 12, 1923)
Arriving in Indianapolis on the 12th with his sister, Antoinette, and son, George, Jr., now sixteen, he was immediately placed in St. Vincent Hospital. Six days later Drs. Noble and Jameson operated in an attempt to correct a kidney condition. "The operation Saturday was believed to have been successful and after rallying through subsequent reactions on the heart, Mr. Kessler was said yesterday to have shown some improvement." Their prognosis, however, was not correct. At 8:25 in the evening, March 19, 1923, George Edward Kessler was dead. His sister was to reveal that Kessler had never fully regained good health following the nervous breakdown five years earlier.
Although Kansas City, Indianapolis, and ____, all hoped that Kessler would be buried in their city, George Kessler had requested before he died to be buried next to his mother. Antoinette chose to honor her brother`s request. She, escorted by R. Walter Jarvis, superintendent of parks for Indianapolis, took her brother`s body to St. Louis. At 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 22, 1923, George Edward Kessler was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery. The story of his passing gained notice in most of the metropolitan newspapers, but it was in Indianapolis, Kansas City, Cincinnnati, Niagara Falls, Dallas, and other cities that had known his service that the blow struck hardest. Men and women who had been most intimate with modest George Kessler in his work marked it as the loss of a personal friend.
This sentiment echoed by Charles Bookwalter, mayor of Indianapolis during Kessler's years of service to that city, provides a sense of the man: "To me, personally, his death is a great loss, but to me as a citizen of Indianapolis, his going away is still a greater blow," Mr. Bookwalter said. "I knew him personally and intimately for sixteen years. We met first when he was engaged in development work in Kansas City, Mo., and when I brought him to Indianapolis I found out why he stood in the position he did. He had a charm of personality that fastened men to him. His exceptional ability permitted people to understand and appreciate his golden qualities, but he drew and attracted people to him by sentiments other than appreciate of his ability.
"He was a man's man, quiet, modest and unassuming. I think Indianapolis will always hold his memory fresh and green. When he first came here, in a conversation with members of the park board and myself, we said we thought the terrain was flat and uninteresting, but George Kessler told us we did not appreciate the opportunities of the city in park engineering. 'You will find that you have something you will be proud of some day,' he said."
"George Kessler felt an attachment for this town, and when he realized that his illness was serious he came here from St. Louis for treatment, because he said 'I feel that I have friends there and I believe that I will get more than professional attention.'
"Good old George Kessler - it was a pleasure to have known him and a sorrow to have lost him."
Lawrence Sheridan who would continue Kessler`s work with Crown Hill Cemetery, Butler College, and the Indianapolis Park system spoke of his importance as a landscape architect. Sheridan remembered Kessler fondly, "Mr. Kessler had a knack for allowing others in a conference to do most of the talking and then crystallizing the whole matter by a timely remark. He could make himself extremely clear and in that way avoided many possible misunderstandings. I have never seen a subject brought up in a conference upon which he was not able to speak intelligently. Many times I have had opportunities to sit with him in conferences and I always learned something worth while. Mr. Kessler could also be firm and he was insistant upon the smallest detail being properly cared for. A joint in a cement curb which was slightly out of plumb would frequently call forth a rebuke for the contractor. While he was in charge of the work in Indianapolis the contractors learned very quickly that they must be careful in every small detail."
"Mr. Kessler never failed to give proper credit to his assistants. One of his greatest works, of course, was the landscape plan for the World's Fair at St. Louis. He told me at one time that Miss Sutermeister, in his office, was responsible for the color scheme. He could very easily have taken credit for that himself, but did not do so, and many times I have known him to be generous in the same way. As a matter of fact, he was always generous."
"Miss Sutermeister, the day of his funeral, remarked that it was an old saying that a great man was never a hero to his office force, but that Mr. Kessler was certainly the exception to that rule. He was universally beloved in the cities in which he worked and particularly in Kansas City. He numbered his friends from the lowliest laborer in the parks to the people of highest standing in the whole community."
"One of his mottoes was 'Get it done.' He had no sympathy whatever with the preparation of beautiful plans without likelihood of actual accomplishment. He took much more pride in a report of progress than he did in a preliminary report of what was proposed to be done. He was full of determination and no one was ever able to make him back down from his professional judgment merely for expediency.
"With all this ability he was a great diplomat and through his thorough analysis of people with whom he came in contact, he was able to mold their judgment in such a way as to make possible the accomplishment of many great things. Mr. Kessler was a great designer and he acquired his ability to design not only through his natural talent but through very careful study abroad during his youth and continual study thereafter. He always gave great credit his mother for the development of his abilities." The Kansas City Park Board after Mr. Kessler`s death passed the following resolution, "For full thirty years he was associated in the work of the park and boulevard development of Kansas City. He was the Board's Secretary, Superintendent of Parks, its Landscape Engineer and Consultant during this period of uninterrupted service. Indefatigable in his labors, modest in demeanor, quick and comprehensive in his perceptions, affable in his associations, mild and even humorous in his speech, but adamant in adhering to his convictions as to airms and far-reaching policies deliberately and intelligently arrived at."
"He was intimate, confidentially intimate, during the continuous period of his service with every member of the Board with whom he served. The completeness of his knowledge of the problems he had to deal with, that is the past, the present and the future development and growth of the city, its topography, its environs, its aspirations and the spirite of its people, and the wisdom of his deductions and prophecies in relation to it all were astonishing to those to whom he revealed himself. Companionable, wise without obtrusiveness, he had faith and begat faith in the work of his hands. And what was the source and motive of it all? It is not hard to seek. Was it personal ambition? No. Self-seeking, personal exploitation or personal aggrandizement seemed to be utterly foreign to his makeup. Intimate in his knowledge of nature, he loved it. His art was in revealing and uncovering and emphasizing, and in setting as it were in a picture so as to make instantly apparent to the work-a-day mind and the vision of the stranger, the beauties of nature which he saw with such distinct clearness. But even deeper in his heart was the love of the people whom he served. The good angel who spoke to him of them and their welfare was his inspiration. Fundamental with him was the conception that if the city would enjoy the fine things of tomorrow they must be planned for today. What will bring to the city and its people richer financial returns, what will contribute to the wholesome surroundings, healthful recreation both of body and mind, what mental and spiritual influences may be set in motion which will elevate and make a prosperous and happy people - a people who feel secure in their homes and home life, seems to have been the mark to which he constantly aimed, and in the accomplishment of it he found his greatest joy. To that goal he consecrated his life. And in that line of work he played the part of both pioneer and prophet.
He was generous in his labors. Many cities in North America shared in the fruitage of his vision and his wisdom. Maybe he was unwise in giving too liberally of himself to what he deemed was best for others. But it is notable to what extent he endeared himself to the masses of our people, and how the wisdom of his conclusions commended itself to them. His judgment and foresight seemed to be unerring and people cheerfully acceded to it and much of the renown and glory of our citizenry and the elevation of the civic spirit is due to his work with and amongst us.
"May we quote the following words from an editorial comment upon his life:
'so it fell out that at a time when zoning was unknown, when there was hardly such a thing in the country as a real system of parks and boulevards, when landscape architecture was just becoming recognized as a profession, here in the rough, raw West, in the frontier community at the Kaw's mouth, was worked out a scheme of beauty and utility that was unique in American municipal growth. Visitors from every part of the West caught the vision that had inspired Kessler, and the Kansas City development exercised a profound efffect of cities in every direction.'
"
While he was cosmopolitan in life and work he was peculiarly our own, and while he contributed generously of his services to other great communities, Kansas City had the first call upon his time and heart. During his youth and young manhood, and indeed during his earlier mature manhood he had no other home than Kansas City, and during that period his efforts were devoted almost exclusively in planning and bringing about by every sort of conversation and effort what we now call our park and boulevard system. And so long as Kansas City remains a city the impress of his genius and his work will remain and will be reflected in the added happiness and welfare of all who make this place their home. He has been, is, and shall be one of us and we will hold his memory and his service in affectionate esteem always. And would it be too much to express the hope that the members of his family may permit us to have his earthly remains lie here within our borders and amid the scenes of beauty and wholesome activities he did so much to bring about.
We cannot estimate his loss. It will not do to say that others may not rise up and carry forward his work; but as our minds recur to his fidelity and the sincerity of his purpose and his elevation of the standards for civic need, it will be our unanimous resolve to seize upon his faith in the future growth of Kansas City and to carry forward with the same exaltation of spirit that was his, dauntlessly, the wise work of city planning and municipal achievement and to add our efforts to his work in promoting the Glory of our beloved city.
Ironically, the American Society of Landscape Architects, of which he held the vice presidency, scarcely acknowledged his passing. The Landscape Architectural Quarterly which often carried "Memorial Minutes" upon the death of one of the society`s members made no mention of Kessler except to state that Nelson Lewis of New York was appointed to complete his term as vice president.
In an address to the National Conference of City Planning in New York in 1927, John Nolen made this statement: "a new movement can nearly always be to traced to the initiative of individuals or groups of individuals. So it has been with city planning. There is no room to mention here the living who have participated actively in city and regional plan making during the last twenty years. But the opportunity to honor the dead is rare, and it is not inappropriate in a long review of city planning progress to pay tribute to the five men who during this period rendered exceptionally distinguished service, and who are no longer with us." Nolen spoke of Daniel Burnham, creator of the famous Chicago Plan of 1909, Charles Mulford Robinson, whose 1907 book, "The Improvement of Towns and Cities," was the first important volume of its kind to be published in this country, Nelson P. Lewis, president of the National Conference on city planning and American City Planning Institute from 1919 to 1921, Charles D. Norton, first associated with the plan for Chicago and later chief of the Regional Plan of New York, and Kessler. "George E. Kessler`s work was largely in the Middle West, with offices at St. Louis. He prepared and executed city plans for many places, but the Kessler Plan for Dallas, in which city he lived as a boy, will probably be his most enduring monument."

Both the Kansas City and St. Louis offices were closed at Kessler death. Eda Sutermeister, who had worked with Kessler since the early days of the design of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, found employment with Hare and Hare in Kansas City where she remained until her death on April 13, 1929.6 Presumably all of the drawings and plans in the office files were either destroyed or distributed to clients.
Antionette Kessler remained in St. Louis until 1925, and then traveled for several years before settling in Kansas City in 1936 at 906 East Thirtieth Street. Her later years were devoted to the care of her sister-in-law and nephew. Apparently she never married. On November 12, 1931, Ida Kessler died in Kansas City. After two years of failing health, Antionette passed away on December 27, 1947, at the age of eighty-four. Antoinette was buried in Bellefontaine cemetery in the family plot.7
George E. Kessler, Jr. would later attend the University of Illinois and graduate in 1951 from the former University of Kansas City Law School. Mr. Kessler served in the Army Reserve from 1929 to 1941, spent four years on active duty as intelligence staff officer and provost marshall and was appointed lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve in 1954. He was employed in the legal department of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company from 1946 to 1965. From 1965 to 1968 he lectured in philosphy at Rockhurst College in Kansas City. From 1968 until his death from a heart attack in 1971 at the age of 65, Mr. Kessler served as a library assistant at the Rockhurst College.8
The life and work of George Edward Kessler is the embodiment of the American Renaissance. He envisioned the City Beautiful compiling European images and the American landscape in a marvelous blend of the Old and New Worlds. He championed the civic life and joined businessmen, politicians, and journalists in creating that image.
He was successful in bringing a new profession to a new region in part because he lived in an era that demanded those skills but surely more as a result of his tremendous talent and energy. His plans have succeeded because they contained a marvelous vision of the physical form a city could obtain. The parks of Fort Worth and the Country Club District of Kansas City are beautiful proof of his vision. His plans have failed in some cases because, as those who criticize the City Beautiful are quick to point out, they often addressed only the physical aspects of the city. The Paseo of Kansas City today is surrounded by slums similar to those that occupied the site before his 1893 plan.

Yet despite his impact on the American landscape, the work of George Edward Kessler has been largely overlooked. His own profession, only now beginning to examine its origins, has ignored him. His extreme modesty, the reluctance of his peers to accept him as one of their own, his distance from the population and media centers on the East Coast, and his own failure to publish his thoughts, surely contributed to his lack of recognition.

Though little as been known of his life and accomplishments, his works still remain. They have given form to many of the great cities of the midwest. They have touched the lifes of millions of American cities. They represent some of the finest examples of the contribution of landscape architecture to civic life. For his wonderful parks and gardens, all Americans should be thankful to George Edward Kessler.

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