« PreviousContinue »
PAUPER AND PENAL INSTITUTIONS.
ducing the more general reforms recommended by the Board so long as the inmates of our institutions were confined in the miserable, crowded quarters until recently existing. In other words, much of the criticism passed upon the commissioners was premature. Now that the new buildings are complete, administration upon the most approved modern institutional theory is for the first time possible. As it was unreasonable to expect a proper treatment according to modern methods of the pauper and criminal wards of the city in the public institutions as they existed four years ago, so now, with one of the most modern and elaborate plants to be found anywhere in the country, their mismanagement ought to be impossible.
The great benefit derived by the people of New York from the construction of Central Park induced the citizens of Boston to consider seriously the advisability of providing similar, or possibly better, park facilities for themselves. The attempt was made, in 1870, to commit the people at a special election to the creation of a park system, but the act provided that a two-thirds vote was necessary, and although a majority voted for it, the necessary two-thirds was not obtained.1
In 1874 a special commission was appointed to consider the subject, and in 1875 another act2 was secured authorizing the city to establish a system of parks if the act were accepted by a simple majority vote. This act was accepted at a municipal election by 3,706 "yeas" to 2,311 "nays," and constitutes the basis of our present park system. A park commission was appointed under this act in 1875; and the first large appropriation was voted in 1877, being a loan of $450,000 for land for the Back Bay Fens. From that time to December 31, 1890, the work of constructing the various parks recommended by the commission and its landscape architects proceeded very slowly. There had been expended up to that date $6,537,616.33,3 and with the exception of a portion of the Fens, a part of the Arboretum, a small park at the West End known as the Charlesbank, and parts of Franklin Park, there was practically nothing to show for this great outlay. That is to say, a great part of the work was still under construction and proceeding slowly; much of it had not been
1 See St. 1870, ch. 283. A special election was held on November 8, 1870, at which 9,233 persons voted "yea" and 5,916 persons voted “nay.”
2 St. 1875, ch. 185.
3 $3,028,068.94 for land, and $3,509,547.39 for construction.
begun at all; and the portions that were finished were inaccessible to the general public. The policy had been adopted - embodied in the Act of 1886 authorizing a loan of $2,500,000 — of expending only $500,000 a year for land and construction, on account of the main park system; and on January 1, 1891, there was but one instalment of this loan unissued. A new loan was evidently necessary, and accordingly the Legislature of 1891 authorized the borrowing of $3,500,000 in instalments of $700,000 per annum. As the work progressed I soon became convinced, however, that this rate of expenditure was too slow; that the present inhabitants of the city were deriving practically no benefit from the enormous expenditures on account of these parks; and that a wiser policy would be to finish all the absolutely necessary parts of the park system as rapidly as possible, so that the people of this day and generation could enjoy its benefits. Accordingly, in 1893, the prohibition against issuing more than $700,000 a year was remitted,' and the Park Commissioners immediately set about the completion of the system as rapidly as possible. This work has progressed so favorably that the Fens, the Muddy River Improvement, Jamaica Park, the Arboretum, and Franklin Park, as well as the connecting parkways, have been substantially completed and opened for public use during the year 1894. Much progress has also been made upon Marine Park; while the smaller parks, such as Wood Island and Charlestown Heights, have not been neglected.
It was expected that the loan of $3,500,000, authorized in 1891, would be sufficient to complete the system in all its essential features; but this expectation has not been fulfilled, owing principally to the unexpectedly heavy amounts which the city has been obliged to pay for land. Some additional expense has also been caused by the purchase of Franklin Field and Dorchester Park, but the main reason for the increase in the amount needed to complete the parks has been the large sums which have had to be paid to the
1 St. 1893, ch. 211.
owners of land expropriated by the commission. An appropriation of $500,000 was made by the City Council of 1894 within the debt limit; a new park at the North End was bought, and is now being constructed under an appropriation. of $300,000 within the debt limit; and the Legislature of 1894 authorized the city to borrow an additional million of dollars on or after the first of January, 1895. The whole of this loan will be needed to pay for the lands not yet settled for, to provide for the contracts now outstanding, and to finish up those parts of the main park system and Marine Park which seem reasonably necessary in order that the public may derive the full benefit of these parks, and the money which they have cost.
There has been expended from January 1, 1891, to December 31, 1894, the sum of $5,492,302.05, making a total expenditure for parks since 1875 of $12,029,918.38. The million of dollars to be issued the coming year1 will bring the expenditures up to over $13,000,000, for which sum the park system as laid out by the first commissioners, with some few additions since, will be completed in all its essential features. Some of the details contemplated by the landscape architects, as well as the construction of the "strandway," will have to be omitted unless further appropriations are made. It seems to me that such appropriations should for the future be derived exclusively from loans within the debt limit, and that no application should be made to the Legislature for further loans for park purposes outside of the debt limit. An annual loan of a few hundred thousand dollars can easily be procured for park purposes within the borrowing capacity of the city under the statute of 1885, and such annual expenditure would seem to be about all the taxpayers should now be called upon to hear for the purpose of park construction.
The interest taken in the development and speedy completion of our park system has not been confined to parks within the limits of the city, and I have felt it desir1 Issued January 4, 1895.
able that the city should lend its aid in every legitimate way to the scheme of metropolitan park improvements, authorized by the Legislature of 1893.1 Under the authority of this act the Metropolitan Park Commission has secured about 6,225 acres of wild lands in the suburban towns, which, added to the municipal parks, public grounds, and water reservations, in Boston, Lynn, Malden, Cambridge, Newton, and other towns in the metropolitan district, make a total park area for this city and its suburbs of over 12.000 acres. To acquire the metropolitan reservations, and to connect. them with boulevards or parkways, the commission has been authorized to expend $2,300,000, the larger part of which will fall upon the city of Boston. The Stony Brook reservation has been connected with the Arnold Arboretum by a parkway, part of which was taken by the Metropolitan Park Commission, and surrendered to the city, and the remainder. of which was taken by the Boston Park Commissioners themselves. The Metropolitan Park Commission also proposes to connect the .Blue Hill reservation with Blue Hill avenue, and thus with Franklin Park, by widening Mattapan street, in Milton, and to cooperate with the town of Winchester and the Boston Water Board in the preservation. of the shores of Mystic Lake and the Abbajona River. Arrangements have also been made with the President and Fellows of Harvard University for an addition of about 75 acres to the Arnold Arboretum.
The community now owns and can soon enjoy for purposes of public recreation park areas greater in extent and much more accessible in situation than are to be found within the limits of other large cities. That portion of the park system lying within the city limits and just completed has already commended itself to popular favor, and bids fair to revolutionize the appearance of the city, and to some extent the habits of its people. The great expenditure involved will, I um satisfied, prove one of the best investments that the city
1 St. 1893, ch. 407.
2 Awaiting the sanction of the Legislature.