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will not be walled up without adequate provision for ventilation from the quarter whence, in this climate, it is most needed, I am, very truly and respectfully yours,
JOHN H. Dix.
SENATE CHAMBER, March 26, 1860.
My Dear Sir:-I am grateful for your timely intervention to save our Boston Common, by keeping it open to the western breezes and to the setting sun. It is not pleasant, I know, to separate, in opinion, from those about us; but your object is so disinterested, so pure, so benevolent, so truly in the nature of a charity, that all, even though differing from you in details, must be glad that you have come forward.
I know well the value of water in scenery. Perhaps nothing else adds so much to the effect of a landscape, which, indeed, without water often seems lifeless; or, as was once said by a valued friend of mine, "like a face without eyes." Boston, from its peninsular situation, cannot be deprived entirely of this picturesque accessory. It seems to me, however, that in a region like that now in question, we should hesitate long before renouncing the opportunity of adding to its attractions by a piece of water, which, from perennial supply, would always prove, and might become, an ornament of unsurpassed beauty, if not also a place of recreation, and a source of health.
On this matter it would be useless for me to enlarge. All who have ever stood on Boston Common will see at once how much this pleasant retreat will lose in charm when its great western gate is closed; and all who have ever speculated on the probable growth of our metropolis, and the longing of a crowded population for fresh air, will recognize the necessity for open spaces, which will be out-of-door ventilators.
Boston is already growing in every direction. A wise forecast, if not able at once to provide all the means needful for its salubrity and adornment, will at least avoid embarrassing the future, when half a million of souls will build their houses in and about the ancient Trimountain.
Our Common has been ample enough for the past; but the metropolis has already outgrown it in every respect. Besides being too narrow in proportions, it is wanting in those accessories of beauty and of science, especially illustrative of natural history, which, according to the experience of other countries, are proper for public grounds. I wish much to see there, among other things, an arboretum, where every tree, that will bear our climate, shall find its classified place, pleasing the eye by its beauty, protecting the body by its shade, and speaking to all by the voice of sci
Accept the thanks of an absent citizen, who never thinks of his native Boston without a yearning to see it foremost in all that makes a true civilization; and believe me to be, my dear sir, very faithfully yours, CHARLES SUMNER.
TO GEORGE H. SNELLING, Esq.
BOSTON, April 2, 1860.
GEO. H. SNELLING, ESQ.:
Dear Sir, - In answer to your note of the 31st ult., I reply that, in my opinion, there are no practical difficulties to be apprehended in the modification proposed by you in the plan for filling the marshes at the bottom of the Common.
Should the views taken by yourself and so many of your fellowcitizens prove ultimately erroneous, the remedy is easy. The section may be filled in.
If, on the other hand, the "Back Bay" should prove to be no exception to the general rule, and, for want of a free circulation of air, become like the Mill Pond and South Cove lands, the remedy would be excessively expensive, if not impossible.
It may be said the proposed streets are unusually wide, and, in consequence of this, the difficulty would be obviated. In answer to this it may be said, that there are no data upon which to base such a conclusion. It is an experiment. Is it not wise, when we are making an experiment, to so proceed that we can retrace the ground we may lose, and be in a position to correct, rather than
to go on with, a plan which, if it is wrong, must remain so, however injurious it may be to all interests?
I would write more at length, did time permit me, upon this point: as to the probable insufficiency of the width of the proposed streets, liberal in width as they at first glance appear to be. The time required to do justice to the whole subject is not now at my command.
The propriety of a wide avenue at the point indicated in your memorial is conceded by the projectors of the plan. The buildings recently erected show that the width, liberal as it was supposed to be by those gentlemen, is entirely inadequate, and indicates very clearly that, if the proposed plan is carried out, the Common will be greatly injured.
The area of the Common is small as compared with the reservations of land in other cities for like purposes. Its position has, up to this time, compensated for this deficiency by the extensive view beyond. The projected improvements have already gone far enough to show the effect they will have practically upon that important appanage to the city.
The State has always been liberal in alienating the public domain, in making reservation for public purposes.
The daily toil of the inhabitants of Boston alone will give value to this domain. It has no intrinsic value except position. It appears to me that they have a first right to claim such a reservation as you have proposed; and still more strongly, that the advantages they now have for "light and air" shall not be sacrificed to the desire of gain by any party.
If they labor to give value to this land, they are entitled to so much as is requisite to their well-being and comfort. To refuse it is like “muzzling the ox that treadeth out the corn.”
But there is another view of the matter which may be taken, where it seems probable that this concession asked in your memorial will be attended with no loss to the State or other parties interested. This district, if improved at all, must be used for dwellings. It cannot compete in price with the marsh lands in Cambridge, Chelsea and East Boston, if required for other purposes.
There is no inducement to build upon this district, other than the great advantages of light, air, and distant prospect beyond. And it has been already seen, that, where these advantages are supposed to exist, a good price can be obtained. It is, therefore, in my judgment, of the last importance, that the value of this district should not depend upon the result of a judgment which may be wrong. It would be far better to give up this section, as proposed by you, than to have the whole reduced in price, if the prospect should be obstructed, as I think it will be, when the length of the avenue begins to be developed, as length has an important bearing when applied to perspective proportions.
I feel quite confident that if the most liberal allowance is not made in this respect, the filling will be a failure; judging from instances elsewhere, it will be so at any rate.
This, of itself, would be a great misfortune; but if to this should be added the injury or ruin of that we now have, to wit, the Common, the result would be as mortifying as disastrous.
The general principles affecting this matter are so ably set forth in your memorial, that there is nothing left to be done, except to go into the matter of details, which at this time cannot be done.
I therefore proceed to notice more especially the subject of drainage through this basin to the water beyond the dam.
There can be no difficulty in doing this. The drain can be as easily and cheaply made across this basin as across the same length filled with earth.
It appears to me that this objection is rather a sudden suggestion than a deliberate opinion. The real difficulties which will be experienced in draining this district must all be met and overcome before this point is reached. Whoever solves that problem will find no difficulty in crossing this space.
I have briefly answered your note, and wish that the time and ability were mine to show to those having charge of this matter the thing in its true character; but where the only rule of conduct is gain, and where selfishness and cupidity rule, I long ago learned that nothing could be done, and persons so controlled were not accessible by argument or facts.
In this case, however, it does appear to me, that, on the dollar
principle, an error will be committed if your plan is not adopted; and, on the other hand, no dollar can be lost if it is adopted; because it proposes simply not to expend the money now.
Will it cost more to fill it hereafter? I think not, as the track can easily be brought so as to lead lengthwise of the whole section, and there will be as little changing of track, perhaps less than now. The difference can be but slight if any; and against this is to be set off the interest of the money which is expended between the time of expenditure and the sale of the land.
Please accept my thanks, as one citizen of Boston, for all you have done in our behalf.
Your obedient servant,
WM. P. PARROTT.
The following letters should have been printed as a note to Dr. Holmes's testimony:
CAMBRIDGE, Nov. 6th, 1869.
My Dear Doctor: You are a poet and a physician, therefore equally awake to the beautiful and the healthful. It is on that double account I am induced to write a few lines to you. For now more than twenty years I have been admiring and enjoying the sight of Boston by day and by night, while crossing our bridge. Few cities are blessed with such an approach. I have again and again contrasted it with other favored localities, and never ceased to congratulate myself and my neighbors upon our opportunities. And what shall I say of the salubrious influence of such a large sheet of sea water, bathing, invigorating and refreshing its surroundings? Is it possible that there are men so entirely ignorant of the value of such natural advantages, or so insensible to the sanitary condition of their fellow-citizens, as seriously to propose to mire this spring of health, comfort and enjoyment? I hope such vandalism will not be tolerated, and you will find in Cambridge a host of radical friends ready to be extreme conservatives in this matter.
Ever truly yours,
Dr. O. W. HOLMES, Boston.