« PreviousContinue »
and pestilence in his country seat? Or is it the hard-working mechanic or laborer, whom narrow means and unremitting toil keep chained to the city pavement? It is needless to answer such a question. The rights to the benefit of this basin are owned by no one quarter of the city, no one class of society. We all have rights, from highest to lowest, in its cooling and health-giving qualities, and it is as guardian of those who cannot help themselves, and not as the ally of those whose powers of defence are shown by the array of counsel they have sent to argue their rights in this matter, that the city government of Boston solemnly protests against any substantial reduction of the water area of Charles River. Anything done in this respect cannot be undone. Your recommendations may end in irreparable injury; and it is for this reason that we so dread any decisive action in such a direction. Believing that the tidal basin of Charles River is essential to the safety of the harbor, the coolness of the atmosphere, the health, the attractiveness and the beauty of Boston, I can only hope that it will never be said of her, what the men of Jericho said to the prophet of God in the olden time, "The situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth, but the water is naught, and the land barren."
Mr. DERBY. Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Committee: When I rose this morning, and, looking from my windows across the basin of the Charles River, saw the light of the rising sun reflected from the windows of Cambridge, and thought that this charming prospect was endangered; when I reflected, sir, that every day at dinner I could see this expanse of waters cooled by the ocean, ruffled by the breezes, rolling in towards my table, and remembered that at night, when retiring, I could see the glitter of the lamps reflected from this beautiful pano. rama, when I thought that this spectacle was in danger, and that we were liable in West Boston to be deprived of what seemed to be a boon of Providence to our section of the city, I felt nerved to express the feelings of our people.
I have the honor to come here to-day to represent one of the most important sections of Boston, extending from the summit of Mount Vernon down to the Mill-dam, and from Beacon street to West Boston bridge; a territory which commands a view of this broad expanse, and has a population of some twenty thousand, situated in one of the richest wards of the city, in which property increases at the rate of ten per cent per annum, and exceeds to-day eighty millions of dollars. I felt, sir, that a very important part of this metropolis was in danger; and that it was my duty to exert my humble efforts to arrest an impending calamity. I presume, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, that the only incentive to action on the part of this committee is the idea of putting money into the coffers of the State. But I would respectfully ask the committee, what would be the object of the money, to be acquired in this manner, if it is to be acquired at the expense of health and vitality? It would be plating the eyes of men with dollars after they have ceased to breathe. I suppose, gentlemen, that the inducement to the committee is the fact that some profit has accrued to the State from the filling in of the property south of the Mill-dam. Let me draw the attention of the committee to the history of that enterprise, and show that the basins on the two sides of Beacon street are entirely different, and that what might result in profit on one side would result in loss on the other. Let me carry you back to the history of the enterprise on the southern side of the Mill-dam.
Half a century, sir, has elapsed since there was an excitement in State street, a great commotion, and an assemblage of eager men around one of the insurance offices. Coats were torn, hats were destroyed, there was a clamor and a determination to subscribe to a new undertaking. The Mill-dam enterprise was thus inaugurated. A bridge had been very successful. It had returned more than a million for forty thousand dollars. I allude to the old Charles River bridge. Factories had been
built at Waltham, and had paid large profits; and it was proposed to connect the city with them. It was proposed also to move down the factories to the very gates of the city, and bring Waltham almost into Boston, and create a great water power for the mills of the Commonwealth. This was the object in view, and in this commotion the stock was subscribed, and the enterprise undertaken. But unforseen difficulties were encountered. It was found, sir, that there were unfathomable depths in the quagmire, and the piles would not reach sound bottom. At length the enterprise came to a stand-still, and when a school-boy I came to this city, in 1819, the Mill-dam was still unfinished. At last it was completed. What was the result? It resulted in the loss of the investment. All that remained was the interest. The interest was represented by the stock, and only the interest; the capital was gone. There was an extinction at that early day of six or eight hundred thousand dollars. And if the enterprise had been undertaken later, I presume the loss would have exceeded that sum, and that there would have been an extinction of at least a million and a half of capital, or more than the profit that has been realized by the commonwealth from the filling inside of the Mill-dam. Its whole profit would have been absorbed. But it was not in its results as a commercial enterprise alone that it was a failure. It brought other losses to the State. It impaired the value of our harbor. It occasioned the largest deposit in the lower harbor. It aided to remove nineteen hundred thousand cubic yards of land, which has been washed down from above and from the vicinity of the bridges into the lower harbor, and carry it where it was not wanted. I refer to the three last where these facts are given in detail. hundred thousand feet found below the deposit between the bridges, and a wearing away in the vicinity of the Charles River bridge.
reports on the harbor There were nineteen bridges, and a large
There has been a disturbance, sir, of these elements, and the
result of it has been that in the aggregate twenty-four hundred thousand cubic feet of land have been moved, which, if you were to take it out again, would cost seventy-five cents a cubic yard, or something like six dollars a square. And it will be required to be moved out in different localities to accommodate the largest class of vessels. Should you bring in vessels like the "Great Eastern," it would become necessary to remove all this deposit. That is one of the calamities. But there was another, and that was in the loss of the health-giving breezes that swept over the space that had been filled, which invigorated the people of Boston. It became a mere receptacle for the drainage, merely a reservoir for the sewerage of the city; and there sprung up there marshes, with sedge partially covered at high tide. It became a nuisance, and it has subjected the city to an expense of three-quarters of a million of dollars in the raising of the Church Street District, with more in prospect, in consequence of the exclusion of the sea, which carried away the drainage of Cedar street, Fayette street, and other streets in that locality. The city now, at a time when it has to pay a premium on gold, when the bonds of Massachusetts have been selling from eighty to ninety cents on the dollar, will be compelled to pay more than a million of dollars for raising this district. And you have had evidence in this case from Mr. Hills, the city assessor, that if you carry out this filling of the Charles River basin as now proposed, it may become necessary to raise Commonwealth avenue and the Public Garden, and to elevate the buildings that have been constructed in this vicinity; that you may be compelled to raise this area six or eight feet in order to preserve the necessary drainage. I have described the condition of the empty basin when the State was called upon to do something for Boston. It had created a nuisance, and the question was, how it was to be remedied. The State was precluded from letting in the sea again. If the sea had come
in, it would have overflowed a large section of the district
to which I have referred. That thing could not be done. The State looked around to see what it could do. It concluded to take advantage of the mistakes that had been made. It had sanctioned the Mill dam, and it said, "We will step in and take advantage of its effects. We will avail ourselves of them. We will take advantage of the work that has been done by other parties. We will avail ourselves of the Public Garden, which the citizens of Boston have created, and we will induce them to improve it and beautify it, by giving them a little more land beyond. We will buy out the riparian proprietors, by allowing them more land on Tremont street. We will quiet the Milldam proprietors by allowing them two hundred feet on the northern side of the Mill-dam. We will quiet the Water Power Company by allowing them to fill up farther. And we will take the cream of it ourselves. We will see if we can realize some profit.' And a profit to the State, sir, has been realized from the mistakes of its subjects. If the State had enclosed the area, and undertaken to fill it, it would have resulted in a loss. But what has been the result? It has been, according to the evidence as placed before you yesterday, that the cost of the filling of this area has been sixty-six cents per foot, for vendible land, independently of the Mill-dam and independently of Beacon street. The commissioners have taken out forty per cent for streets. If you include Beacon street, it would be forty-five per cent; and that amount should be included in any estimate as to the northern side of the Milldam. But I see no prospect of a Public Garden on Charles street, or in that vicinity. If you are to place this area upon the same footing as the land on the other side of Beacon street, you must make the same advance for improvements and avenues before you can bring the land up to the same market value. At all events, if the State has taken out forty-five per cent on the one side, you must take out forty five per cent on the other.
Then we start on the basis of sixty-six cents per foot, as the