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In Praise of Our Parks: Part Three


By david


In the second half of the 19th century, Frederick Law Olmsted came to be regarded as the Founder of American Landscape Architecture. He and his business partner, Calvert Vaux, planned a great many parks across the continent, from New York to California. Apart from Manhattan’s Central Park, their most well-known creation is the parkland surrounding the US Capitol, Washington D.C..

In 1898 another innovative approachto “green” urban planning came into existence, with the formation in the UK of the Garden City/Town Movement by Sir Ebenezer Howard. New towns would be built surrounded by greenbelts, and contain broad tree-lined streets, parks, etc. This Movement became influential in the USA, as well as at home, but many of the original “garden cities” have since been enveloped by the growth of our larger cities, which would probably dismay the original planners if they could see them now.

A precursor of this Movement can be seen in the village of Bournville, Birmingham, England, created between 1893 and 1917 by Sir George Cadbury and his wife for the workers in their world-famous chocolate-making factory. The chosen site, although adjacent to the factory, was originally in a rural location, and was designed with broad, leafy streets, a village green, and a public park.

A Bournville street today.

In the early 20th century, the number of urban public parks increased as City/Town Councils bought land from private estates or wealthy benefactors donated land or money for that purpose.
The two World Wars, however, changed forever the appearance of many of the parks of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Ornate wrought iron gates, railings, bandstands, etc. were reconstituted as munitions, anti-aircraft guns were set up in many, and became bombing targets. Town parks became military training grounds or communal air-raid shelters, while many of the country estates and large houses became military bases, hospitals or evacuee centres. in the towns and cities, parks played a vital role in food production under the “Dig for Victory” (UK) and “Victory Gardens” (USA and Canada) campaigns.

Facsimiles of World War Two campaign posters, Imperial War Museum, London.

In the countryside beyond the towns and cities, food cultivation was also able to continue, due largely to the members of the Women’s Land Army (UK, USA, Canada) and the Australian Women’s Land Army. Here in the UK, their remarkable contribution to the war efforts went ignored until just last month (July 2008) when surviving Land Girls were finally awarded badges of honour.

UK Land Army recruitment poster, World War Two (facsimile).

I was interested to read and learn recently that the Luitpold Arena, part of the vast Nazi Party rally/congress complex at Nuremberg, was constructed on top of a former public park. The ruins of this area were, in the late 1950s restored to that former use, and is once again a large, popular urban park.

Following World War Two, there was hardly finance to spare to restore parks to their former glory, and many began to fall into a state of decline and neglect, a situation which would last for decades.

More blog posts by david

Previous post: In Praise of Our Parks : Part Two

Next post: In Praise of Our Parks : Part Four



Good one, the history involved is fascinating! It's too bad that it has taken people so long, as a group to realize the value of green space.

20 Aug, 2008


Another fascinating blog. I have good memories of walks in the park as a small child which was soon after the second world war, so it's good to think that even if the parks had suffered during the war, they were still nice places to go. I really liked the river which ran through a park in Nuneaton where my grandparents lived in the 40's, and remember it well. I think we are all indebted to people like Sir George Cadbury who made our surroundings so much better, and all those who worked to create green public spaces.

20 Aug, 2008


There's Welwyn Garden Suburb in the SE of London - I wonder how that was developed? And when? Now you'll get me researching, too, David!

20 Aug, 2008


Do you mean Welwyn Garden City or is Welwyn Garden Suburb different?
Welwyn Garden City is in Herts.
North of London, sort of North East of Hatfield.

Wouldn't want your research to head off in the wrong direction. lol

PS Letchworth Garden City is also in Herts.

20 Aug, 2008


another brilliant blog david, you seem to travel alot is this due to work or pleasure?

20 Aug, 2008


Go for it, Spritz, but you are right, of course, Terratoonie. All pleasure, I'm afraid, Lyd,days out, hols and such - I go to work for a rest! Thanx, Chris, for sharing this memory.

21 Aug, 2008


Super posters and photos illustrating part 3, David.

Having read this blog again, I reckon I'll now be thinking of parks every time I eat a bar of chocolate lol.

Excellent work, David.

23 Aug, 2008


Thank you, David

This was such a well crafted article! I am impressed.
One might argue that with the financial turmoil we are being faced with, this may just be the beginning of the death, or death by many cuts of some of these parks.

Arboretums have long been so neglected. Even the Arnold back in 93 had to cut all education, speaking programs just to keep up with the physical maintenance. What will happen during this economic upheaval. I cannot predict, except in always seems that the football programs do not get axed.

You may smile when I tell you that for a few years I could house-stay at an Olmstead designed garden in the Highlands, an uber rich community near Seattle. I know that I took pictures of that garden buy I have no clue where I put them.

The rumor mill has it that you are considering writing about Douglas, the famous plant explorer. I pray that is so!

Footnote -- back to arboretums. The University I went too, U.C.S.C (Santa Cruz) had a world renowned botanical garden. Not just of CA. natives, but of S.African flora, N.Z. and Australian materials. It was devestated by budget cutbacks. I was a docent at that arboretum and I was shocked at some of the changes. The 1980's were very kind to it. I fear this decade has been far more unkind.

That said, It remains GREAT and well worth the visit.!

30 Nov, 2008


Dear Skyline!

Firstly, many many thanks for your kind comment! My final part (4) deals a bit more with investment in parks, but, like yourself, I now fear that this may be set back a lot, in the current financial climate!

I am amazed to hear from someone who has stayed within an Olmsted-designed garden!!!!!

But, as you say, I can smile - even laugh aloud - when you say that to find the pics will be difficult (but, PLEASE, find them soon!"!!!).

Yes, I am currently writing a series of blogs titled "Big Tree Country", and David Douglas will have a few mentions.
He was born only 30 miles from our home, so we have many examples of his discoveries, not least from your own current home area. The more traces of him I find, the more hooked I become! I'd like to trace his short but fascinating life, but couldn't justify the flight to Honolulu!

So, will do what I can, at his origin!

I read some time ago about the Botanical Garden at UCSC. How much are our great sources of study and conservation being affected, I wonder, as do you?

Best Wishes,

- David.

1 Dec, 2008


My house resembles my computer. I need to get both in shape.

Now as to your parks and arboretums -- ours are in the same pickle as well. I have a solution. Bury people in them and charge the loot. The cost of a backhoe is 140. 00 for half a day. One can dig and re-position the soil for quite a few people a day. Cost therefore is not an issue. Cremation is at least 500. Dollars and uses up a lot of needed energy. I think we should plant people. Offer a fifty percent discount.

Then plant a tree over them.
The arboretum or park would get another thirty bucks at least for that. That comes to near 300 dollars a soul. I think this is a win, win situation. The parks, forest lands and arboretums would provide a peaceful and PRIVATE final resting ground. I tend to avoid crowds and the idea of a cemetery just gives me the creeps. Might offend a few, but some people like company, I do not.

There are ocean parks as well. The same idea would apply. I would love to become part of a coral reef if I could offset the parks arrears. People do little enough to support these parks in their real life. I suggest they do so when they pass on.

As for the Olmstead residence, not only was I housed but I was also fed and cherished there. I never had a maid before. I could have gotten used to that.

I hope your mind doesn't gutter jump that one. She simply served me breakfast, lunch and supper. The rest of the time I worked.


I do not have those pictures on the computer. They are somewhere lost in my barn. These are real photos, and I do have a book of Annie Hofius garden and this Highland garden. I would have to get them digitalized.

I also have a box of slides of Olympic Mt. wildflowers. They are great, but are some twenty years old. ???

Another project.

1 Dec, 2008


Skyline ~
If you look at my photos, you can see a picture of butterflies which I scanned from a photo printed almost 20 years ago. These older pictures can come out looking clear and good.
So if you find any older photos which might be of special interest to David and others, please have a try at scanning them.

Your parks and oceans burials idea is fascinating reading.:o)

1 Dec, 2008


Hmmn, two of my customers (Jim included) have such scanners. I just showed Jim how to use it. It worked beautifully.

Another project. Sigh.

1 Dec, 2008


It would be a worthwhile project, though, Skyline. Also, the ideas for parks as resting places and source of revenue is very interesting!!

1 Dec, 2008


Well, I checked out the barn and yes I have all of those pictures and even some of the Olmsted garden. They were all focused on the garden. Not showing, is the awesome siting of the property overlooking the waters and the Olympic Mts, this time from the east.

I did find a picture of Tina and the medicine wheel garden. I was afraid that I had tossed all of those pictures.

As it does not relate to your blog, I will not go further into this. but it is in my mind. I might do more on my site as it might fit into the questioned Re-incarnation blog.

That said, I really think this is worth thinking about. In this country green burials are not allowed! Something else either, doctor assisted suicide. We just passed that law (as did Oregon), but it may not be enacted soon enough to help him. ALS is a crappy why to go!

On an up side ... I found so many pictures! Many of which you would enjoy. Many alpine ones as well. Now I might have to buy a scanner. The new ones are so much better than the old ones. Some of the pictures I uploaded were down with a hand scanner that produced jpgs of questionable quality.

It hurts me to upload a picture that is of wall quality potential and it comes out looking awful. It was the scanner, not the photo, or the photographer using an old fashioned camera. The negatives are lost.

Some were even taken with an old-fashioned German box camera. :-)


2 Dec, 2008


Wow! You found all those marvellous archives! I'd love to see some real pics of an Olmsted-designed garden, but agree that it's a pity that we won't see the garden's setting.

As for your other comments, Yes, I can say that I'd want a woodland burial - pity they are not permiitted where you are, with so much forested landscape. On anything else you mentioned, I cannot comment, as I work in operating rooms, intensive care units, etc., where I sometimes care for people for whom there is no earthly hope, awaiting the decision of law courts, family, etc. I have protocols and Professional Conducts to follow, which I do, regardless of how I feel as, and for a fellow, person! I can, therefore, not comment further here on this, but will await what you say in your own pages, with gr8 interest!

Best Wishes,


2 Dec, 2008


I so understand David.

You may not know it but I have a fair background in the mental health care field. As a psych major in college, things happened in the last year and out I was. So came the army. I pleaded C.O. status and ended up working in some ghastly environs. Even the good one had human vegetables in row after row. They would be taken care of for decades in some cases, while young children in our country cannot even get a vaccination.

We have no health care system in this country, yet the rich can have four organ transplants. It is not right.

You know of ALS -- well it is reaching its final fingers around a friend of mine and this is affecting me as well. Therefore some of my gallow humor comments. It is both an emotional and psychic relief valve. Your GoY is a godsend for me.

Some of this is also a memorial for people who have passed on far to early.

2 Dec, 2008

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