The Mystery Deepens! Who Started Those Beautiful Landscaped Street Medians In The Old North End (and elsewhere in Colorado Springs)?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Due to the favorable coverage of our posting on who started the wide streets and the landscaped street medians in Colorado Springs, additional research was undertaken. It turned out the beautiful street medians were started by people living in Colorado Springs and not by Charles Mulford Robinson, a landscape architect hired to help beautify Colorado Springs in the early 20th Century.

Many people in Colorado Springs credit Robinson with first recommending the landscaped medians in the centers of Cascade Avenue, Nevada Avenue, and Wahsatch Avenue (as well as two blocks of Wood Avenue). But Robinson himself wrote in his 1905 report that landscaped medians were already in place in Cascade and Nevada avenues when he first began to study Colorado Springs.

Charles Mulford Robinson’s great contribution seems to be recommending that the landscaped medians be extended the full length of Cascade and Nevada avenues and that additional landscaped medians be installed on other Colorado Springs streets as well, primarily East Platte Avenue.

Here are the essential quotes from Robinson’s 1905 report (he submitted a second follow-up report in 1912):

“On many of these streets the driving has worn a roadway of but twenty-five to thirty feet and the rest of the road is a waste of dust, or is overgrown with weeds and grass, or, at best, is kept in order only at great expense. You have the need for parking [landscaped medians] to make these streets beautiful and attractive, and you have the opportunity for it in great width where the traffic requires but little.

The main axis of Colorado Springs is north and south, and your more important and prominent residential streets are, and are to be, those running north and south. In a city sought for its sunshine, this might be expected to be the rule, since the houses located on such streets have the advantage of receiving the sun on three sides. Furthermore, the north and south streets command here the finest views of the mountains, and you have made them the broad avenues. For these streets I would recommend, as a rule, central parking [landscaped medians]. This gives a stately appearance ….

On Nevada Avenue … a system of middle parking [landscaped medians] has been already installed. The street is so well to the east that there is no scenic objection to the trees here, and they offer a pleasant variety of treatment that has already delightfully individualized this street to a treatment inviting enjoyment of the views and a life out of doors.

Coming now to Cascade Avenue, the next east, we find a great through thoroughfare and the show street of the city. For a considerable distance on its northern section an expensive and elaborate system of central parking [landscaped medians] has been already installed. This is a feature to be reckoned with, and, with such modifications as would add to its beauty, it ought to be continued. A uniform extension of the system north from Bijou Street, where the business portion may be considered to begin, to the city limits, is desirable, so giving a sumptuous appearance to the whole street … [By] its division of the traffic into north bound and south bound streams, [a landscaped median in Cascade Avenue] will serve the travel better than would even a somewhat wider single roadway. This is the logical and consistent thing to do on North Cascade Avenue ….

The slightly modified and improved middle parking [landscaped median] carried through North Cascade will give to that street a very rich appearance, and with its closely cut turf, its gleaming curb, its profusion of delicate roses and garden shrubs, the thoroughfare will seem to be, as doubtless it is, the darling of the city ….

It would have been a pleasant and easy task to write a thesis on the need, the beauty, value, healthfulness and economy of street parking [landscaped medians]; on its curtailment of the dust evil, and on its being the wisest of investments for a city making its business the attraction and entertainment of strangers—being also a boon to its own residents. But you knew all that. It was not argument you required, but suggestions on how to secure the general effect that you were aware ought to be secured and that you had wisely determined to have.”

And so it seems, dear readers, that the civic leaders of Colorado Springs invented the beautiful landscaped medians well before Charles Mulford Robinson appeared on the scene.

Read Charles Mulford Robinson’s 1905 and 1912 reports here.

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