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Nolen, John, 1869-1937 / Madison : a model city (1911)

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[chapter 3]

  [p. 66]  

Photo of Entrance to Arnold Arboretum, Boston


"To have and to hold . . . the Arnold Arboretum . . . for the term of One Thousand Years from the date hereof . . . paying therefore . . . the yearly rental of one dollar . . . and . . . the city will upon the request of the college . . . deliver . . . a renewed lease . . . for the further term of one thousand years . . . and so on from time to time forever."

- From the indenture between Harvard College and the City of Boston, executed December 30, 1882.

  [p. 67]     [p. 68]  

The people of Boston can have as fine a city as they want, provided they want it badly enough to be willing to pay for it. Nothing so good as a fine city is to be had for nothing. It will cost a great deal of time and energy and some money. If the people of Boston decide that they have not time to make their city what they would like to have it be, it will mean that they have other things which they would rather be doing with their time than improving their city. If they decide that they have not energy enough or money enough to make their city what it ought to be, it will mean that there are other things which they prefer and for which they would rather give their energy and their money. The whole question, therefore, is whether the people of Boston would rather have the finest city in the world or whether they would rather use for other purposes the time and energy and money necessary for the accomplishment of that purpose.


  [p. 69]  


Madison is also a prominent center of higher education and that fact should have a profound influence upon the character of the city and its plan. The University of Wisconsin, located here, is not an isolated and detached institution of higher learning; it is the crowning feature of a state-wide system of popular education. Moreover, its services do not terminate in the preparation of young men and young women; it has vital relations with the State government, with every city in the commonwealth, and with the entire adult population. This is no place for a description of its wide influence, its varied activities, nor

Photo of View of Arnold Arboretum

A view in the Arnold Arboretum, Boston, a tract of more than 200 acres.

  [p. 70]   its remarkable ideal, much of which has already been realized. The significance of the University with which we are now concerned is its influence upon the city plan of Madison. That influence manifests itself in two ways - in the development of the grounds and buildings of the University itself and in the establishment in Madison of forms, forces and expressions of science, art, and culture that must tend to differentiate Madison from all other cities of the State.

The University of Wisconsin is already the most important feature of Madison, now occupying with its two score of buildings over 350 acres of land. This tract begins at the end of State Street and stretches westward along the shores of Lake Mendota over hill and dale and marsh for a distance of a mile or more. But extensive as these grounds may appear to be, they are in no sense adequate, and as with the Capitol, so with the University, the new city plan should attempt to forecast future needs and to reasonably provide for them.

The most serious lack is that of garden and landscape features. A University, especially a State University devoted largely to horticultural and agricultural interests, should naturally recognize the scientific, practical, and aesthetic value of the beautiful, open-air laboratories that have proved so useful in other places. The University of Wisconsin should have a first class botanical garden of at least 20 acres; a water garden and aquarium; a good-sized arboretum, say, 200 acres, (the Arnold Arboretum in Boston has more than 200 acres); a University forest of from 1,000 to 2,000 acres, (the Harvard forest contains 2,000 acres); a summer engineering camp on the shores of Lake Mendota; and a University pleasure garden, as large, for   [p. 71]  

Photo of Botanic Garden, Harvard


Would not such gardens be useful at Madison?

Photo of Arboretum of University of North Carolina

A view of the Arboretum of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

  [p. 72]   example, as that of Worcester College, Oxford. The location of many universities is such that these features must now be provided at a distance from the university or not at all. But the University of Wisconsin is at present happily situated on the border of open country, farm land and forest. This adjacent property could now be purchased in great tracts on relatively reasonable terms and

Photo of Worcester College Gardens, Oxford

A glimpse of Worcester College Gardens, Oxford, England.

the University and the people of the State thereby secure the inestimable advantages of a centralization of collections and opportunities for instruction; and at the same time make the State Capital a far more important center for uplifting pleasure, education, and culture. It is my opinion that the State of Wisconsin could make no better investment than would be represented in the acquisition at once of several thousand acres along the shores of Lake Mendota, immediately west of the present boundary of the University, carrying its line all the way to Eagle Heights.   [p. 73]   Such a reservation would be justified under the new policy of the State with regard to State parks, as well as on other grounds. By securing this property early, very large sums of money could be saved, the existing fine growth of native trees preserved, and a consistent policy of development adopted that would within a decade increase many fold

Photo of Layton Art Gallery, Milwaukee

Layton Art Gallery, Milwaukee.

the service that the tract might be made to render to the people of the entire State. While such an acreage would be small compared with that of Leland Stanford University and some other universities, it would greatly surpass the older universities of the Eastern States, which are cramped in their development by the narrower ideals of the scope of higher education which prevailed when they   [p. 74]   were established. Wisconsin should shake herself free from such limitations; she should not voluntarily accept such handicaps; she should promptly and boldly take a stand for a larger view of education and support it by establishing the broader physical basis which must sooner or later prove indispensable.

In addition to the development of the University itself, Madison should become more and more of an educational city through the establishment therein of the various forms, forces and expressions of science, art and culture. In Europe, every kingdom, petty principality or dukedom has its capital city embellished with splendid palaces, spacious gardens, museums, [1*] wide streets, art galleries, fine sculpture, theatres, and opera houses. Such embellishment has proved a source of new wealth, and it is well known that travelers spend millions of dollars a year in visits to these cities, thus justifying in another way the wisdom of the city makers. In a recent address in New York City Governor Hughes said:

"We want to have prosperity, but in order that prosperity and material gain shall not prove a curse instead of a blessing, we must do all we can to promote the refining influences of life - proper means of recreation, wholesome enjoyment, the cultivation of those capabilities for delight and pleasure which alone makes the gains of prosperity a blessing to the human soul."

  [p. 75]  

There is no question that the business success and commercial wealth of Wisconsin will soon seek to express itself more definitely in art and the higher formals of education, and the most natural outlet for this expression will be the city of Madison - the permanent seat of government and education. This spirit may be expected to show

Photo of Fogg Art Museum, Harvard

Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University.

itself in a variety of ways. It will be seen in new and practical applications of engineering science to the construction of streets, bridges, and all other forms of public works. Architecture certainly will be strongly influenced because of its intimate relation to every-day life.

"Among the arts,"

wrote Charles Eliot Norton,

"the one that has alike the closest and the widest relations to the life of a people - to its wants, habits and culture - and which gives   [p. 76]  

Photo of "The Puritan," St. Gaudens, Springfield, Mass.

"The Puritan" by St. Gaudens, in Springfield, Mass. A type of civic art that tends to elevate community life.

  [p. 77]  

Photo of The Lincoln Statue, Wisconsin State University

Lincoln statue on the campus of the Wisconsin State University. A good beginning in civic arts.

  [p. 78]  

Photo of Tell Monument, Altdorf, Switzerland

A bronze statue of the intrepid Tell from Kissling's model. Wisconsin's heroes, statesmen, and saints deserve equally appropriate and artistic memorials.

  [p. 79]   the fullest and most exact expression to its moral disposition, its imagination and its intelligence, is that of architecture."

Museums, libraries, public gardens, parks and beautiful natural scenery will also be among these new educational forces and, it is hoped, the theatre, whose

Photo of New Theatre, New York


Representation of the new idea in the United States of endowment of city playhouses.

claims for public support are at last beginning to be recognized in this country. The true aim of the theatre and of the University, as has recently been pointed out, are substantially the same, viz., to develop man's powers as a social being and to counteract, rather than copy, the   [p. 80]  

Photo of Municipal Theatre, Red Wing, Minn.

Municipal Theatre, Red Wing, Minnesota - a place smaller than Madison.

Photo of Municipal Theatre, Denver


Great popular playhouse of the people.

  [p. 81]   defects in the civilization of the day. Percy Mackaye, [2*] a forceful leader of public opinion on all questions related to the theatre, has recently said that

"in regard to our drama, there can be no sounder, no more enlightening

Drawing of Plan of Harvard University

On the whole a convenient and orderly arrangement of university buildings. Many of the limitations, however, of the older universities may be avoided in the plans for the new institutions of the West, provided action is taken in time.

conviction than this truth: that by whatever name we choose to call it, the influence of our theatres is a colossal, a national influence in forming the taste, the moral will, and mental capacity of our people. Whether we know it or not, our theatres are supplied in passion, imagination   [p. 82]  

Drawing of Plan for Princeton University

Plan now under consideration for the organic grouping of buildings at Princeton University.

  [p. 83]  

Drawing of Proposed Plan for University of California

Comprehensive plan accepted as official basis for development of the University of California and now being executed.

  [p. 84]  

Drawing of Proposed Plan for University of Wisconsin

General design for the future plan of the University of Wisconsin which has been prepared for consideration but not yet approved. The need for the adoption of some plan would appear to be imperative.

  [p. 85]  

Drawing of Proposed Plan for University of Minnesota

Plan proposed for the arrangement of buildings and grounds of the University of Minnesota.

  [p. 86]   and delight with means of appeal far more potent than any possessed by our schools and colleges; and whether we like it or not, night after night, year after year, our theatres are educating our people, by the millions and tens of millions. The question is, Shall the theatres educate these millions right or wrong?


I believe, therefore, that the city plan of Madison will fail in one important point if it neglects to consciously conceive of this city as an educational and art center, one that should provide adequately for the expansion of the University and for the many fine and varied expressions of art and culture in the city itself. Education will thus contribute toward making Madison a model city and Madison in turn as a city will become one of the greatest educational forces of the State, for art is not only the flowering of civilization, it is also its seed.


[1*] A capital like Budapest, for example, has, in addition to the Academy of Sciences, the Museum of Industrial Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Ethnographic Museum, the Museum of Antiquities and Natural History, the Technological Museum, the Museum of Traffic, the Educational Museum, the Geological Museum, the Commercial Museum, and the Agricultural Museum. The latter which would be of great interest and value to a state like Wisconsin, contains an extraordinary series of studies in agriculture, in stock-raising, in forestry, and in mining.

[2*] Author of "The Playhouse and the Play," "The Civic Functions of the Theatre," etc.

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