This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
There have been "reports" of Fairmount Park before, but we believe none have been issued for some time, at any rate none since the Park began to assume the hopeful prospect of a creditable reputation it has presented of late years. This immense tract of over 2000 acres is beautiful by nature, and for a long time there-was a prevalent impression that it needed no-art to make it a garden. It was thus wholly in the hands of engineers whose whole efforts were devoted to making roads, to levelling and filling up, and a vast deal of other work which destroyed rather than aided, the beauties they were; intended to develop. Some of the commissioners were gentlemen of taste and culture, and eminent in many walks of life, but with very few exceptions were not distinguished for any gardening knowledge, and these few were so surrounded by difficulties and opposed by obstructions that those who knew of these troubles had little hope of the Park ever coming to anything of great credit, as a real instructive park for the people. Those who knew nothing of these difficulties would visit the Park and wonder naturally at the costly absurdities.
But very little help has been given to the better portion of the commission and of city councils, who, against all sorts of discouraging difficulties, have held on courageously in the determination to do what they could for the best, though they could do but little they desired. The writer of this happens to know of the immense services to the citizens of Philadelphia and those of other places who visited this beautiful Park made by the late James H. Castle and by Ex-Mayor McMichael, Hon. John Welsh, and Hon. Eli K. Price, the president of the Select Council, George A. Smith, and of Common Council, Joseph L. Caven, intelligent gentlemen, and also of the Commission by virtue of their offices, have all done good service. No doubt others of the Commission have done as faithful service, but the writer is referring to only what has been a matter of personal observation.
As we have noted, very few persons have an idea how tremendous are the obstacles in the way of superior management in a place like Fairmount Park. There are about one hundred and fifty members of councils, a large number of prominent city officers, and an immense number of powerful citizens, who know and feel that they have " rights" in the management besides those who are nominally responsible, and having rights they dare maintain them. It is impossible for those working out the Park problem to ignore these various powers; it would be stupid, nay, absurd to do it. The only thing to be done is the best they can. Instead of complaining at what has not been done, or badly done, it is to us a matter of surprise that so much is so well done, and the present condition of the Park must be very gratifying to those who have " lived and hoped " so long.
Without expressing any opinion on the earlier management, it is evident that the appointment of Mr. Russell Thayer to the position of chief superintendent was a good starting point. With excellent practical judgment and good sense, his ambition is to excel in his own special department. Another excellent stroke of policy was the appointment of Mr. Charles H. Miller as consulting landscape gardener. Few persons in the horticultural community unite practical knowledge of details with a cultivated taste in art better than he. Then the inauguration of the Park lectures on botany and arboriculture by the trustees of the Michaux Fund, by Professor J. T. Rothrock, of the Pennsylvania University, was another capital move in the right direction, and as all these gentlemen seem to have the happy faculty of pleasing their many hundreds of " masters, " and of working harmoniously among themselves, there is a hope that in Fairmount Park we may not only have a garden of which the humblest and the wealthiest in Philadelphia may be proud, but one which in the long run may have some such national reputation as Kew has acquired for England. Of course one city can hardly be expected to do what a powerful nation has done, but if there is a reasonable surety that something near what donors might wish would be carried out, private merchant princes might do what hereditary ones. have done.
Turning to this report one cannot but feel that in spite of all the natural difficulties of the situation, things are working tolerably well, and we have more encouragement than ever before that. Fairmount Park will be something more than an expensive toy.