Beauty and the Booster
BY EARNEST ELMO CALKINS
As a part of our new civic consciousness, or perhaps a manifestation of the advertising complex, not only towns and cities, but whole districts and even states and groups of states are advertising their attractions and inducements to the rest of the United States. There appear to be three appeals, which in practice are mutually incompatible. Communities want people to come and live there, or industries to establish themselves there, or tourists to vacation there. Usually a town which is the ideal site for a new factory does not. attract tourists seeking a pleasant holiday, and its value as a permanent residence depends on whether the homeseeker is looking for a job or for a desirable place in which to spend his declining years. This latter group must not be overlooked. At first thought they might not seem to appeal to forward-looking communities, — these people who have done their work and wish to sit down in the shade of their accumulations, — but the income they spend is very agreeable to the local grocers and garage men. It is to this class that Southern California owes so much of its recent development.
To whom are all these community advertisements addressed? Apparently to the other inhabitants of the country. If they are effective and people act on them, then various units of the population will move to other spots on the map; and, while some communities benefit, others lose. Possibly it may work out that factories and workmen will move to centres where power is cheap, shipping facilities adequate, and labor conditions favorable, while inhabitants of those centres, having made their stake from the industries, will be advertised away to places where every prospect pleases because no factories soil the landscape or mar its sightliness.
Here is Dallas using full pages to persuade Northern manufacturers to establish branch factories in what it claims is the industrial centre of Texas, while citizens of Dallas move to Pasadena, a city of beautiful houses, clean streets, and picturesque gardens, whose entire population has apparently ‘retired.’ Dallas wants the ‘go-getters’ and Pasadena the coupon cutters. As each full-page advertisement gets in its work, population will be shifted like a national game of Pussy-Wants-aCorner, and some corners will be better off and some worse off until every community realizes the possibilities of advertising, when we shall begin to resemble that famous island whose inhabitants live by doing each other’s washing.
Copyright 1930, by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
Have all these communities, before rushing into advertising, given sufficient thought to what they have to sell? It seems easier to sell pay rolls, bank clearances, or freight movements, which are the work of chambers of commerce, than beauty, which is an act of God, or at least of Nature. At present the industrial argument is better backed and better presented than the rest betic. True, there is abundant advertising of scenic beauty, but it is seldom civic beauty. It is the accidental juxtaposition of sea, mountain, river, and lake, the blessings that Nature has bestowed on some favored spots, rather than the planned juxtaposition of homes, factories, shops and office buildings, the necessary constituents of a city, which requires thought, and sacrifice and unselfishness to produce, but which often pays better in the long run than acres of utilities. If God made the country, the Devil continues to make the towns, with far too little hindrance from townplanning commissions. As long as the slogan continues to be ‘A larger population by 1930 than—(the nearest
rival city’),” civic beauty is bound to come off second best.
Mere size looms large in the imagination of city boosters, but there are many cities in which size is the chief obstacle to better living conditions. To-day, a larger population means not merely more feet, but more motor cars, and some of our most progressive cities, which have hitherto recorded their advance to their cherished goal in census figures, are beginning to look a little ruefully at the congestion which chokes their wide-open spaces. Nothing a town may gain in size will compensate for loss of livability.
For in the end what is the good of population, industrial supremacy, wealth, if they do not lead to better living? Have these cities which are so strenuously seeking new factories and other business enterprises thought where they are going to put the new arrivals if they come, and especially how they will mould them into the higher life of the community? Have the powers that be adopted zoning laws and planned their city so that growth in industry and wealth will not soil what beauty the city has and make it a less desirable place to live in for those very citizens who prosper by the influx of new money? This whole business of boosting cities should go hand in hand with and be the outcome of another movement which is slowly spreading over the country, commonly called the town-planning movement. What we are all seeking is not money, but life — is n’t it? — pleasant living. We are willing to work to earn money, but the only use of money is to make life worth while, and if it does n’t succeed in doing that, who is better off?
A manufacturing business might be benefited by moving to a town where shipping is easy, labor and power cheap, and other conditions favorable, but some conditions favorable to manufacturing are due to living conditions which should also be perpetuated. Could not advertising be directed toward a broader appeal? Doubtless many of these cities which advertise have other attractions than the utilitarian ones, but they are perhaps neglected or overlooked in the advertising in the mistaken belief that the industrial appeal is the only one, or at least the most potent.
A community ought to be concerned with the way its additional population is going to live, or what effect the new industry will have on the population it already has, before it thinks of †he wages the workers will spend with local tradesmen and the pay rolls the local banks will handle. It would be a fine thing if communities entered into an advertising competition on a townplanning basis and offered a wellbalanced community in which every necessary element had its proper place without lowering the standards for other elements. At present it seems to be a choice between towns to work in and towns to live in. People of means are driving about the less industrialized sections looking for quiet, sequestered, romantic country towns in which to settle down and enjoy the remaining years of life. It is a reflection on our civilization that a man who has made his money in a city cannot with all his money find there some of the amenities of the old New England towns. And the lesser workers must continue to earn their living in the city where the work is, and read the advertisements of the chamber of commerce with wistful wonder.
The city that advertises should have something more to offer than its desire for a larger population. It should have the attractions which only intelligent planning can create. Why should not cities which desire new industries prepare to offer happier conditions of living as well as new opportunities for gain ?
Community advertising, like suicide, is often confession. It is the result, not of desirability, but of the steady loss of people moving to cities or other places where life offers a higher percentage of living. Philadelphia is a grievous example of town planning too long delayed. Like all port cities, its business centre started near the water. The railroad terminals dragged it west toward Broad Street. The Delaware Bridge did not halt the movement as was hoped, and the new business centre is now at Chestnut and Broad, where, owing to William Penn’s old streets of oxcart width, traffic conditions are intolerable and the losses in transporting goods no longer to be borne. Industry is moving away, and Burlington on the upper Delaware is one of the cities that are profiting at Philadelphia’s expense. To correct this the real-estate people and property owners have raised a sum of $2,300,000 to be spent in advertising alone, when the situation calls for many times that amount to be spent in improving conditions. At the moment this paper is written, it is good to hear, however, that Philadelphia has appropriated $500,000 to advance a movement for a tri-state regional plan. The territory concerned is included in a circle about forty miles around the centre of Philadelphia, and takes in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. There are more than 360 separate political subdivisions in this district, including Trenton, Camden, Chester, Norristown, and Wilmington and affecting a population of three and onehalf million.
According to a striking booklet entitled ‘New Cities for the New Age,’ put out by the Planning Foundation of America, ‘during the last ten years 580 cities followed New York’s lead in adopting zoning ordinances regulating the use of land within their corporate limits. From 1914 to 1928, 570 cities created planning commissions. In the same period 37 industrial cities were built on predetermined plans, and within the last five years 15 metropolitan regions surrounding central cities have begun comprehensive planning of their interrelated physical and economic development.’
At present about half the population of the United States is living in cities and towns which have undertaken some systematic plan to better local conditions. But 94 per cent of communities of 2500 and over have no plan for future growth, 84 per cent have no zoning ordinances, and 86 per cent have no planning commissions. Meanwhile, with our new facilities for transportation, the surrounding country has become part of the cities and liable to the kind of contamination which follows contact with human beings in the mass. It, too, needs the restraining hand unless it is to go the way of cities which, like Topsy, have ‘just growed.’
Since town planning was first conceived the automobile has become perhaps the biggest factor in city life, and it is playing the deuce with civic improvement. All towns more than twenty-five years old developed in what Grosvenor Atterbury calls ‘the horse-and-buggy age of innocence.’ That group of cities of which Los Angeles is the nucleus, including thirty or forty towns, some of them large, — such as Pasadena, with 85,000 population, — integrally one community covering about one thousand square miles, is the most motorable conglomerate I have ever negotiated. This is because it has all been built since the motor car became a factor in urban life. It has numerous wide streets, well paved. It is laid out on an elaboration of Baron Haussmann’s plan for Paris—broad boulevards dividing the territory into tracts of smaller streets. Any address can be reached with the least possible difficulty. Indeed, the motor car is almost the only method of transportation in these cities. The ease with which the car can get about is fully appreciated by the inhabitants, and everyone has a car. They have raised the national average of one car to 5.3 people to one car to 2.3 people. Even with almost double saturation one has less feeling of congestion in the streets of this vast city than in any other large city in the country.
On the green hills southwest of Los Angeles, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, there is being developed a model community, the plan for which reads like one of those dream cities H. G. Wells likes to write about. All that saves this Utopia from being utopian is its practicality. It is called Palos Verdes and is being planned with a lively recognition of every present factor in modern urban life and a shrewd prophetic forecast of the future, to anticipate, if possible, just such convulsive social, economic, and æsthetic changes as have overwhelmed us in the last quarter century.
The difference between making changes on a roll of blueprints and altering a city that is not only large but growing larger every day, and growing in all its perverse ways, is obvious as one reads the scheme for this new city, as yet only four years old. It makes one envious of its opportunities. The green hills of the former Palos Verdes Ranch were bare of every human structure when the Homes Association began work on it. They had nothing to undo, nothing to correct. They did not even have a population to deal with, for the new city will select, its inhabitants as it selected its site and its architecture.
The advisory council which controls its destiny with an iron hand is composed of architects, artists, engineers, landscapists, and town planners. No factor is neglected. Beauty is just as important as drainage, a vista as necessary as parking space. The roofs of the houses, for instance, must harmonize and compose in color and texture, because a hillside town is often seen from above. How little thought we have given to bird’s-eye views of our cities. Yet the airways may become the highways and the approach of the future may be by way of chimneys instead of imposing front entrances planted with cedars and rhododendrons.
The protective restrictions which govern the style, size, mass, site, and planting of every building and lot are almost feudal in their exactions, but only thus can a city be built which will afford each citizen equal share in beauty and utility. And yet we leave our full-grown cities to their own devices and hope that blind unguided instinct will make them sightly without restraint or plan.
It would be fine if the town planners and town boosters would get together, if some of the energy of the one could be made available for the other and some of the vision of the other could be made available for the one. Those hard-headed chambers of commerce, thinking in terms of pay rolls, bank clearings, and real-estate developments, need to learn the economic value of beauty. ' Beauty ’ is a vague word, hard to define, but it is clear that no town or city left to grow at its own sweet will ever achieves it.
How strange it is that the works of Nature left alone produce qualities which delight the eye, while the works of man inevitably result in ugliness. A tree permitted to work out its natural destiny grows into a magnificent landmark; a group of trees blends into a delightful landscape and harmonizes with mountain, plain, and sky. A house, a village, a factory, a group of workingmen’s cottages, no matter how efficient and practical and well built, never by any accident form a perfect composition. Two buildings side by side, each a good design in itself, will not compose unless the architects have collaborated to that end.
Even the picturesque old towns of the Middle Ages which we go abroad to see are not the result of chance, nor are they the expression of a more artistic age than ours. The rank and file of people at that time had no keener eye for the picturesque than we have; the instinct for composition did not come naturally to them. Those picture towns of England and France were the result of feudal fiat to please a beautyloving potentate. They were planned as a unit by an architect who, however little he knew of open plumbing and central heating, had an unerring eye for beauty. They were planned from the prince’s point of view, with no thought of the common people, — or of us, for that matter, — and the common people got little good out of them. They, too, were part of the scenery. The picturesque beauty of the setting was little compensation to them for the discomfort of attractive cottages which helped to compose the view of the lord of the manor. What those old kings and popes and archbishops aimed at was a pleasance, — something to delight the eye, — and they got it; walled gardens and pleached alleys and oriel windows rather than sanitary plumbing, drainage, sunlight, and health for their people.
Our modern city fathers go to the other extreme and think too constantly of financial return from the material aspects of city life and too little about the effect of the whole, the attractiveness of the town and its relation to the surrounding country. So, when they come to advertise, what they offer seems but little better than the dull conditions we have at home.
Charles H. Cheney, the man behind much that inspires one in the planning of Palos Verdes, insists that architects and landscape artists must be added to planning commissions to make sure of beauty and check the economic waste which springs from ugliness. He says:
There is an almost universal lack of understanding of the importanee of architecture and its inseparable setting, landscape architecture, which together form the background or environment for all the people of this country, particularly where they are grouped together in cities.
Over 500 American cities are now reported by the Department of Commerce to have city-planning commissions. Yet, with the exception of St. Louis and a very few other cities, there are seldom architects on these commissions, and if there are, they do not seem to know what to do.
Scarcely any real æsthetic considerations have been included in American city planning to date. Meanwhile there is enormous economic loss everywhere because of the bad design and planning of both individual and group buildings and of off-color structures which must be scrapped and replaced in a few years.
Traffic is the biggest factor we have to work with to-day in planning a town or countryside and in holding it within bounds. The motor car has not so far been a beautifier. It had considerable trouble making itself good-looking; it started ugly and has only gradually achieved a measure of beauty. The conversion of the most widely distributed car, the one that is the most pervading feature of every landscape, has occurred within the last two years. And cars selling stark transportation without grace or elegance were bought by people who cared little for either in cars or environment. They have raced about the country trailing clouds of destruction. Instead of appreciating the landscape, they have not hesitated to mar and scar it, scattering the detritus of their lunch baskets by the wayside, tearing up the wild flowers, breaking off the limbs of trees, and setting fire to the forests with their carelessly discarded cigarettes. They have viewed with complacence the transformation of the highways into one long gallery of disorderly and untidy petty utilities, gasoline pumps, refreshment stands, and the boards that advertise them. One sign that might aptly be added formerly hung before the doors of old posting taverns; ‘Refreshment within for man and beast.’
The motor car is certainly responsible for the ‘hot-dog stands’ and filling stations, the only landmarks some of us ever see. That useful organization, the Art Center, source of much artistic influence on industry, is fathering a movement to improve them. Mrs. John D. Rockefeller has given a fund for prizes to encourage restrained and artistic treatment of these utilities, and a famous ‘hot-dog king’ has joined her and contributed to the fund. Most attempts on the owners’ part to beautify filling stations have merely succeeded in playing up their ugliness. As with every new industry, with the motor car, with creation itself, the first beginnings are without form and void. The Richfield Oil Company on the Pacific Coast has erected straddling steel Eiffel Towers of unknown height, the name running down them in letters of light. Viewed simply as advertising, they hardly seem to be in the true California spirit, which has done many things exceedingly well; but the fact is that these towers were erected as aviation beacons, and on foggy nights have served as life savers to both aviators and motorists.
The Art Center has also aligned itself with other well-meaning associations in a crusade against what they mistakenly call ‘billboards.’ The same public-spirited oil king’s daughter-inlaw has contributed another prize to be used in rewarding the school boy or girl who coins the slogan that will sweep them all into the discard, exactly as the word ’scofllaw’ overwhelmed the violators of the Volstead Act. What they will do with the slogan when they get it is not apparent. It would hardly be consistent to plaster the roadside with it, though that is what the commercially-minded advertiser does with his slogan; but some form of advertising will have to be used, and each form has its little cohort of conscientious objectors. To fight advertising with advertising seems to be begging the question.
To preserve the countryside is an object with which every lover of scenic beauty will sympathize, but unfortunately the various crusaders against outdoor advertising are so little familiar with the field that they do not visualize their real enemy. They are tilting against the wrong windmill, as is shown by the use of the word ‘billboard.’ The outdoor advertiser recognizes only two forms of mural advertising, the poster board and the painted bulletin. The poster board is a hoarding upon which a paper poster is pasted. A painted bulletin is a hoarding upon which an advertisement is painted. The poster boards are seldom found outside city limits—the necessity of replacing the paper demands that they be accessible — and they are often a more attractive feature than the vacant lot, often a dump heap, which they hide. A poster may be the work of a Frank Brangwyn or a Maxfield Parrish or a René Clarke, reproduced by lithography in the colors and with the qualities of the original, and is frequently a work of art. No serious objection can be raised against it.
The painted sign found in the country is the bulletin. It is always ugly, and often badly placed, marring an otherwise attractive spot. It is ugly because its embellishment depends on a sign painter who is never an artist and seldom a letterer, whose palette contains nothing but the crudest colors. It is by no means as common as its opponents think. Unfamiliar with this sort of advertising, they confuse the comparatively few painted bulletins with the horde of ‘snipers,’ signs nailed up or stuck up by local interests, a blot that rests squarely on the community which tolerates them, and no amount of appeal to national advertisers to spare the views will have any effect on this real destroyer of roadside beauty. If national advertisers should yield to the appeals being made to them, — and some of them have, — the withdrawal of their bulletins would scarcely be noticed, so little would it change the appearance of the roadside. We should still have the wearyingly reiterated interjections of hot-dog emporiums, filling stations, tourists’ overnight lodging houses, auto camps, religious fanatics, real-estate developers, airports, hotels, fresh vegetables, chow puppies, road houses, and garages. Even if there were no other objection, these primitive signs are not even good advertising.
The Mohawk Trail is a fair example of this kind of prostitution. In the hot quarrel between roadside refreshment stands as to which has the best view, the whole scene is hopelessly vulgarized. No painted bulletin could add aught to the unsightliness of this gallery of clamant barkers. Or consider the Jefferson Davis Highway, embroidered with a running commentary from peddlers and fundamentalists. Such a mingling of worldly ‘wisecracks’ and heavenly counsel has not been seen since Bunyan’s famous Pilgrim made his celebrated tour.
‘Where will you spend eternity?'
‘Tourist camp 100 yards’
‘Ben’s Place 1 mile’
‘Mammoth peanuts 100 feet’
‘No parking near the white line’
‘R. R. — Stop — N. C. Law’
‘Death is on your track’
‘Dangerous curve’ ‘Caution’
‘Prepare to meet thy God’
‘You are now entering Apex’
That is the kind of stuff that gives to our most distinguished highways a touch of vulgarity, offensive to eye and mind, deserving the attention of uplifters before the comparatively few painted bulletins of the tire, cigarette, and motor-car makers are assailed under the impression that all the disorder is due to them. One bulletin, even in the glaring reds and greens so popular, placed in the heart of an inspiring vista is less an offense than the unending stream of snipers which follow you the whole livelong day.
Driving from Kensico Lake to Ridgefield recently, I made a careful test by count of the proportion between organized outdoor advertising signs and the local snipers. There were 416 signs in that thirty miles, and only seven were put out by national advertisers. The remaining 409 were local. Responsibility for them rested on the community where they appeared. They were of every size, color, degree of illiteracy, and state of dilapidation. How inconsistent to petition national advertisers to remove their boards and purify the roadside, when such a hodgepodge is tolerated by communities which are not thereby deterred from broadcasting their attractions, among which beauty looms large!
An extreme instance of a community’s inconsistency, advertising its scenic attractions and historic landmarks with the very signs that are so often a blot on much scenic beauty, is taken from the fourth annual report of the Chattanooga Community Advertising Association: —
Under an arrangement entered into with the Chattanooga Automobile Club a number of 10x50 feet painted bulletins will be erected at junctions of main highways leading to Chattanooga. The bulletins will bear attractive scenes in and around Chattanooga, the text being in the nature of road directions and an invitation to visit Chattanooga, Lookout and Signal Mountains, and Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge Battlefields. The sites on which the boards will be erected are being selected and furnished by the Chattanooga Automobile Club, which organization is purchasing the ground on which the boards are erected so as to assure perpetual control of the locations, those already secured having been pronounced ideal for the purpose intended.
One is dismayed to think that the care and preservation of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge are entrusted to the same discretion that conceived the idea of advertising them on painted bulletins ten by fifty feet.
The City of New York has just undertaken a mild form of community advertising. It is broadcasting its attractions as a summer resort. As a gesture it is absurdly disproportionate to the city’s greatness and needs, but it does offer an opportunity to appraise our metropolis in the light of what has just been said about cities that invite inspection from visitors before they have completed their civic toilet.
In proportion as New York is great in her list of attractions she is also great in her sins of omission. She has done some magnificent things and she will always be New York no matter what she does or refrains from doing, but is n’t it anomalous that New York is still without a plan in her era of furious rebuilding? That there is no guiding hand, no body with authority to shape and mould the physical beauty of this city as she emerges from her brownstone chrysalis and spreads her topless towers like wings? The brownstone chrysalis was the sad accomplishment of a similar era of frenzied building. Those ugly and uninspired dwellings were turned out by the mile.
Now we are mowing them down in swaths and rushing up tall apartment houses in their stead. The brownstone was ugly in detail and ugly in the mass. Our modern dwellings are frequently strikingly beautiful in detail, but not always happy in their juxtaposition.
As soon as it got about that people would leave palatial town houses to live in apartments if the apartments were only luxurious enough, a horde of builders descended upon the best streets of New York like grubstakers on a newly discovered gold field. In this city any man who can pay for a site and raise a mortgage on the land can put up any kind of building he desires, provided the plans will pass the purely utilitarian restrictions of the tenement-house law and the building department. There is no authority to decide whether such a huge addition to the civic landscape adds to its collective beauty, or even whether the building itself is in good taste. Even the setback, which has revealed some new and delightful possibilities of city architecture, was an accident. It was not intended to provide more beauty, but more light. And not all uses of it are skillful even when they are legal.
The newly born Radmore, the motorage city growing up in the New Jersey meadows, has a board of experts to sit in judgment on every building proposed, and the mightiest city in the land builds as it lists.
There was that fine site created by moving the Presbyterian Hospital uptown, a whole block freed in the best quarter of New York. Some of us held our breath in the hope that an enlightened builder would cover that site with a structure worthy of its distinction. Instead, what happened? The block is now being ‘improved’ with at least nine different buildings — various heights, colors, textures, and motifs, with no ideal in common. The fenestration and the cornice lines on the Park Avenue side are on different levels, giving that irritating effect of a picture hung crookedly. It is just a heterogeneous mass of buildings, each good in itself, but without harmony. We have the inconsistency of a patient real-estate man working for years to assemble a site covering a block, buying a parcel here and a parcel there, being held up by the man who owns the corner lot, but gradually after years of work triumphing in getting together under one ownership all the parcels that constitute one block so that a single structure can be erected upon it, while on the other side of the street, where by a great stroke of luck there comes into the market a complete site, a whole block in one parcel, the first thing the builders do is to chop it up into as many sites as the block on the other side of the street had before it was assembled.
Developers are permitted to erect even on Fifth Avenue fourteen-story structures on a city lot, buildings that tower above their surroundings with a conspicuousness which would be justified only by treating them as towers. They are not treated as towers, but as segments of a larger building. They look like thin slices of apartment house cut from the parent loaf.
The water tank is another eyesore. When the tall building was a rarity, the ugly but necessary tank on top was concealed from below. Now that all buildings are rising to new horizons, these great tanks propped up on steel skeletons hit one in the eye in every direction. Some architects have found a way to conceal them and add a new beauty thereby, but there is no townplanning commission to say that all builders must add this gracious touch.
A builder might ask, ‘Cannot I do as I please with my own?’ But no one actually owns a lot all to himself in a city. The value of the land as land is a trifle beside the value given it by the city around it. The buildings are the landscape of the city. Wc cannot escape them. We have to live with them whatever they are. Here is our great city undergoing a transformation in a short span of time, as Rome did when Augustus found it brick and left it marble. We are masters of material of incredible manageability. Wc have architects capable of realizing amazing conceptions. We have individual buildings that leave one breathless. But we are building new structures that are eyesores, and there is no plan, no high constituted authority, to guide us in putting our city together.
Did it ever occur to you that architecture is the only one of the major arts for which there is no regular body of criticism? Plays and books are reviewed almost every day in the newspapers; painting and sculpture at least once a week. But architecture is the greatest art of all in its effect on our lives. Pictures and statues can be concealed inside museums and other buildings. You do not need to go to a theatre or read a book. But you must live with architecture. That joyous and light-hearted periodical, the New Yorker, conceived the happy idea of a department of criticism on current architecture as manifested in New York, calling the column, most appropriately, ‘The Sky Line.’ It ventured to find fault with one of the new buildings on Fifth Avenue, and the architect promptly brought suit. It is a pity the case was never tried. One would like to learn why the architect’s art, which concerns us so much, willynilly, is immune from criticism, while that of the painter, playwright, sculptor, or author runs the gauntlet. It would be beside the point to maintain that the comment was untrue or unjust, for after all criticism is merely the opinion of the critic. If it were anything else, if this distinction applied to other arts, many book reviewers and art critics would be in jail.
Recently there has appeared a Regional Plan for New York and its environs, a work of unusual scope and vision, financed by private generosity, which has occupied the Biblical period of seven years in its preparation. It is unofficial and is offered to the city as a method of working out some of its problems and providing for future growth. Will it be adopted? It is to be hoped that this public-spirited expenditure of time and money will benefit the people of New York. But no city has less public spirit or has done less in proportion to its wealth, its needs, and its opportunity. There are many small communities that put this big metropolis to shame. New York might reply, ‘Yes, but those communities have everything to gain. New York has arrived.’ But a hundred years from now these ambitious small towns may be the places where people prefer to live, and New York will have become deserted because impossible.
‘Could anything be more ludicrous,’ asks Edward A. Filene, one of Boston’s canniest merchants, ‘than the way a city like New York is laid out?’ He emphasizes the waste produced by lack of plan. No matter what the Regional Plan may cost to execute, — and it may cost billions, — it cannot possibly cost as much in dollars, ignoring all higher satisfactions, as the absence of plan now costs in economic waste.
We may invoke town-planning commissions, organize drives and crusades, coin slogans, adopt zoning ordinances, and pass laws, but nothing really avails in preserving the beauty of our country and creating it where it does not exist but an aroused public spirit among the whole people. You can no more compel a desire for beauty than you can compel a desire for total abstinence.
Without a sincere interest and concern on the part of a great number, all organized efforts, however desirable for immediate objectives, fall far short of the great possibility.
The country is too large to be cared for by anybody but the whole people. With all our parade of patriotism, our 100 per cent Americanism, there is no such love of the land as exists in a country like France. The appealing beauty of even the less distinguished and picturesque provinces is due to the loving care each small landholder lavishes on his own bit of France. He is not content with merely cultivating his fields. They must contribute to the whole picture. In his heart there burns a jealous love for and a fierce pride in his country, not the empty political structure, but the physical France, with its hills and valleys, forests and streams, so that any blot that hurts the country hurts him. He works long hours to the end that his own bit of France may do her credit. This I contend is true patriotism.