Part 2 of 10: City Beautiful
The City Beautiful Movement was an important catalyst in the creation of Utica's park system.
Like the great city to its southeast, Utica's population grew rapidly and became more densely housed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—and Uticans were living further and further from nature. In addition, more and more Uticans were poor industrial workers, mostly immigrants who worked 10-12 hours a day, very often 6 days a week.
Venturing out to the Adirondacks wasn't an option for such Uticans. The best option many had, beginning in the late 1800s, was to expend much time and money taking a streetcar—or walking many miles— to a private park like Summit Park in Oriskany or Utica Park (later renamed Forest Park) in East Utica. For many, even this wasn't an option because they simply didn't have the time, energy, or (most of all) extra cash for such extravagances.
Many wealthy Uticans accepted the plight of Utica's mill workers as an unavoidable fact of life. However, some, like the Proctor family and some Utica Chamber of Commerce members, were increasingly concerned. Influenced by the City Beautiful Movement, they believed that Utica needed a modern public parks system—something like Manhattan's Central Park.
The City Beautiful Movement believed that, even in a small industrial city, working-class neighborhoods were becoming so crowded as to make living in them unhealthy—fresh air wasn't abundant, and children didn't have appropriate places to play. Congestion, the lack of fresh air and beautiful trees, and the inability to engage with nature were considered underlying causes of not just ill health, but an unhealthy society characterized by social division, crime, and vice.
City Beautiful believed that a beautiful city would have a civilizing impact on all of its citizens, and it therefore called for public monuments, majestic public buildings, large urban parks, and tree-lined boulevards that would "uplift" the urban poor, many of whom were also immigrants that many Americans feared were not becoming integrated into American society. In addition, people like the Proctors, who traveled widely, wanted their hometown to be a showcase to which they could proudly point to people elsewhere.
The entrance gate at Utica Park
Another local private, for-profit park that was popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Utica Park closed in 1934. The Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company built a factory on the site of the park in the 1950s that is today occupied by DeIorio Foods.
Summit Park Trolley Station
Transportation to private parks like Summit Park added to the expense of getting relaxation before Utica's Olmsted parks were created. The trolley ride to Summit Park cost only 30 cents--the equivalent of about $9 in the third decade of the 21st century!
Local Italian immigrants in East Utica (Utica Saturday Globe)
This gives some sense of the crowded living conditions the Proctors sought to address by building a park system for Utica.