April 14, 1921: Landscape architect calls first impression of Duluth “depressing”

On this day in Duluth in 1921, the Duluth News Tribune reported that Chicago landscape architect Edward H. Bennett said that “A visitor’s first impression as he nears the city is depressing…because of the marked contrast with the beauty of the residential area.” Bennet said the problem could be fixed with “more orderly development in your train yards.” Bennet had addressed the Duluth Commercial Club the previous day, making the point that Duluth needed a plan to develop not just parks, but a parks system. He pointed out that that St. Paul had just such a  system, all financed by the city. Chicago’s system, he noted, was governed by a civic planning commission composed of private individuals” which authorized $35,000 to develop its system, nearly half a million dollars today. In Joliet, Illinois, the park system was financed half by the city and half by the local commercial club. Following the talk, acting mayor Trevanion Hugo noted that “the desire on the part of residents us to have parks within about ten minutes walk of the business section” before suggesting more parks along the lake shore and in “natural ravines near the central part of the city.” Of course, what Bennet did not know and what Hugo apparently forgot was that Duluth developed a very similar system back in 1889, when it first established a parks board. But in 1913 Duluth eliminated its parks commission, and the plan was pretty much abandoned. Mayor Sam Snively and Park Superintendent F. Rodney Paine began pushing to both expand and complete Duluth’s park system in the mid-1920s.

Chicago landscape architect Edward H. Bennett. (Image: Public Domain)