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Archway at Glen Miller Park

Archway at Main Street entrance to Glen Miller Park

Recently I was asked to scan an image that contained the stone archway that was located at the 24th Street entrance to Glen Miller Park, and I was reminded that I know very little about it. Years ago when I was working on my book about postcards I tried to find information for the caption, and all I could locate was an article about awarding the contract for its construction in 1912.  I could never find how long it remained, until now.

An archway at one of the entrances to the park had been discussed at least as early as June 1911, and by May 1912 the city was taking bids for the work.  The approximately $1000 needed was to come out of the proceeds of the previous year’s Chautauqua festival, presumably to beautify the park for the coming season’s event.  However, many people who saw the plans criticized the look of the arch.  The Commercial Club, a precursor to the Chamber of Commerce, happened to meet the night before the bids were awarded, and it passed a unanimous resolution opposing the construction.  Some felt it was not artistic in any way, and others felt that it was an unnatural ornament in a park where nature is preserved. Member William Dudley Foulke went so far as to call it a monstrosity, and claimed it the duty of the Commercial Club to see that no such arch would be constructed.

Mayor William Zimmerman brushed off the criticism and proceeded with the construction, which included 200 electric light bulbs illuminating the letters of the sign.  Within a week after its dedication, though, he admitted that the arch resembled a beer garden sign when lighted at night.  The term ‘beer garden’ was repeated many times in derogatory descriptions over the years.

The uproar faded once it became a fact, but apparently no one was terribly fond of it.  In the title of one of his historical articles from 1971, Luther Feeger said that “None Protested When Park’s Triple Arch Disappeared.” He said that it “disappeared so quickly and silently that the date of its removal faded from the public memory. An inquiry late in 1952 about the date of the erection and removal of the archway brought no response.”

I was fortunate to have stumbled upon the answer, as always, while looking for something else.  In a short piece in the February 27, 1923 Palladium titled “Beauty of Park To Be Enhanced by Improvements” the writer listed the removal of the arch.  The Item went a bit further on March 6.

The board of works has finally taken formal action for the removal of the eye-sore at the Main Street entrance to Glen Miller park. That gaudy “arch” is to be taken down, in the interests of the public safety, as well as of the beauty of that spot. It always did look like the gateway of a beer-garden and it hid the view of the street from the park roadway, and vice versa, so as to make that point a very dangerous spot for automobiles.

By the end of the month, the structure was gone, literally blown up with a few sticks of dynamite.  These days we’re lucky to be able to see crocuses spelling out “It’s Spring” on the hill a few yards away, and everyone agrees that they’re beautiful.

— Sue King

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