In 19th century midwestern and High Plains towns, there was a natural urge to create enclosed and urbane settings as an escape from the surrounding open landscape. The history of their city parks tells a story of the of the desire to create “beauty spots”—places of geographic fantasy and a kind of “paradise” on the plains.
A generation later, in the City Beautiful and Beaux Arts eras (1900-30), midwestern towns began to build even grander, neo-classically inspired settings with pergolas, performance halls, and amphitheaters. Surrounded by churches and the neo-classical Sheldon Auditorium, Broadway Park in Red Wing, Minnesota may be one of the most beautiful small civic spaces in the country.
Postcards show how towns wanted their parks to be seen by others. Though retouched with color and perhaps some early “photoshopping” to remove flawed elements—they document civic aspiration and pride.
The following images capture the range of town oasis parks from the very formal to the rustic. This page will continue to be updated.
All titles, text, and captions copyright Frank Edgerton Martin, 2018.