Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mystery Image: Washington Park as it Never Was

We recently received a donation of a drawing of Washington Park from an out-of-town collector who has never been in Sandusky. She thought it would be an interesting item for our collections, showing a view of the city from 1921. It certainly is an interesting view -- but it is a scene that never existed in reality.

The image shows a slightly elevated view of Washington Park, from Wayne Street, down Washington Street. We can see several landmarks that were familiar to residents in 1921: on the left is Sandusky High School, with its top floor still there; beyond that we see the Erie County Courthouse as it looked before its remodeling in the 1930s; on the right is the Kingsbury Block, the Sloane House Hotel, Odd Fellows Hall, and the Presbyterian Church.

The strange part of this drawing is in the center of the picture: We see Washington Street as a boulevard, with landscaped medians and a monument at the center of the intersection with Jackson Street. Of course, this plan was never built, but what is the story behind its creation? What we do know about this drawing is that the donor found it in a photo album that was originally owned by Jessie A. Spieker-Fritz, who lived on Camp Street in Sandusky. The 1923 city directory says that she was a secretary for the Brown Clutch Company. This would help to explain how she came to have a copy of this drawing: In the lower right corner of the image, we see that the drawing was designed by T.T. Morgan and drawn by Charles Hottmann; Morgan was the president of the Brown Clutch Company and Hottmann was a superintendent there.

As to why the picture was drawn and why the plan was not implemented, those questions are still mysteries. Was Morgan part of a planning committee for the city, or were he and Hottmann simply interested citizens with an idea? Was this plan ever formally considered by the city? Further research is needed to find the answers.

Viewing this image raises another question for me: You notice in the background the monument in the intersection, most likely intended as a civic monument or war memorial. Have you noticed that in nearly every city or town in Ohio (and, it seems, in most American communities settled in the 19th century), there is a major civic monument in a prominent public square, sometimes several, usually built in the 19th century or early 20th century? Have you noticed that there is no grand civic monument from that time in Sandusky? (Some monuments have been built downtown in recent years of course.) Why did early Sanduskians not follow the trend of most communities of the time, and build a great war memorial or other monument? Any thoughts?


Jason Werling said...

Sandusky didn't want to be like "everybody else." We already had the Masonic symbol road map and a civic monument would just show people how lost they were when trying to figure out the streets on their way to Cedar Point. :)

laurientaylor said...

This is a great artifact! Plans for places that never were or as they never were are wonderful because they shed light on the mysteries of city development and of the changes in planning. This image's history reminds me of the many maps of places that never existed, and the trap streets on real maps that are meant to prevent the theft of a cartographers' work by using the false trap street to catch plagiarizers. This image, and what it represents, is great. I hope more related materials that tell it's story are found!

Anonymous said...

There's also the example of 'paper roads' - which in parts of NZ were shown on maps but were never actually built.

fluffy said...

If you read the field notes attached to the Kilbourne Plat, you will notice that specific prohabitions were made as to what was allowed to be placed and constructed in that area. It may have been a misunderstanding that lead to not having a civic monument in Washington Square park. The field notes are located in the records vault in Norwalk. In 1818 Sandusky was located in Huron county.