The thing most needed in Cambridge.
We need the Metropolitan Park System
will have one of the most superb driveways in America
, bordering the Charles
, with the handsome fronts of stately residences facing the water.
We need a fine fountain on the common.
We need — alas!
that it should be so!-an Art Museum that will be a joy to the eyes.
As has been suggested, it should stretch its beautiful colonnades and graceful arches of stone and brick-harmonizing with old “Massachusetts
” in line and color-along the great green terrace, between the President's house
and Gore Hall.
With its stately beauty, what an impressive approach to the University
, as we came up Massachusetts avenue!
We need a large, commodious hall for lectures and concerts.
We need a small, but perfectly kept, hotel.
Many other things for use and for beauty we need; but most of all, we need in our city of rapidly increasing population, good homes for our working-people — model tenements.
In a few years the park system will render “The Marsh
” too valuable for its present occupants.
Its shabby, dirty tenements, with slimy pools surrounding them after a rain, must then be swept away to
make room for fine houses along the river — a river no longer defiled by sewage as now, but pure and clear to its very depths!
What, with this change in Mt.
Auburn street, will then become of its poor tenants?
There will be a pressing, a crying need of good tenement houses.
Even now it is a most difficult thing for a working-man to house his family in decent quarters within his means, and not too far from his work.
When model tenements are built, let them be placed as near as possible to other tenement-house districts, since the fact that the laboring classes have chosen them shows their adaptability to their wants.
It is a safe thing to do financially, to lease an old tenement house.
Shovel out the accumulated dirt and rubbish, cut windows in dark bedrooms, let light upon dark stairways, scrape the layers of dingy papers from the walls.
Then whitewash, scour, paint, repair, have windows that will open and doors that will shut.
Put good sinks with good faucets, and other conveniences into each entry.
Have the cellar clean and wholesome, ventilated and whitewashed, with coal bins and proper receptacles for ashes and garbage.
Put railings and posts for clothes lines on the roof, and pulleys, for the tenants of the first floor only, on the fences and walls of the yard.
Since it is hard to carry coal and other necessaries of life up more than three flights of stairs, it is not best to have your model tenement more than four stories high.
Have strict rules as to decency, cleanliness and prompt payment of rent-always in advance-and enforce them.
Let your tenants know that they will be protected from vice and drunkenness; that no amount of money can keep a vile person within your walls; that this house is one where a sober
working man may strive to bring up his children in purity and wholesome living, and his landlord will cooperate with him.
If one manages the thing rightly, on business principles, the experiment will succeed.
But one must not forget that a model tenement is not a charitable institution, but rather an educational one, for the very class which most needs to learn the duties and obligations of life, and the inevitable consequences if these are shirked.
The house will fill with tenants, and it will pay five or six per cent net, or more, if one is his own rent collector.
One has beside, the joy of knowing that one little spot on God's earth is through this instrumentality kept sweet and pure against “that day,” when He will bring every work into judgment.
These things mentioned are indispensable to the model tenement, but there is something beyond, that may be added, if one would give “good measure pressed down and running over,” and hope to “receive the same again into your bosom.”
In a tenement-block of five houses, such as I have described, at the South End in Boston
, there were formerly five little backyards filled with sheds and ash and garbage barrels, and divided by high fences, shutting out light and air. It is obvious why fences are high, in one of the worst districts in Boston
The yards were surrounded by the unsightly backs of the old tenements adjoining, and their still more dilapidated fences, reaching to the second story.
Even a kitten would not have played in one of these dreary, sunless pens!
Last spring the generous, philanthropic owner of the block removed all the dividing fences and the sheds, made places for ashes and garbage in the well-ventilated cellars, and threw the whole space
into a large, central court.
At each end there is a beautiful flower-bed, and there are grass borders round the sides, and vines, which by and by will cover the fences and walls with their waving green.
The centre is bricked and so is the broad walk which runs around the court.
It is kept in perfect order, not an unsightly thing allowed, nor even a dirty scrap of paper on the walks.
Hardly a flower has been ruthlessly broken, or a vine injured this whole season
. The tenants feel that it is their
garden, and take such pride in it that any one attempting to molest it would receive sharp rebukes — not to say even worse things-especially from the mothers.
Even on the hottest days it is cool and shady here in the afternoon, and the women of the block, in clean aprons, come down with their babies to sit about on the settees; some bring their sewing from their stifling rooms; while the children, who last summer had only the narrow doorsteps or the dirty sidewalks for playgrounds, run and play games on the broad walk.
After supper the men come to smoke their pipes, and to watch the watering of the flowers with the hose, cooling the air like a fountain.
People talk of the ingratitude of the poor!
I can only say that in this block everything done for the comfort and health of the tenants has been appreciated, while the joy and satisfaction they have expressed in the garden has been a constant surprise and pleasure to its projectors.
On Decoration Day, the owner celebrated the completion of the garden by giving a party there to all her tenants.
There were eighty people, representing seven nationalities.
There was a pretty table of refreshments beside one of the flower beds, and two Italians with harp and violin played the gayest music.
Never did people have a better time.
There was dancing and singing; with fathers and mothers, grandmothers and toddlers, and lonely single women, all enjoying themselves together, while the hostess was everywhere with a smile and outstretched hand, the animating spirit of the whole.
The behavior was perfect, and one secretly blushed to think how rudeness had been feared and a policeman suggested, even, to keep order!
But “that is another story.”
I would only say in conclusion that in doing something like this-so greatly needed in Cambridge-you will have a work which will interest you more and more — an investment not wholly of the earth, earthy, while you live.
And when at last you are called to a “house not made with hands,” the blessings and prayers that will hover around you from homes you have uplifted, and children you have saved from crime and misery, will be like wings of angels beneath your fainting, sinking spirit.