An Account of Park Construction – July 1871

From the Buffalo Evening Courier and Republic, Friday, 2 June 1871:

The New Park.

A Few Notes Concerning the Progress of the Work—The Lake to be Excavated by July 1st—The Park, the Front, the Parade and the Drive—Bell’s Great Rolling Machine—& c., & c.

Yesterday morning, braving the intense heat of the sun in the interest of the readers of the Courier who are anxious, we knew, to learn the progress which has been made upon our great suburban improvement, we drove out to the locality and went through a cursory inspection.

The Lake.

This is the first of the grand features of the new park which strikes the eye of one who travels thitherward by the main avenue of approach, Delaware. Probably there are few among our citizens who are not aware that this is being by excavating the bed of Scajaquada Creek, west of Delaware street where the stream is very broad in wet seasons. The current has been turned by a dam on the upper side of the old Delaware street bridge, upon whose sun-blistered planks in rosy childhood we have spent many a hot but blissful day (generally “hooking it” from school for the purpose) bobbing for pumpkin-seeds and shiners – and is now carried through a narrow sluice-way under a temporary bridge to the north, and from thence is passed along to the river in a channel which does not embarrass the laborers.

In the bottom, the contractor for the excavation, Mr. Issac Holloway, now keeps about one hundred and fifty men at work. These are under the immediate supervision of Mr. Charles Holloway. The task before them is to construct a bed six feet in depth for a lake forty-six acres in area, besides the necessary dams. That it is no small one will be inferred from the fact that Mr. Holloway has been at the work ever since last fall, but it is expected that his contract will be completed by July 1st. Train railroads, of about ten inches gauge, have been built from it to the higher lands in each direction, and over these cars loaded with the rich soil from the bed of the creek are being constantly run and their contents spread over the ground which is to be converted into lawn. In this way a great expense is saved, for no manure could be a better fertilizer than this soil. Under its influence, as soon as the land is seeded, the new grass will spring up luxuriant.

The Park and Its Drive.

It is scarcely necessary to remind our readers that the park is to be divided into three parts, connected by umbrageous avenues, of which the central, which is much the largest, is to be called, “par excellence”, “The Park.” The lake is enclosed inside the confines of this, and upon the borders of the lake, in the building before used as a slaughter house which stands on high ground, to the left of Delaware street, just across the street, we found the accomplished and courteous engineer of the great work, Mr. George K. Radford, established in a comfortable office and busy over plans. Under his guidance we made the circuit of “The Drive,” which circles about the skirts of the large portion of the park east of Delaware street. Those who have examined the map will have noticed that this is a vast lawn, surrounded by a belt of timber land, and the map is a truthful representation, as far as a map can be, but fails to give any idea of the undulations of the landscape which give it its peculiar charm and render it especially adapted to the purpose for which it will be used. At present the ground is all ploughed, and the beauty of the future can only be imagined, but no great straining of the prospective faculties is required. It can truly be said that this portion of the park made itself. It will only be needed to assist nature by fertilizing the soil, and by seeding, which is already being done, and before winter sets in the grand lawn will be completed. Its area is studded with, perhaps, fifty trees, and we would not have one of them changed. There seem to be just enough – not one too many. The trees are, without exception, noble specimens of either the oak, the elm, or the maple, and they are so artistically disposed that one would think Dame Nature had turned park architect. When the grass is well-grown and smoothly cut the scene will remind of a quiet, lovely English landscape.

We are unable to be ecstatic over the condition of “The Drive,” as we found it, and are free to confess that we should not have surmised the existence of a road where we went, had not our conductor, who certainly ought to know, assured us that there was one. We are also free to confess that there was some anxiety for the spring of the buggy, which was rather heavily loaded, as we bounced into ditches and jolted over freshly ploughed ground. However, we went through safely, and were abundantly repaid by the ever changing views which afforded us glimpses of what, in the near future, our eyes can gaze upon in its full beauty. And we can further say that before the season closes, in all probability, the drive in this part of the park will be in such condition that pleasure lovers can spin their fast teams gayly around it, and really begin to enjoy that for whose full fruition they wait with such impatience.

East of Delaware street the general shape of the park is tritangular. We first took a northerly direction, along the skirts of the grounds, and then coming down to the southeast angle found “The Concourse,” where Humboldt avenue will branch off and lead to “The Parade.” We, however, retraced our way toward Delaware avenue, and along this portion of the drive, looking northeastward, could feast our eyes upon the most extensive view yet seen. For a distance of from two to three miles the landscape is gently rolling, and then the vision is bounded by a belt of forest trees. There is nothing between to do away with the illusion that all we see is one vast park, except two or three small houses that are more easily overlooked than discay-covered [sic]. We can almost regret that this ample prospect will so certainly be injured in time by the erection of mansions on land made valuable by contignity to the park.

We returned to our starting-point and went on to the west end of the lake, where we found the timbers already on hand, in part, for the construction of the bridge. The lake is here narrowed to about one hundred feet in width. Just over the bridge and up the lake shore will be a boat-landing, and other landings will be conveniently located.

On this entire central portion of the park, the commissioners have about one hundred and eighty men at work, which makes about three hundred and thirty men in all, with Mr. Holloway’s force. Progress may seem slow to those who do not appreciate the magnitude of the undertaking, but it is really very rapid, and before the year is out the visitor will at least be able to form an idea of what the park is to be.

The Front.

A trip to “The Front” showed us that work is going on vigorously there. A force of eighty men is engaged in the the construction of “The Terrace,” which already begins to assume form. It is so situated that the almost unrivaled view attainable from there to the Canadian and American shores, the bay, the lake, the river and its islands, is given of the eye, while the discordant feature of the rail-road, the canal, and tow-path shanties below is overlooked. This portion of the park will probably be completed first.

The Parade.

We were unable to extend our visit thither, but were informed that an adequate force is engaged, and that the eastern of our trio of suburban beauty-spots is fully as promising as either of the others. By way of reminder, we will repeat here, that “The Parade” contains fifty-five and one-half acres, and “The Park” three hundred and sixty acres, “The Front” thirty two and three-quarter acres. This makes four hundred and forty-eight and one-quarter acres, the remainder of the total of five hundred acres is used up in connecting avenues.

Bell’s Steam Roller.

It is expected that the mammoth steam roller, weighing over fifteen tons, which has been manufactured by David Bell, will commence regular business early next week. If it works as well as is hoped, it will facilitate operations amazingly.