Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 20, 1913 -- Civic Beauty Requires Eternal Vigilance

July 20, 1913 – The Chicago Daily Tribune’s art critic, Harriet Moore, writes an opinion piece in which she supports the City Club in its campaign against billboards.  Her argument begins with a single question, one she asked at a previous hearing in which a City Council committee was listening to testimony from both advocates and opponents of the signs, “Is it your opinion that beauty has neither health value nor financial value in a modern metropolis?”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 20, 1913]  She then answers the question with three separate responses:  that beauty is a health producer (“Hideous objects and harsh sounds, assaulting eyes and ears in a manner not to be escaped, destroy the harmony of life by introducing discords, and reduce the joy of life by insulting the senses with ugliness.”); that beauty is a commercial asset in any community (“Without beauty a city is merely a place to make money in and get away from.”); and, beauty is a great investment (“Why does the whole world flock to Italy, spending there millions every year?  Because, a few centuries ago a few hundred artists builded and carved and painted beautifully.”)  Moore concludes, “Chicago has the opportunity to become one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  The lake, the long stretch of park which is to border it, Michigan avenue widened to the river and adequately connected with the Lake Shore drive, the widened Twelfth street, the new railway terminals, the enlarged business district—these and other conditions and projects will create a beautiful metropolis.  Along with these large plans for civic beauty should go eternal vigilance against all kinds of defacement and in favor of all kinds of minor improvements.  The fight against billboards is an important detail of the general campaign.”

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