From the Richmond Dispatch, 4/25/1871, p. 1, c. 5
Chimborazo – What It Is and What It Might be Made.
Richmond needs parks. During the hot summer months for those possessed of little means, escape from the gloomy workshops, dull stores, and dusty streets, is almost a matter of impossibility. It is within the power of but few of us to spend a month at the springs or at the seaside, to drive out into the country, or even to take a row on the river. The Capitol Square, beautiful as it is and improved as it has been under its present management, does not meet the requirements of the case. Monroe Park is well enough away in its way, and will be a “joy forever” for those residing in its immediate vicinity, but will never be a popular place of resort. Having no other rural retreat, many resort to lager-beer gardens, of which we have several that are well kept. But neither do they fill the void of which we complain. There is a longing in the public mind for fresh air, blue sky, grass, trees, and flowers, which neither of these satisfy. We want a place where a man can spend the fragment of a summer evening – where the love-sick can do their billing and cooing unembarrassed by prying eyes; where the wives and children of hard-working mechanics can find relief from their monotonous life, and where the boys can loll away a half-holiday – and all in a pure atmosphere, and in the enjoyment of the beauties of nature, so lavishly strewn about our city. We think we have our eyes on a spot that could be made such a place, and do not claim that the suggestion is original. We allude to the naturally picturesque, though at present very unattractive, heights of Chimborazo.
The piece of land thus entitled is situated in the eastern part of the city, hard by Union and Church Hills, and embraces seventeen acres, at present occupied by a settlement of freedmen. Before the war it was a common, chiefly occupied by grazing cows and ball-playing, kite-flying boys, and not unfrequently the scene of hard-fought rock-battles between the “Hill boys” and the “Butchertown cats.” During the war it assumed more importance in the public eye, being seized by the Confederate Government for hospital purposes, and Chimborazo Hospital was as well known by name as any in the South. When all things Confederate passed away, and the ignorant, starving wards of the nation began to swarm hither, the Federal Government assigned the deserted hospitals to them as a habitation, and they have stuck there with a pertinacity most disagreeable to their neighbors ever since, paying a rent of only about $300 yearly for the use of the property.
But what are its advantages as a park? They are numerous. It is on high ground, and command a view of Richmond and the surrounding country which cannot be surpassed. The windings of the river, the islands of the James, the National Cemetery, Rocketts, Oakwood, Manchester, Hollywood in the distance, and the city itself, can all be taken in at a glance from one point of observation. On one side there is a slope to the city; on the other a slope to the river, and a rapid stream washes the base of the hill, suggesting to the landscape gardener miniature cataracts, lakes, and rustic bridges, which Central Park itself might envy, and which might be made to spring into being for an expenditure which really seems trifling in view of the pleasure they would afford to those of us who are now compelled to feast our eyes year in and year out on mere bricks and mortar for scenery.
An objection has been urged that it is inaccessible. Not so. The cost of bridging Bloody Run would be small indeed in comparison with the advantages to be derived from it. Already it is crossed from Marshall street and the new park might be approached with ease by a broad avenue from either Broad, Grace, Franklin, or Main street, and our youth would then have a drive, the like of which we certainly have not now. But we will not go further into details. This is a mere suggestion in the direction of Chimborazo’s possibilities, and the suggestion has the rare merit of pure disinterestedness. There may be other places just as well suited for our park as Chimborazo, but at present that seems to us the most eligible.
The ownership of Chimborazo is involved in a maze which it would take a legal mind to unravel. Two squares are claimed by the heirs of James Wilson, formerly of Sussex county, and a suit has just been decided in their favor by Judge Wellford, of the Circuit Court. One square belongs to the estate of Robert Poore, late of this city. The ownership of a fourth we were unable to ascertain. The remaining acres are now in court under a suit instituted by Pleasant Winston, of Indiana, who claims them under deeds against Thomas T. Giles, who on his part claims them under a deed from the clerk of Henrico county, they having been sold for delinquent taxes. At present Chimborazo is not remunerative to anybody. Adopt our suggestion, City Fathers, and it may be made of some use to the city, and at the same time yield its owners a greater return than is required to pay its taxes.