From the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/13/1909, p. 1, c. 7

Alderman Wood Tells Board Locality Is Not Desirable and New Site Is Found
Get Expert to Examine Trafford’s Electric Light Plans, So as to Prevent Another Flume Fiasco – Blues Armory Approved – Want Clear Water from Basin.

INFLUENCED by the conservative address of President Wood, the Board of Aldermen last night amended the playground ordinance, eliminating the Seabrook Warehouse site from the list, receiving an offer from James T. Sloan to present the city with a lot for play purposes further up on Church Hill. Plans for the new municipal electric plant were ordered examined by, some expert engineer before their acceptance, the temper of the Board showing plainly that it was not willing to have on its hands another “flume” fiasco.

Other important matters disposed of were the award of the contract for the Blues’ Armory, and an appropriation of $122,325 to pay the cost of a fire-proof building; granting the United States government a site on Chimborazo Park for a weather observatory, and directing the Committee on Water to secure plans and bids for a new flume from the settling basin to the pump-house.

Rush to Get in Budget.

On the roll-call new measures chiefly had reference to amounts to be included in the budget for specific purposes. Mr. Bennett wanted an appropriation for smooth paving of Belvidere Street, and for continuing this work on Grace Street. Mr. Ellett asked $50,000 to continue paving of Monument Avenue. Mr. Whittet wanted $10,000 to improve the Howitzers’ Armory, and $5,380 to place granolithic curbs on the Boulevard. All were referred to the Finance Committee. Mr. Gilman asked suspension of the rules and had placed on its passage a resolution directing the City Attorney to acquire land for a park at Monument Avenue and Cleveland Street, in the annexed territory, no concluded action to be taken until the price is reported. He explained that it was a triangular block, which should be held by the city. The resolution was adopted without objection.

An ordinance offered by Mr. Powers, increasing salaries of the employes in the Building Inspector’s office went to the Ordinance, Charter and Reform Committee, as did a communication from the board of Health asking that the salary of the chief health officer be made $3,500 a year, and an ordinance offered by Mr. Whittet regulating driving on the street. The same disposition was made of a resolution from the Committee on Relief of the Poor increasing the number of nurses at the City Home.

Cut Out Seabrook’s Site.

Mr. Wood surrendered the chair to Vice-President Whittet and called from the table the playground ordinance, offering an amendment striking out the section relating to Seabrook Warehouse, at Seventeenth and Grace Streets, and inserting a provision for the establishment of a playground on a site to be hereafter selected, between Eighteenth and Twenty-fifth and Franklin and Marshall Streets, and appropriating $2,000 for maintenance, the same amount as provided for the Seabrook playground. Mr. Wood made an earnest and effective speech for his amendment, in which there was no word of abuse or of criticism. He indicated that he had not been an advocate of playgrounds, feeling that Richmond had not yet reached the stage of development where they were a necessity.

“The gentlemen who have approached me on this proposition and asked my aid have no children,” he said. “My mother raised seven, and I have had some experience myself as to the needs of a child. I haven’t yet been able to see the necessity of teaching a healthy child to play. The men who have been thrown on their own resources since childhood and so gained self-confidence are the men who rule this country to-day

“You raise a boy up in your kindergartens and playgrounds with the idea that the city is going to give him everything, and you will have a generation of weaklings that will expect the city to provide for it, and who will do nothing for the upbuilding of the city You take your child away from home in the morning for school, and in the afternoon for playground exercise, and you have taken away the strongest moral influence, the home But others differ with me, and if the people want playgrounds, why let us have them.

Location Not Desirable.

“Now, as to Seabrook Warehouse. It stands in a locality from which people have been moving away, and which is being filled up by negroes. Yet this is not to be a colored playground. It is not suitably located. From Seventeenth Street west there are no dwellings except those occupied by negroes. It is all railroad tracks and hillsides. In front is the market and market court. Two sides furnish no population to provide children.

“It is entirely surrounded by street-car tracks, a constant element of danger. It will not help the morality of any child to go down there. If the property is worth half what it is said to be worth, and citizens are crying for sewers and gas and water, we should dispose of it. If we give it away for a playground, we will never get it back.”

Mr. Hobson replied, arguing for the ordinance as recommended, saying that on a basis of recent sales per front foot in the locality the property was worth $67,395.

“I am myself prepared, on behalf of certain friends, to offer $35,000 for the property to-morrow morning,” said Mr. Hobson. “You advocate selling it and buying another place. You all know when the city buys it pays double value, and when it sells it gets half. Every man on the floor knows where the opposition comes from. Let us vote the amendment down

Offer From Mr. Sloan.

Prolonged discussion followed, several advocating the sale of the Seabrook property, now standing idle Mr. Adams read a letter from James T. Sloan, offering to dedicate to the city for playground purposes, a lot at Twenty-fourth and Franklin Streets, fronting 160 feet in Twenty-fourth Street, provided there was no other playground within four blocks, and that it would revert to him when not used as a playground. After further discussion the amendment was adopted, only Mr. Hobson voting in the negative. Mr. Powers then offered an amendment, placing all the playgrounds under the Grounds and Buildings Committee, instead of the Civic improvement League. Over the protest of Chairman Whittet, who declared the committee had no nurses or facilities, the amendment was adopted, 10 to 9, and the ordinance as amended finally adopted, 18 to 1, Mr. Hobson voting in the negative. It will now go back to the lower branch for concurrence in the amendments. The letter of Mr. Sloan was referred to the Grounds and Buildings Committee for report.

Armory Contract Awarded.

Award of contract for the Blues’ Armory to John T. Wilson for fire-proof construction at $116,500 was approved; an appropriation of $122,325 was directed to be included in the budget to cover this amount and architects fees, and former appropriations were cancelled. Contract with H. L. Matthews to build a temporary market shed for $465 was approved.

The Ellett ordinance to require street cars to stop on the near side of crossings was rejected, after extended debate.

The Board concurred in a large number of resolutions from the other branch, including provision for paying the salaries of city officers and employes until the budget for the year is available, fixing the true line of Thirty-third Street; providing for a keeper for Monument Avenue grass plots; accepting from John P. Branch the Branch baths, at Eighteenth and Broad Streets, and providing for their maintenance by the city at a cost of $3,000 a year; appropriating $1,500 for emergency distribution of fuel to the poor; approving the award of contract to the Virginia Heating Company for a heating plant for the City Auditorium, for $5,886; providing for a third precinct in Lee Ward; requesting free transportation for inmates of Lee Camp Soldiers’ Home on street cars, when in uniform, and approving the Satterfield ordinance for the appointment of a specific committee to confer with a similar committee from Manchester as to the consolidation of the two cities. All of these measures now go to the Mayor for approval.

Weather Bureau Site.

The Board also concurred in a resolution instructing the Committee on Water to secure plans and specifications for a new flume, and to advertise for bids, and to recommend to the Council the award of a contract. After hearing the special message of Mayor Richardson, urging immediate action, this resolution was concurred in unanimously.

The resolution donating a site in Chimborazo Park for a Weather Observatory, the exact spot to be selected by the Grounds and Buildings Committee and the government officials, was concurred in after debate, Mr. Ellett saying that he had heard that the house would be used as a residence for the Weather Director, and moving to table until this could be ascertained, which was lost. On the final vote the site was granted, 18 to 1, Mr. Ellett voting in the negative.

Appointment of a special committee to inquire into and recommend a revision in the system of delinquent taxes, and providing for division of the city into three districts, with deputy tax collectors, was concurred in.

A communication from the Board of Health as to the filthy condition of the Police Court, and the menace to health by overcrowding of all kinds of people, was referred to the Committee on Ordinance, Charter and Reform. A communication from the jail commissioners, reporting that on inspection they had found the jail clean and the food up to standard, but that the water fixtures were leaking and the steam plant out of order, was referred to the Committee on Grounds and Buildings.

The final fight of the evening came upon the plans submitted by Engineer Trafford, and approved by the Committees on Water and Electricity, for the municipal electric lighting plant, to stand on the site of the Old Pump-House. The joint committees recommended that the plans be adopted and referred to the Committee on Electricity to secure bids for the erection.

Expert to Examine Plans

As a substitute, Mr. Rennolds offered a motion that the plans be referred back to the Committee on Electricity, with instructions to secure the services of an expert electrical and hydraulic engineer to go over the calculations and drawings, his report to be submitted to the Council. An appropriation of $1,000 is made for the services of this expert.

Mr. Rennolds said he meant no reflection on Mr. Trafford or his plans, but that he wished to make assurance doubly sure that the plans were correct. Mr. Whittet strenuously opposed the substitute, holding that it means an indefinite delay, and that if the plans were once side-tracked it would be the last of the electric plant.

Mr. Adams supported the substitute, saying the city had a sufficient object lesson in the flume. Mr. Bennett responded with a sharp attack on City Engineer Bolling for the flume plans, which was warmly answered. When asked by a member how long it would take, Mr. Trafford, who was present, said he had worked on the plans eight months, and that he did not see how any engineer could go through the calculations in less than three months. Mr. Bennett thought no competent engineer would work three months for $1,000. After extended debate, the motion to commit the plans to the examination of an expert was adopted 14 to 5, the negative votes being Aldermen Bennett, Cotttrell, Mitchell, Satterfield and Whittet.

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