Wednesday, April 21

Tompkins, Springs and Independence Park from 1904. Transcription from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission

D. A. Tompkins
"At its meeting on March 7, 1904, the Board of Aldermen responded affirmatively to Tompkins's proposal and appointed Tompkins to head a special committee to oversee the project.He toured the site on April 23, 1904, with engineers from the City and discussed preliminary plans for the park. During the summer of 1904, Tompkins also negotiated with the owners of nearby property to secure the donation of additional land. He was successful. On August 1, 1904, Tompkins presented the deeds for approximately 47.5 acres of land to the Board of Aldermen, including 12.85 acres from the Highland Park Realty Co., developers of Elizabeth, and 5.57 acres from the Piedmont Realty Co., developers of Piedmont Park. The acceptance of this property by the City assured that the park would become a reality. The Charlotte Observer greeted this news joyously. "It will unquestionably prove a blessing to the community, and public spirited men are unsparing in the gratification of its assured certainty," the newspaper proclaimed.D. A Tompkins explained at length the benefits which he believed the park would provide for Charlotte and especially for the industrial laborers who resided there. "We are increasing our industrial population, and many of our laboring men do not have an opportunity to get out into the country but once a week, on Sundays," he explained. "It is a good thing for them to have a park such as this will be."
Interestingly, especially in relation to subsequent developments, Tompkins advocated that the park remain as much as possible in its natural state. "Put a few walks and drives through it, set out a few trees where the work of nature has been destroyed, but for the rest, 'let it be,'" he advised. Unfortunately, Independence Park has not been as fortunate in retaining its natural setting as Tompkins had desired. On October 21, 1904, the Charlotte Observer reported that the City had selected the name Independence Park. The Board of Aldermen created a Park and Tree Commission on November 7, 1904, to supervise the construction of the facility. Not surprisingly, Tompkins became chairman.The Commission moved ahead with dispatch. By June 1905, it had established contact with several landscape architects for purposes of soliciting proposals. The winner of this competition was John Nolen (1869-1937), a student in the School of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University. The design of Independence Park was the initial commission in what would become an illustrious career. Nolen was one of the premier landscape architects and comprehensive planners in the United States. It is noteworthy that Tompkins and his associates would demonstrate such care in selecting the designer for Independence Park. This scrutiny was a manifestation of their commitment to making Charlotte a grand and majestic city. In the opinion of the Charlotte News, it was the duty of the Park and Tree Commission "to make Charlotte famous for the beauty of its parks." '

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