Central Park, Galesburg, Illinois

Postcard Photo of Central Park Looking East Down Main Street, Late Nineteenth Century

Look at the above postcard from the late Nineteenth Century, with a view down Main Street, which we looked at yesterday. An intact, intimate urban space with even a streetcar going by. It’s not like that anymore.

As we walk down Main Street in Galesburg, crossing over Cherry Street, we see the parking lots and the breaking up of the street wall as we approach Civic Square, which surrounds Central Park.

Banks have long faced the square, and judging from the style of the current buildings, in the mid Twentieth Century, urban cohesion was sacrificed for parking lots to serve a more suburban style environment.

Which is too bad, as we just saw in Springfield, Missouri, how a strong dedication to urban design can create a place that increases revenue by drawing people to it, and not just occasionally when there’s a fair or carnival.

Just like the southeast corner of the square, on the northeast square, density was eliminated for a bank campus with a swath of parking and even a vacant. lot.

This wide open space below on the northwest side of the square is recent, the site of a former Howard Johnson that was demolished by the City of Galesburg due to its deteriorating condition. Known as the Broadview Inn and Suites, it was built in 1978, replacing what had historically been the Union Hotel. It had made the same mistakes as the other two eastern buildings on the square: a broad parking lot occupied the south portion of its “L” shaped piece of property, further propagating the suburbanization of what had been an urban, walkable space. The City hopes to build a new hotel and convention center, and I pray that they learn from past mistakes and correct the error that ruined what could be a showplace civic center in Galesburg.

The southwest side of the square has survived more or less intact, though occupancy is suffering. And we look and see that even by the early Twentieth Century, a gas station was already heralding the rise of the automobile. And what’s with every mid-size Illinois city having to have a mediocre round skyscraper?

Thankfully, the Central Congregational Church has saved the historic southwest corner of the square (more on it tomorrow).

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