The City Beautiful Movement began in the large East Coast and Great Lakes cities over a century ago — a philosophy in architecture and urban planning to inspire civic pride and moral order through the pursuit of beauty and structure. Cities were growing rapidly and becoming more and more densely populated. Birth rates blossomed, immigration increased, and industrialization brought an influx of denizens to city centers.
The Movement sought to counterbalance the overcrowding of haphazardly multiplying tenement housing by making spaces for all to use and draw inspiration from. Often implementing green-spaces, open plazas and grand architectural projects in the Beaux Arts and Neoclassical styles, these City Beautiful projects took inspiration from the palaces and parklands of many distinguished European city centers. They were meant to anchor the cities in permanence and give every citizen of every income level the same sense of wonder and purpose in civic pride.
And when our own city was developing beyond its early borders and demands, the Movement inspired many of our own neighborhood parks and plazas. Creston Park is one of the exemplary examples of City Beautiful’s influence on the map of Portland. Greens, playgrounds, the natatorium, comfort stations, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, ball field — all tucked into a neat square footprint, structured and ordered and meant to be available to all.