Thomas K. Spence Jr.: A sanctuary

December 28, 2012 

A sanctuary

The creation of the public park at the Dix site has remarkable parallels with the development of Central Park in New York City in 1853. A three-year debate over size, cost and control obstructed this noble effort.

As early as 1848, Andrew Jackson Downing, famed horticulturalist, had purposed that tree-rich public parks were a necessary next step for American democracy. Such parks, maintained at public expense, were already found in the great cities of Europe.

The creation of a “central park” in Raleigh surely has greater merit than adding to the inventory of vacant housing and commercial properties. We all understand that this resource will be available to residents and visitors.

There is one other property on this site, which is rarely mentioned: the graves of former patients at the Dix Hospital. One of those is my great-grandmother, whose husband died at the Old Soldier Home in Raleigh. He served in the N.C. 31st Regiment and was a prisoner at Elmira, N.Y., the last year of the war. I would hope that these graves be treated with tenderness and respect.

There are some people, even in governing chambers, who do not understand that parks, gardens, museums, art galleries and libraries are essential to the survival of our culture. They nurture the human spirit in a way that commerce and industry never can.

Eric Rutkow, in his recently published book, “American Canopy,” claims that the preservation of these natural resources offers “a reconnection with the physical world, the world of our forefathers. The forests and their trees are a sanctuary for the spirit. To enter them is to seek renewal.”

Thomas K. Spence Jr.

Sanford

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