CYLA was asked to prepare a Cultural Landscape Report (CLR) for Kenosha’s Library Park, the site of the Simmons Library designed by architect Daniel Burnham in 1899-1900. Library Park is a fine example of the work of nationally known landscape gardener, Ossian Cole Simonds, famous for his picturesque style that gradually revealed a site’s beauty to viewers through use of shifting views in a landscape. With contemporaneous plans, CYLA was able to judge that much of the spirit of Simonds’ 1899 planting plan is still in place. Shade trees and open lawn still predominate, creating sunny openings and shady groves, and winding paths allow for pleasant strolling and changing views. In addition to documenting history, CYLA provided a Treatment Plan to guide future site improvements. The CLR Treatment Plan recommends re-establishment of some of the richness of the original Simonds Planting Plan, while staying aware of 21st century realities.
For example, Simonds’ use of shrub masses was a major element of his work, but the Treatment Plan uses them sparingly, due to event programming as well as security and maintenance concerns. Ornamental trees, which Simonds specified and which have largely disappeared from the park, are highly recommended because they add seasonal color and beauty at a human scale, complementing the existing canopy of larger trees.
As central anchor, the Daniel Burnham-designed Simmons Library continues to preside over the landscape, and the immediate neighborhood of residences and business district is similar in scale to 1900, when the Library opened. While Kenosha continues to grow, Library Park remains a green space that links the town to its early history, while staying adaptable to modern needs. Truly, the park is still playing the vital role of a public common as designated on the 1838 Southport plat.