Thursday, July 14, 2011
I found this oil painting in a junque shop several weeks ago. It reminds me of Riverview Park in Hannibal, Missouri designed by O. C. Simonds (1855 - 1931). He was one of the second generation of landscape designers here in the Midwest and a founding member in the late 1890s in both the professional organization for landscape architects and the Parks and Outdoor Art Association. Simonds' name is most closely associated with Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. He was superintendent/designer of this Midwestern rural cemetery from 1881 until 1898.
Ossian Cole Simonds followed in the footsteps of my man H. W. S. Cleveland (1814 - 1900). Both men built flourishing practices in Chicago. After Cleveland's death, Simonds picked up several commissions that updated, or expanded, some of Cleveland's original park and cemetery designs. In Cedar Rapids, IA both men pinned their names on Oak Hill Cemetery...Cleveland in 1869 and 1880; Simonds in 1911. In Illinois, both men were commissioned by the Quincy Park and Boulevard Association - Cleveland during the late 1890s, then Simonds in the early 20th century. These designers laid out a park system that was expanded over time by way of stately boulevards connecting these public spaces.
Simonds ventured a little further down river when he was asked to lay out Riverview Park in Hannibal, MO. His hand is still evident in this park that was recently placed on the National Register of Historical Places. During the final leg of my 2010 Sacred Vacation/Mother of All Road Trips, I was able to take in this magnificent view of the Mississippi River from a lookout point in the park.
When I first spotted the painting, I stood transfixed. Deja vu. This spot was where I stood last summer. This is what I saw from that bluff overlooking the Mighty Mississippi. I googled the painter, but nothing revealed itself to connect this painting with the river or this park. I know what is in my mind's eye and my gut tells me this is O.C. Simonds' Riverview Park.