- George Kessler
George Edward Kessler (
July 16, 1862– March 20, 1923) was a German Americanpioneer city plannerand landscape architect.
George Kessler was born in
Frankenhausen, Germanyto Edward Carl Kessler and Clotilde Kessler. The family moved to New York Cityand spent time in Missouriand Wisconsinbefore ultimately winding up in Dallas, Texasin 1865 where his father and uncle invested in a cotton plantation. His father died a short time later leaving him to be supported by his his widowed mother, who taught French and art to support the two. [ [http://www.georgekessler.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=48&Itemid=51 The City Beautiful Movement in Kansas City - Georgkessler.org - Retrieved July 13, 2008] ] George worked as a cashboy at Sanger Harris Dry Goods [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/KK/fke44.html Handbook of Texas Online] - [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/KK/fke44.html KESSLER, GEORGE E.] . Retrieved 18 May 2006.] .
Kessler moved to
Europeand studied civic design and botany in Germany(with a formal education at the University of Jena), France, and Russia. In 1882 he moved to New York Citywhere he worked for a seed company at the age of 20.
Frederick Law Olmstedwho helped him get a job as Superintendent of Parks for the small Kansas City, Fort Scott, and Gulf Railroadand he moved to Kansas City, Missouri. He was responsible for landscaping the railroad's train stations and oversaw a 1,500 acre forest near Farlington, Kansas, which was used for railroad ties.
Kessler caught th eye of Kansas City officials when he created a park for the railroad in
Merriam, Kansasprompting Kansas City residents to take an excursion train to it. [ [http://www.georgekessler.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=47&Itemid=52 First Job - georgekessler.org] ]
In 1887 Kessler was commissioned to bring order to a hollow that formed the center of a booming Kansas City's fashionable Hyde Park neighborhood] . Kessler landscaped the hollow and then encircled it with a boulevard to prevent houses from turning it into part of their backyards. The layout spurred sales of stately homes along it. [ [http://www.georgekessler.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=46&Itemid=53 Hyde Park - georgekessler.org - Retrieved July 13, 2008] ]
The success of the project drew the attention of
The Kansas City Starpublisher William Rockhill Nelsonwho would champion the City Beautiful Movement.
On May 31, 1890, Kessler applied to become the city's landscape architect for the city's newly created Park Board. Following court challenges on whether the city could issue bonds to fund parks, Kansas City finally got the approvals to create a park board on March 5, 1892 thanks to the efforts of
August Meyer. Kessler had earlier designed the grounds of Meyer's house in what is today's Kansas City Art Institute. Kansas City's model for park and boulevard systems would be used by numerous cities. Kessler was hired as the board's engineer. [ [http://www.georgekessler.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=45&Itemid=54 Kansas City's System - georgekessler.org - Retrieved July 13, 2008] ]
Kessler would work with Meyer to lay out the city's
street gridincluding a park boulevard system. The initial 1893 plan called for 9.85 miles of boulevards and 323.45 acres of parks.
On May 14, 1900 Kessler married Ida Grant Field of Kansas City, Missouri. They had one son, George Edward Kessler, Jr.
Beginning in 1901 through 1914 Kessler designed the Memphis Park and Parkway System. His plan for Memphis included two major urban parks and a loop of landscaped roadway connecting them. [ [http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=M077 Memphis Park and Parkway System] Retrieved 28 May 2007] In 1904, he designed and landscaped the grounds at the
Louisiana Purchase Expositionin St. Louis.
The same year he also designed
Fair Parkin Dallas, but his biggest gift to that city was his Kessler Plan, which he created in 1909. That year the Dallas Chamber of Commerce established the City Plan and Improvement League and hired Kessler to design a long-range plan of civic improvements for Dallas. His plans included fixing the uncontrollable flooding of the Trinity River, fixing narrow, crooked downtown streets, and fixing dangerous railroadcrossings. At that time his plans were not implemented and were deemed "impractical," but later it became very clear that changes were needed.
In 1910 he moved to
St. Louis, Missouri.
In 1918 Kessler returned to act as consulting engineer for the Dallas Property Owner's Association and in 1919 began working for the Metropolitan Development Association of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. On 3 January 1922, he returned to St. Louis. His plans for the Trinity River were finally implemented in the 1930s.
He died in Indianapolis, survived by his wife and son. In Dallas, the
Kessler Parkneighborhood is named for him. In Indianapolis, a major street, Kessler Boulevard, is named for him. There is another Kessler Boulevard in Longview, Washington, also named for him.
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