Jens Jensen and the Racine, Wisconsin parks
Jens Jensen was a prominent landscape architect whose designs emphasized the unique landscape features of the Midwest. As a strong advocate of conservation, Jensen used native plant materials and forms to express the vanishing Midwestern landscape. Jensen was a true artist and is most often recognized as the master of this uniquely Midwestern style. In 1905 he was employed by the city of Racine to design a system of parks. Racine's mayor had recently appointed a Park Board to consider the future recreational needs of the city and citizens, which at the time had only Mound Cemetery as a place to spend Sundays and holidays. From 1906 to 1914, Jensen completed plans for an entire park system for Racine, including specific plans for four parks, a bathing beach and Monument Square. The natural resources of the city were suited to Jensen's prairie style, and he emphasized the conservation and utilization of the Root River, shoreline of Lake Michigan, woods and meadows strongly in his work. The designs are unque because they successfully integrated recreational facilities into the aesthetic setting of a park. This paper will address the history, development and design of the Racine parks, emphasizing their local and national significance as surviving examples of Jens Jensen's philosophies and Midwestern style.