The first site visit occurs during the week prior to “Columbus” or “Discovery Day.” (This ambiguity associated with naming is also manifest in the naming of the place in which the first monument stands.)
As we depart from the northwest door of the Conte Arts Magnet School, we can see through the linear columns of the portico a wall of green trees and other plantings. This greenspace is our destination. Stepping down from the concrete slab, our view opens to a street lined with large houses made of a variety of materials and utilizing an equal diversity of styles. On our right, there is a large, spired, white church.
Crossing the street, we observe that the trees and lawn are enclosed in a black fence. The curved shapes of this fence suggests that it might be composed of either iron or wood. Only by touching it do we learn that it is indeed made of iron. This fence runs in a mirrored, cycloid pattern between squarish stone posts and surrounds the entire park, except where it opens to provide entry. Passing through one of these openings, on the black macadam path, we can see that the trees are very tall and straight. Some of thesetrees have trunks which rise to fifteen or eighteen feet before their cylindrical masses are interrupted by a limb. There are two deductions that can be made from these descriptive facts. First, these trees are very old. Second, their clean and straight lines suggest human cultivation. As we turn and look at the continuous band of short, broadcrowned trees planted along the perimeter of the park inside the fence, we observe further evidence of this possibility. We proceed further into this grove of graceful columns and notice that the path is lined with concrete and painted wooden benches. When we arrive at the center of the park, we observe eight radiating lines (paths) at equal angles to each other. The feeling of convergence is strong here. Although it is difficult to see from this point, we can confirm that the entire park is surrounded by the facades of still more houses and other buildings.
We make our way along the path toward a colorful patch of flowers. As we near it, we can see that the plantings are arranged in what one student clearly identifies as a triangle. Another student observes that this plot is enclosed in a thick, iron chain that is suspended between a series of onefoot iron posts. He has acquired this measurement with the aid of the tape measure that we have brought along. He uses this instrument to measure the dimensions of the triangular garden and to determine the distance between the posts. This quantification is an essential and primary means of describing the monument. Knowledge of these facts will be used to further describe the monument based on more subjective procedures. They will be used to determine the scale of the objects within this area. This physical element of scale characterizes our relationship to the monument as well.
After we have concluded these areal measurements, another student begins to measure the stone obelisk which rises in the center of this small geometric array of objects. This stone is precisely cut and polished. One student begins to read from the rectangular plaque, which she has found attached to the southernmost face of the obelisk. She tells us that the marker was placed there to commemorate the deeds of the revolutionary war general, David Wooster. She adds that the park is named after him and that we are in a historic district, noted for its fine residential architecture. Furthermore, we learn that the park has been here since the 1320’s. Another student measures the plaque as I inform them that these words are a form of iconographic information and that the obelisk is a form that originated in Egypt and has often been used in monuments.
Just as I am completing this statement, a call is heard from another part of the park. One boy has discovered another monument. We cross the green lawn and see a tall, sixfoot, iron fence: surrounding another area of floral plantings. Behind this fence is a six foot, pyramidal block of roughcut, rectangular stones. Standing on the top of this stone pyramid is a larger thanlifesize, bronzecast, clothed, human figure. He holds in his hand a sphere and he gestures with the other. I instruct one of the students to begin measuring the area enclosed by the fence by pacing the perimeter. This approximate form of measurement is often sufficient to establish adequate description of large objects.
During this process she reads an inscription she has noticed on the stone base: “1492—Cristoforo Columbo—1892.” I have previously heard this park referred to as Columbus Park. After sharing this with them, we discuss this ambiguity of nomenclature and compare it with that of the upcoming holiday, which is also doubly named. They now break up into two groups to complete the measurement of the two monuments. Having completed this phase of the process, they carry out a variety of recording procedures, making a map of the monuments, photographing, and drawing them.
When this is completed, we gather together again to continue describing the Columbus statue, paying close attention to the color of the metal, the distribution of lights and darks, and the contrasting textures of metal and stone. I direct a series of questions to focus their attention on the patterns created by the placement of stones and their joints. The conflicting lines of the surrounding fence, which rises to the height of the stone pyramid, are observed for the juxtaposed pattern they create. A discussion of the figure of Columbus ensues and I point out the accuracy of detail, in his clothing, appropriate to his pose and gesture.
With the completion of these observations, the introduction to descriptive procedures has been accomplished. We may now proceed to more subjective interactions.