Louis Agassiz Fuertes Memorial Bird Sanctuary: A Chronology Part II

-by Jane Graves, Historian

As stated in Part I of this article, construction of the sanctuary began in March 1928. As reported in the “Ithaca Journal-News,” March 15, p.5: “ Dredging Pond at Park for Bird Sanctuary…Excavation of the moat, surrounding the island which will be one of the features of the Fuertes Memorial Sanctuary in Stewart Park, has been completed by the Miscall Crane Service Company, and work has started this week dredging out the pond. The moat connects at each end with the pond. The moat is 12 feet wide and four feet deep. The pond will be about four deep in the center with sloping sides forming a basin. Outlets to Cayuga Lake on the north and to Fall Creek on the southwest will be formed to provide a current through the pond. The connections of the moat will also provide circulating water in that part of the area. The island formed by the pond on one side and the surrounding moat will be planted for the attraction of water birds. The moat is designed to keep cats and other marauding animals from the birds….. Drilling will be started in the near future for an artesian well from 80 to 100 feet deep which will be located to the southeast of the pond. The well is expected to provide flowing water throughout the year and aide in keeping the pond clear of ice during the Winter months…” 

Although work on the sanctuary did go forward during the remainder of the spring, it was slowed by high lake levels, as noted in an article headlined ”High Level of Lake Will be Investigated,” which stated that work on the Fuertes Memorial had been halted and that other sections of the park had been damaged due to high water (“Ithaca Journal,” Apr. 26, p.7). 

In the “Cornell Alumni News,” Apr. 30, 1931, an announcement reads: “Fund Sought to Finish Bird Sanctuary. The Cayuga Bird Club will campaign for a $500 fund this Spring to complete the memorial to Louis A. Fuertes ’97 at Stewart Park. The memorial, in the form of a refuge for waterfowl, was begun two years ago. Funds are now required to complete grading and planting and to erect stone pillars upon which bronze plaques are to be placed….” 

The Memorial Gateway and Lookout at the Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Water-Fowl Refuge. Photograph reprinted from “Bird Lore,” Sept-Oct

1934, p.283.

According to Arthur Allen’s article, “A Living Memorial to Louis Agassiz Fuertes,” in the Sep-Oct. 1934, issue of “Bird Lore,”: “The pond itself with its encircling fence was built in 1928 and 1929…and while it almost immediately became popular with the water-fowl, observing the birds at close range was always more or less obstructed by the fence.”

Although the bird club had played an active role in fundraising, the Fuertes Memorial Fund had been initially administered by a Citizen’s Committee. The fund was transferred from its treasurer, Albert W. Smith (husband of Ruby Green Smith, founder of the CBC), to the Cayuga Bird Club treasurer, Mrs. A. H. Wright, on March 7, 1929. The bank account book exists in the Bird Club archives in the Kroch Library #1996, Box 1. 

To continue with Arthur Allen’s description of the need for an observation platform from his 1934 “Bird Lore” article: “After visiting the Detroit Zoo at the time of the A.O.U. Meeting in 1931, a group of us decided that we ought to have some method of observing the Ducks in our refuge without having to look through or over a fence. Accordingly, we drew up a tentative design, which, after passing though the hands of more experienced draftsmen, finally resulted in the stone gateway and look out shown in the accompanying photograph….” 

Paid invoice for the construction of the Memorial Gateway and Lookout,

April, 1933. From Cayuga Bird Club archives, Kroch Library.

The funds were raised by a public lecture given by George Miksch Sutton, which was covered in the “Ithaca Journal- News,” May 2, 1931, p.5: “Large Audience at Bird Club Lecture for Fuertes Fund” and reads as follows: “A large audience last night attended an illustrated lecture given by George Miksch Sutton, noted painter and explorer. Mr. Sutton’s lecture was on ‘A Year in Arctic with Camera and Brush.’ The lecture was given under the auspices of the Cayuga Bird Club and the proceeds will be used to help complete the Louis Agassiz Fuertes memorial bird sanctuary at the head Cayuga Bird Club and the proceeds will be used to help complete the Louis Agassiz Fuertes memorial bird sanctuary at the head of Cayuga Lake…” 

The work wasn’t completed until the spring of 1933, when the “Ithaca Journal-News” reported: “Gateway Will be Dedicated by Bird Club,” noting “A memorial gateway in honor of Louis Agassiz Fuertes will be dedicated by the Cayuga Bird Club in Stewart Park at 5 o’clock Memorial Day afternoon. Dr. A. A. Allen, Cornell ornithologist and president of the club which raised money for the gateway, will make the speech of dedication. Mayor Herman Bergholtz will respond on behalf of the city. The stone structure stands at the west end of the park, and gives entrance to an observation area projection over the water fowl refuge. Observers of birds will be able to stand on this platform and study the birds below without having to look over a barring fence. The bronze tablet on the gateway has been designed by Prof. A. W. Smith.” Arthur Allen reported in the “Bird Lore” article that “The cost of building was considerably reduced by the City Engineer and Superintendent of Public Works, who willingly took charge of the actual construction, and by using some of the unemployed we were able to secure state aid which was available at that time.” 

See Also: The Renwick Wildwood: Part One (Inception 1913-1914), Part Two (1915) , and Part Three (1916-1917)