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The Renwick Wildwood: 1916-1917 (Part Four of a Series)

By Jane Graves, Historian

(See also parts One, Two and Three)

During the spring of 1916, the CBC continued its custom of taking weekly field trips to the Wildwood. An article in the Cornell Daily Sun (May 11, 1916) states “On Saturday morning, meeting at the east gate of Percy Field at 6 a.m., the club will go through Renwick woods. Meetings and trips have been formerly open to the public, but are now restricted to members only. From 50 to 100 members usually participate in the weekly excursions…The classes are divided into sections, such as boys, girls, and adults, and each section is conducted by a competent leader…. The object of the trips is to learn the names, songs, and calls of the local birds, and how to identify them, as well as to become familiar with the habits of the various species.” [NOTE: in pre-Stewart Park days, the entrance to the Wildwood was from the east. Percy Field, where Ithaca High School now stands, was where many of Cornell’s athletic teams trained.]

As early as 1915, the desirability of creating a concrete arch to mark the approach to the Renwick Wildwood had been discussed by the CBC Executive Committee. The Report of the Secretary of the Cayuga Bird Club on the Activities of the Club from Jan 12, 1915 to Jan 15, 1916, states: “A plan for the building of a permanent and distinctive gateway to the Renwick sanctuary has been developed, a design made by Mr. Fuertes, and a fund started for its construction.” An article in the Ithaca Journal (May 4, 1915) outlined Fuertes’ plans for the arch: “The arch, if it can be financed, will be 11½ feet in height and the clearway will be 8 feet high and 6 feet in width. The club is of the opinion that the arch will be a great convenience, especially to those who do not know the exact location of the park. It is probable that a popular subscription will be taken up for the arch, which will entail a cost of $120. A suitable inscription will be placed on the arch.”

Louis Agassiz Fuertes at the Fuertes Arch entrance to Renwick
Wildwood. Photograph by A. A. Allen (Reprinted from Bird Lore, v.
20, Feb. 1918)






A year later, on May 5, 1916, the club had its annual field day. As reported in the May 6 Ithaca Journal: “More than 500 school children attended Field Day at the Renwick Wildwood yesterday afternoon when the cement arch which is to serve an entrance to the bird park was staked out, a permanent feeding station for birds was put in place, bird houses were put up, violets were planted about the site of the arch, dead branches were pruned off, and in general the appearance of the woods was improved through the work of the children who showed much enthusiasm. It is the aim of the Cayuga Bird Club which is in charge of the proposed arch to have it erected early this summer but so far the funds have not been forthcoming…..A city official, who was at the park yesterday, declared that he had no idea of the magnitude of the importance of such a bird sanctuary to a community until he saw the children yesterday engrossed in the work of beautifying the woods and eagerly signing their names to be placed in a box which will be put in the cornerstone of the arch.”

The arch was finally constructed in late spring 1917. The Executive Committee minutes of May 14 state that “Fuertes reports Contractor Nelson ready to start concrete arch at a cost not to exceed $87.50.” The dedication took place took place on June 10. The Ithaca Journal reported in its June 11 edition headlined: “Renwick Woods Arch Formally Dedicated; Handsome Entrance to Bird Park Is Turned Over to the City,” and that “The beautiful arch built by voluntary contributions of Ithacans who are interested in the bird sanctuary was veiled with large American flags early in the afternoon… Prof. J. G. Needham who acted as master of ceremonies described the bird park as containing more than 40 acres…which …provided a home for hundreds of birds. Professor Needham said that the preserve has already been fittingly dedicated by the school children who have spent many hours planting and putting the park in condition….L. A. Fuertes….told the audiences how much the birds appreciate the sanctuary…More than 200 species of birds, four-fifths of the total number listed for the Cayuga basin, have been found in the bird park…. Mr. Fuertes made the formal presentation to the city and Boy Scouts drew up the flags revealing the arch. Mayor F. E. Bates said that he accepted the arch in behalf of the city with a great deal of pleasure…” 

Also, during the spring of 1917, “Seven morning trips for the study of birds completed the fourth successful year of the Cayuga Bird Club. These trips were held in the Bird Club Sanctuary Saturday mornings, from April to June, and were well attended, requiring three or four sections each morning. L.A. Fuertes, A.A. Allen, Mrs. A.A. Allen, and C.W. Leister acted as leaders, and, owing to the retarded vegetation, unusual numbers of birds were seen.”  (Bird Lore, v.20, Feb. 1918)