A small, literary-themed park in Denver’s Lowry neighborhood touts itself as a space to “appreciate great literature,” but several of the quotations painted or sculpted around the grounds as a nod to writers and readers are misattributed or written incorrectly.
The Lowry Reading Garden, a 20-year-old pocket park tucked into a suburban neighborhood at 7908 E. Fifth Ave., offers public art, a community-contributed wall listing favorite books, a Little Free Library and seating options to plop down with a good read.
However, some of the park’s literary touches could have used a little proofreading.
Crystal Ferreira, a history and philosophy teacher, lives close to the park and was disappointed to find errors sprinkled throughout the space.
“I’m very familiar with the authors of the quotes,” Ferreira said. “If a good friend of yours was misquoted, you’d immediately recognize it.”
Among the mistakes: A quote attributed to Yogi Berra sculpted at one end of the park reads, “You can observe a lot just by looking.” That’s close, but the quote that gives Berra’s autobiography its title is, “You can observe a lot by watching.”
A quotation painted on a wall leading into the park — “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions” — is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. But when the phrase is searched online, it’s credited to both Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., demonstrating the danger in relying on a search engine to divine a quotation’s provenance.
Emerson expert Wesley T. Mott, a former professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, confirmed to The Denver Post that the quote didn’t come from the 19th century poet and essayist.
“The ‘quotation’ seems somehow based in Emerson but it’s either simply inaccurate or was found in the work of someone else who borrowed from or paraphrased or just loosely recalled what Emerson actually wrote,” Mott said.
Ferreira said the quote comes from Holmes’ 1858 book “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.”
Another quotation etched into cement at the park, one commonly attributed to Groucho Marx (though there’s some dispute about that), reads: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. That’s because inside a dog it’s too dark to read anyway.” But the word “anyway” is an extraneous addition.
The Lowry Community Master Association and the Lowry Foundation maintain the pocket park.
When asked how these errors occurred, Jamie Melissa Wilms, executive director of the Lowry Foundation, said the park was installed 20 years ago.
“We have been made aware of the situation and we are looking into it further,” Wilms said.
If it were up to Ferreira, she would leave the incorrect quotes in the park with the addition of plaques explaining and correcting each mistake.
The plaques, she said, should read: “Combat poor scholarship. Always ask: ‘How do you know that?’ Quotes on the internet are often wrong, so check the primary sources. Remember the journalistic leitmotif: ‘If your mother says she loves you, check it out.’”
“It’s a valuable lesson for everyone today,” Ferreira said. “It would be a much more valuable reminder for our society than just erasing and hiding the mistakes, which is surely what Lowry will choose to do.”
Despite the literary goofs, the garden has been praised in years past.
The Lowry Reading Garden was voted “best pocket park in Denver” in 2016 by alt-weekly Westword and garnered the Mayor’s Design Award in 2009 — honoring projects throughout Denver for excellence in architecture, exterior design and place-making.
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