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Frederick Law Olmsted

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Frederick Law Olmsted
Portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted.jpg
Born(1822-04-26)April 26, 1822[1]
DiedAugust 28, 1903(1903-08-28) (aged 81)
OccupationLandscape architect
Spouse(s)Mary Cleveland Perkins
ChildrenJohn Charles, Charlotte, Owen, and Marion and Frederick Law Jr.
Parent(s)John and Charlotte Olmsted
Signature
Appletons' Olmsted Frederick Law signature.jpg

Frederick Law Olmsted (April 26, 1822 – August 28, 1903) was an American landscape architect, journalist, social critic, and public administrator. He is popularly considered to be the father of American landscape architecture. Olmsted was famous for co-designing many well-known urban parks with his senior partner Calvert Vaux, including Central Park in New York City, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York and Cadwalader Park in Trenton.[2] He headed the pre-eminent landscape architecture and planning consultancy of late nineteenth-century America, which was carried on and expanded by his sons, Frederick Jr and John C, under the name Olmsted Brothers.[3]

Other projects that Olmsted was involved in include the country's first and oldest coordinated system of public parks and parkways in Buffalo, New York; the country's oldest state park, the Niagara Reservation in Niagara Falls, New York; one of the first planned communities in the United States, Riverside, Illinois; Mount Royal Park in Montreal, Quebec; the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut; the Emerald Necklace in Boston, Massachusetts; Highland Park in Rochester, New York; Belle Isle Park, in the Detroit River for Detroit, Michigan; the Grand Necklace of Parks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Cherokee Park and entire parks and parkway system in Louisville, Kentucky; the 735-acre (297 ha) Forest Park in Springfield, Massachusetts, featuring America's first public "wading pool";[4][5] the George Washington Vanderbilt II Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina; the master plans for the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Maine, and Stanford University near Palo Alto, California, as well as for The Lawrenceville School; and Montebello Park in St. Catharines, Ontario. In Chicago his projects include: Jackson Park; Washington Park; the Midway Plaisance for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition; the south portion of Chicago's "emerald necklace" boulevard ring; and the University of Chicago campus. In Washington, D.C., he worked on the landscape surrounding the United States Capitol building.

The quality of Olmsted's landscape architecture was recognized by his contemporaries, who showered him with prestigious commissions. Daniel Burnham said of him, "He paints with lakes and wooded slopes; with lawns and banks and forest-covered hills; with mountainsides and ocean views ..."[6] His work, especially in Central Park in New York City, set a standard of excellence that continues to influence landscape architecture in the United States. He was an early and important activist in the conservation movement, including work at Niagara Falls; the Adirondack region of upstate New York; and the National Park system; and though little known, played a major role in organizing and providing medical services to the Union Army in the Civil War.[7]

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  • ✪ Frederick Law Olmsted Lecture: Aaron Sachs
  • ✪ Frederick Law Olmsted Jr: A Vision for the American West: Regionalism in California
  • ✪ Gardens Around the World: Frederick Law Olmsted’s Public Landscape
  • ✪ Frederick Law Olmsted | Louisville's Olmsted Parks | KET
  • ✪ Justin Martin - Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted - September 7, 2011

Transcription

Welcome. And I see many guests from outside. Aaron, you must be a superstar. I'm Anita Berrizbeitia. I'm Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture. And thank you, everyone, for coming. I am very happy to introduce Aaron Sachs to those of you that don't know him. He's Professor of History and American Studies at Cornell University. And he will talk to us tonight about a history of environmental justice. Environmental justice has been a core value of landscape architecture in the United States since the field was founded at the end of the 19th century. We can argue that Olmsted was first an advocate for environmental justice and then a landscape architect. Perhaps even, but in landscape architecture, he found the most productive venue for acting on his advocacy. And many in that generation of landscape architects were as invested in seeing the laws passed to protect landscapes as they were in making projects. That commitment to sustained reflection on the relationship between economy, environment, and people has been consistent in our field to this very day. One well-known example, a very recent example, is Kate Orff's and Richard Misrach's Petrochemical America a photographic and cartographic analysis of pollution and the effects of African-American communities in what is known now as "Cancer alley." Yet, although filled with good intentions, our discipline has been, and to this day, is, continuously faced with ambivalence, contradictions, and difficult ethical dilemmas for which there are no easy answers. As geographer Don Mitchell has written, "Landscape hides all kinds of economic and social inequities beneath its scenographic beauty." And while recognizing the imperative to expose the dark side of landscape, I am equally interested in the unfinished, unresolved project of landscape. By this, I mean the productive effects that this ambivalence can have in our work-- how it moves us to innovate, to navigate between conflicting aims, to search for a better relationship with the natural world. For this, we rely on the help of historians, and especially, on our Aaron Sachs, whose work probes these difficult questions. Aaron received his Bachelor of Arts in History and Literature from Harvard University, where he wrote his thesis on Clarence King and the great frontier surveys of the American West. He went on to pursue a PhD in American studies at Yale, for which he wrote a dissertation on Alexander Humboldt. His first book, The Humboldt Current-- Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism, addresses the complexities of the famous explorer, scientist, abolitionist, and proponent of the interconnection of all of nature. To this day, Humboldt's sections that correlate elevation with species distribution and spatial pattern continue to be core knowledge in our field. Yet at the same time that Humboldt, through his great vision for a unified natural order, he argued against slave-based economies and against colonialism. He also surveyed and mapped mines to support mineral extraction of silver and gold on behalf of his imperial funders. Sachs then maps out for us not just the connections, the various currents between Humboldt and American-environmental thought, but also, the complex relationships between romantic and utilitarian notions of nature that define so much of cultural production in 19th-century America. For his second book, Sachs turns from exploration in distant territories to repose and commemoration nearby. Arcadian America-- The Death and Life of an Environmental Tradition revisits places that were designed specifically for mourning and remembrance-- Mount Auburn Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow and the Native American burial ground are three seminal landscapes in the history of our field. Together, these two books map extreme scales of landscape engagement, from the global to the immediate and domestic, from the scientific to the deeply personal. While doing so, Aaron Sachs has written, in addition to Humboldt, about Olmsted, Andrew Jackson Downing, Horace Cleveland, Henry David Thoreau, landscape painters, such as Frederic Church and Albert Bierstadt, geologist Louis Agassiz and Asa Grey. That is the full constellation of characters around which the field has developed. He is currently working on Lewis Mumford, and green urbanism, and on the history of environmental justice, about which we will hear more tonight. A vivid writer, both lyrical and humorous, around Sachs's works lies at the intersection of environmental and landscape architectural history, and as such, gives us greater insights into the broader meanings of design. We are very pleased to have you with us here. Please join me in welcoming Aaron Sachs as the [inaudible] Olmstead lecturer. Thank you so much, Anita, for that really kind introduction. Also, thank you for inviting me here. It's an honor. Thanks also to Ken Stewart, and Paige Johnston, and Alaina Fernandes. And of course, thanks to all of you for being here in the calm before the storm. I'm honored to be giving the Olmsted Lecture. I'm also just delighted to be here. I grew up in Newton, just a few miles away from here and still love coming back to the Boston area. It's definitely home for me. I'm also just so grateful that the Red Sox finally signed JD Martinez, because the offense was really a mess last year. I should acknowledge at the outset that my guiding influence, whenever I give a talk, is Thoreau, who said in Walden that what he looks for in his reading is "perpetual suggestions and provocations." And he also said in a week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers that he thought, a good book is one that makes its readers dangerous to existing institutions-- just so you know my intentions. And that leads me to the launching point for this talk, which is a picture of my car. It has New York plates now. But I actually inherited it from my mother. And you can see from the stickers where my allegiances lie. And of course, it's a Prius. And I just I Find. It so interesting that this one model of car has come to symbolize American environmentalism so thoroughly. I'm sure many of you in this room, if you drive a car, drive a Prius. And we all, I'm sure, love the great mileage that it gets. Personally I also love the way that it handles. I've found that I really only need to use one hand on the steering wheel, which leaves the other hand free to pat myself on the back. And I wanted you to know about a new Prius that is becoming available very soon. [video playback] - A lot of auto makers are rolling out green-energy vehicles. But Toyota says its newest Prius is the most environmentally friendly car ever produced. The secret-- it kills its driver. Toyota calls it the Prius Solution. When the driver enters the Solution, the doors automatically lock. And a seat belt secures him in place. Then it's time for Toyota's revolutionary eco-spike technology to go to work, impaling the driver through the heart and lungs. Ads for the solution tout the fact that it's the only car out there guaranteed to reduce its drivers carbon footprint to 0. - The newest member of the Prius family is the greenest member-- Prius Solution. When you're dead, you can't pollute. - Over 1,000 eco-conscious Americans have already preordered the Solution. - I mean, if you care about the planet at all, it's the best car you can get. If your car doesn't kill you, it's like, what's even the point? - The car does have its critics. Some are complaining it's irresponsible of Toyota to not use recycled materials in the construction of the Solutions killing spikes. But Toyota is betting on customizable features, like the family Solution, which kills up to six people at once, and the Green Gardner, which grinds the body of the driver into an organic fertilizer to create healthy demand for the Solution. Members of the media will get a chance to test-drive the Solution at Toyota's annual Green Car Convention this Friday. And this lucky reporter happens to be on the guest list. So for the last time ever, for Tech Trends, I'm Scott McKay. [end playback] OK, I am working on another talk called "The Climate Change Comedy Hour." but don't worry. This is not that talk. This is the environmental justice talk. I promise. So it's funny. It's also a little bit uncomfortable, which means I have you right where I want you. It's funny, I think, for a number of reasons, among them, that the environmental movement has always been a little bit anti-human. It's as if environmentalists have bought into a notion of human nature that sees overconsumption and destructiveness as the two clear overriding tendencies in our species. So then it becomes logical to eliminate destructive behavior, with something like the Prius Solution, in order to meet the goal of saving the planet-- rather abstract goal. I actually have a friend and colleague named Jenny Price, who's working on a book with the working title right now of Stop Saving the Planet, which I would highly recommend when it comes out. It's strange, I think, that so many of us are still so focused on that abstraction of the planet. Remember learning in school that there are basically three metanarratives that create dramatic tension in literature? There is man-versus-man. And I'm sorry for the sexist language. But this is how we all learned it-- man-versus-man, man-versus-himself, and man-versus-nature. Well, it's as if environmentalists only learned the last two. What about man-versus-man? What about the social, political, economic, and cultural context for environmental degradation? The domination of nature, historically, has always been intertwined with the domination of some people by others. And anyway, aren't we really talking not about saving the planet, but trying to save the human beings who are living on the planet? And once we're talking about saving people, don't we need to acknowledge that some people are far more vulnerable than others, and that their vulnerability is not their fault, nor random, but rather directly related to the historical trajectories of especially capitalism and colonialism, both of which have explicitly treated certain groups as expendable? In other words, I think we need to attach the idea of justice to our environmentalism if we want to have a meaningful movement. And in fact, the environmental-justice movement now, perhaps best represented by the climate-justice movement, has provided great cause for hope-- for me, anyway. But then again, what is climate justice? And I don't ask this cynically in any way. I'm not trying to be like one of those critics of the Occupy movement who berated them for not having a clear vision of what they wanted. I think, for me anyway, it was clear from the beginning that they wanted to get the question of economic inequality back into the public conversation. And I think they actually did that quite successfully. And that was part of the reason Bernie Sanders had such momentum in the first half of 2016. And if our democratic institutions were somewhat more robust, then he probably would have won. But back to the question, what is climate justice? And I see it as a true epistemological problem clearly related to the centuries-old problem of defining justice full-stop. We can begin to see what climate injustice is, because we know that the richer, more industrial nations created global warming and the poorer, less industrial nations are experiencing the worst impacts of global warming. We can look at the 2 billion people living in dry-land environments who are finding their traditional farming techniques are not working so well anymore. We can look at the tens of millions of refugees who are fleeing from coasts, and islands, and delta regions because of higher-frequency and higher-intensity storms and the resulting damage from wind and water. And of course, we can look back at the industrial world's investments in towering buildings, elaborate energy and transport systems, and massive manufacturing operations, all of which demand more and more fossil-fuel consumption. So the ethics are pretty clear here. What is not so clear is what to aim for in addressing this kind of massive problem. Just to start with, the obvious way to get at the root of the problem is to stop releasing carbon into the atmosphere. But that does absolutely nothing for the people who are suffering from climate change right now. It's the tired, old climate-change question of mitigation versus adaptation. The international community is starting to have a conversation about human beings' rights with regard to climate and environment, and also, just as important, about nations duties and responsibility. But the conversation has a long way to go. Scholars and activists are coming at this problem from every angle you can imagine. Legal studies, sociology, cultural studies, literature, ethics, political theory, and publications about environmental justice and climate justice have exploded in the past 10 years or so. I'm proposing here just to make some small contribution by attempting to think historically about the problem. Historical thinking has some advantages, I think, in this context. Perhaps the key lesson of historical analysis is that all change is contingent. Nothing is inevitable. And that alone is good grounds for hope. And hope is one thing we need. History has a lot more ethical purchase, also, than something like climatology, for instance, because history is based on the facts of what has happened instead of on models designed to forecast our future. History can, of course, be depressing, because it forces us to confront the truth of how consistently human beings have perpetrated horrors on one another. But it can also be profoundly connective. In the case of environmental history, it can remind us that societies have survived and thrived under many different kinds of circumstances, including many different kinds of energy regimes. In the end, I think most people find something resonant about the question of where we came from and how we got to where we are today. My parents were homebodies and did not take my sister and me out very much. But I remember very vividly, when I was a kid, the one time I went to the MFA. This was the painting that I remembered seeing. And my father was a professor of French and explained that this is asking the question, where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? Of course, climate justice and environmental justice have relatively short histories. In the last couple of decades, it's become clear that both movements have incredible potential for breadth, and solidarity, and constructive action. But both have also been hampered by significant problems-- by vagueness about what they are and what they're doing, by internal divisions, , and especially by the charge of nimbyism and general negativity. I'm sure you guys have encountered the acronym, "NIMBY," Not In My Back Yard. "Backyard" becomes two words to make it a better-sounding word. "Nimbyism"-- that's been around for quite a while. More recently, there's another acronym that's been thrown around, which is "BANANA." You might not know this one. It's, Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. Certainly, part of the problem with environmental justice comes from the complexity of how environmental and social issues intertwine. But part of it also comes from the very specific history of our thinking about environmental justice. In theory, environmental justice is fundamentally the goal of equalizing the distribution of environmental benefits and environmental burdens-- benefits being things like, clean air, clean water, green space, soil; and burdens being really, any form of pollution, or climate instability, loss of biodiversity, impoverishment of ecosystems. But in practice, the environmental-justice movement has almost always crystallized around instances of injustice-- organizing, gaining momentum in order to halt construction of an incinerator in a minority neighborhood or to sue a chemical company for poisoning working-class citizens who had very few affordable housing options. Most environmental-justice narratives that have reached the general public basically follow the story line of the film, Erin Brockovich. That's from the year 2000. And I if you haven't seen it or you don't remember it, there's a cancer cluster. Turns out that the utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, has been paying people off, taking care of their medical bills, and covering up the fact that they've been releasing hexavalent chromium, which is an anticorrosive chemical. In this case, it was being used for cooling towers at a compressor station for a natural gas pipeline. So there's a successful lawsuit, which makes for a happy ending. Julia Roberts gets a $2 million bonus. Lawmakers even make a very tiny adjustment in the amount of chromium that's allowed in the environment. And then we're back to business as usual. Most scholarly work actually follows this same story line, with just one difference. In the movie, it's Hollywood. Everybody's white. In the scholarly work, it's almost always about communities of color. And in fact, most scholars, I think, would trace the environmental-justice movement in this country back to Afton, North Carolina, in September, 1982, where environmental justice was really first defined as "environmental racism." The state of North Carolina had applied to the EPA for a permit to dump 29,000 metric tons of soil contaminated with PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, the chemical that had made Love Canal famous in 1978. Afton was 84% African-American, had a median annual income of $6,984. And EPA's own rules should have made it impossible for this to happen, because according to their own regulations, there has to be a 50-foot buffer between ground surface and underground water table. But in Afton, the underground water table was between 10 and 15 feet below the surface. And as it happens, almost all of the residents of the town got their water from wells. Nevertheless EPA granted the permit-- were in the Reagan years, remember. And I put a little note in my talk here saying, "Don't rant," because I can't I can't believe that people are looking so fondly back on the Reagan years these days. But I won't get into that. There were 500 demonstrators arrested. And among the marchers were white male farmers from the surrounding countryside, white female environmentalists who had been radicalized by Love Canal, worried black mothers from Afton proper, and some of the most prominent African-American men in the country. This person in the front is the Reverend, Benjamin Chaffetz Jr., who later went on to cloud Director of NAACP. So this was really an exciting and promising coalition of environmental types on the one hand, and social justice and civil-rights types on the other. North Carolina soil had become a kind of common ground. The one major downside, which is not really unpredictable, was that there was no support from the major mainstream environmental groups. They were focused on other things. Nevertheless, even though the state of North Carolina succeeded in building its hazardous-waste facility, even though US environmentalism continued to focus more, in general, on wilderness wildlife, this uprising at Afton did become an inspirational illustration of the potential for a broad spectrum of activists to join together in challenging the structures of social and ecological domination. The environmental-justice movement made great strides in the 1980s and '90s. New activist groups formed, new scholarship started coming out. At the grassroots, organizations demanded more information about toxics, more transparency, even more inclusion in environmental decision-making. Scholars, meanwhile, were proving quite vividly that the most vulnerable communities around the world, usually poor people of color, were breathing the most polluted air, drinking the most polluted water-- basically being treated as expendable-- again, very clear ethical implications, in fact, much clearer than in many of the other major environmental disputes of the late 20th century involving things like spotted owls and dammed rivers. I happened to start a job in an environmental organization in DC called the Worldwatch Institute in January of 1993-- this was after college for me-- the same week that Bill Clinton and Al Gore started their new jobs in DC. And it was a time of really great hope for anyone who was interested in environmental justice. In 1991, the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit had produced 17 core principles of environmental justice, which encompassed not just sustainability and antiracism, as you might expect, but, also discourses of public health, human rights, antimilitarism, self-determination, political participation. And then in 1994, President Clinton issued an executive order specifically on environmental justice, which was designed to prevent the practice of placing hazardous-waste facilities in the kinds of communities that were least-well equipped to mount a protest. That had been a very explicit strategy. And many of us at the time were really encouraged by this executive order and thought that it might even help manufacturers start trying to find ways of producing less hazardous material in the first place. Unfortunately, at the same time, Clinton was making it easier for companies to shift their dirtiest operations to other countries via NAFTA and GATT, for example. And then by the late 1990s, global climate change was starting to dominate environmental discourse. And when you're invoking planetary crisis and impending doom, then the lens of environmental justice starts to seem narrow and local. And so it fell off for a little while. When I was at Worldwatch, I tried to jump on the environmental-justice bandwagon and published this paper. And I show it just because I got it out a few weeks ago to reread it. And I was just kind of touched by remembering this moment when nonprofit workers would produce these little pamphlets and hand them around to other nonprofit workers, and professors, and graduate students. And it just it seem so different today with the internet. But I stand by the effort that I made in that paper to frame environmental justice in the broadest terms possible to examine overlaps of social and environmental issues at every scale, starting with individuals who have been deprived of basic human rights, because of their environmental activism, for instance, to specific local communities that, say, have higher asthma rates because of air pollution, to nations who might be struggling with cross-border pollution problems or something like regional water scarcity, to international organizations, like the UN, seeking to protect both the substantive human right to a clean environment and the procedural rights to assemble and speak out to defend one's environment. But I wasn't a historian when I wrote that paper. And ever since I became a historian, I've been thinking back on it and wondering how I might be able to bolster it by thinking of environmental justice not just as a movement dating back just a few decades, but as an idea dating back much further. And it continues to strike me that a longer history of environmental-justice thinking could help us, at least a little bit, move beyond the problems of negativity and vagueness. We should be able to articulate more precisely what we want in explicitly socio-ecological terms. Lately, some people, I think very productively, have been turning towards speculative fiction to try to envision a better socio-ecological paradigm. But my effort is going to be turning toward the past. And I think lots of possibilities do open up. Even if you go back just a few years to Love Canal itself-- and Lois Gibbs was the most famous activist from Love Canal-- Love Canal helps us go beyond race and class to add gender to the mix. The kinds of health problems at the center of the Love Canal scandal, mostly birth defects, are still generally treated as part of the family realm, the private sphere, which is still often gendered as feminine. So it's that much more powerful, I think, when women start marching in public protests and insisting that the men who-- at the time, they were all men-- running governments and chemical companies, need to be held accountable. Holding men accountable is very hot right now right. That same theme arises gender if we look back to 1973 and extend our reach to northern India, where the women tree-huggers of the chipko movement launched their campaign to stop government-sponsored deforestation, which often caused flooding, and siltation, and fuel shortages in local communities. Women were usually the ones doing the labor of collecting water and fuel wood. So the chipko movement also helps us incorporate labor issues into the environmental-justice paradigm, as do these two. Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. If we look at the situation in California in 1965, when they led the United Farm Workers in a strike against grape growers, whose insistence on the use of certain pesticides, many of which are now banned, threatened the health of both the surrounding ecosystem and the pickers themselves. So workers' rights, like collective bargaining, I think are also crucial to any conception of environmental justice. And there was a social theorist at the same time in the mid '60s who was putting all of these social issues together with environmental issues. And that was Murray Bookchin. And if you haven't read Murray Bookchin, I would highly recommend him to you. This is a Vermont intellectual far to the left of Bernie Sanders. In 1965, he published an essay called Ecology and Revolutionary Thought, in which he said, "The imbalances man has produced in the natural world are caused by the imbalances he has produced in the social world." and that, for Bookchin, started with the age-old structure of the patriarchal family. Gender was always at the heart of his theory, which he called "social ecology," and which, I think is pretty synonymous with environmental justice. I like to use "environmental justice," because of the resonance of that word, "justice." But Bookchin is one of the best theorists we have with regard to this intertwining of social and environmental issues. And ultimately, what he proposes as a positive vision is an intensely participatory society-- a series of de-centralized confederates of human-scale communities, founded on the principles of free speech, free assembly, engaged citizenship, gender and racial equality, and shared resources. Social-ecological thinking, Bookchin argues, "must extend itself into a broader libertarian tradition that reaches back into the tribal or band-type communities ancestral to what we so smugly call 'civilization,' a tradition, indeed an abiding human impulse that has surged to the surface of society in every revolutionary period, only to be brutally contained by those purely societal forms called 'hierarchies.'" I love the phrasing there and the emphasis that hierarchies are not natural. They're purely societal forms. This line of thinking connects Bookchin in 1965, back to many generations of intellectuals who could be considered part of a long environmental-justice tradition-- people like the urban critic, Lewis Mumford, or his mentor, Patrik Geddes, or the Russian anarchist, Peter Kropotkin, or the French geographer, lis e Reclus, or the American theorist of the single tax on land, Henry George, or my personal favorite, as Anita mentioned, Alexander von Humboldt, whose writings take us all the way back to the beginning of the 19th century. So when I first conceived this talk, my intention was to go back to Humboldt, show how he was an environmental-justice thinker, and then push even further back to show how he had been influenced by earlier debates about land, and property, and theories of distributive justice. So I started reading Rousseau, and [inaudible],, and Thomas Paine, and John Locke, Robinson Crusoe, which I think you can interpret in a really interesting way in this context. And I do hope that I'll eventually get to make this into a short book. And I just thought I would lay out how I'm thinking about the chapters here. And I would be happy, in the Q&A discussion, to talk about any of this. But I'm not going to flesh it out right now, because ultimately, I got kind of obsessed, in the past few weeks, with one clear, concrete example of an environmental-justice formulation that goes all the way back to the 17th century. The key thinker here is a relatively obscure Englishman named Gerrard Winstanley, who, for a few centuries, was mostly lost to history. But his writings were rediscovered in the late 20th century. And I think it's fair to characterize them retroactively as a series of environmental-justice manifestos, delivered during the English Civil War, mostly in 1649 And 1650. A less anachronistic way to describe them might be as "passionate arguments to protect the commons for the use of the landless poor." He was he was a pamphleteer, basically. This is one of his pamphlets. And you can, just from that language, start to see what he's getting at. At the beginning of April 1649, Winstanley and about two dozen others started digging and planting on St. George's Hill in Walton on Thames, the area was considered a commons, or waste, a piece of land neither owned nor regularly planted, and therefore traditionally available to poor people as a place where they might gather wood or graze livestock. But Winstanley and the so-called "diggers" were looking not only to solidify, but also to broaden the rights of so-called "commoners," in line with the democratizing tendencies of the English Civil War-- the word "commoner" is a very interesting one, which, for a long time, I just thought of as indicating an ordinary person-- not a member of the nobility or the clergy, but a member of the Third Estate-- a common person. But I think it's just as important to think of "commoner" as meaning somebody with rights to the commons. These diggers burned away some of the heath, plowed the dirt, planted corn, beans, parsnips, and carrots, declaring their intention, quote, "to eat our bread together by the sweat of our brows." Basically, it was an experimental commune. And they invited poor people from around the country to join them, encouraging them not only to claim land for their own use, but also, to withhold their labor from the local lords. The next month, May of that same year, parliament declared that the Kingdom of England was no more. This is the English Civil War again. And the nation was now officially a commonwealth. In this context that word meant mostly that the monarchy had been abolished, King Charles having been beheaded, and that a new era of wider political participation had begun. But the word "commonwealth" also resonated with earlier meanings. In the previous century, as large landlords had launched what became the Enclosure movement, claiming more and more common lands as their own for profit, a counter-movement of poor people had arisen. And they called themselves "commonwealth men," emphasizing the responsibility of the rich to help the poor and attacking this new trend toward profit-seeking. The lords had lost some of their military power, and they were looking for more economic power. We can think of these commonwealth men in the 16th century as forming a movement in line with some of the ideas expressed in Thomas More's Utopia, which was published in 1516. And if you haven't read it or haven't looked at it recently, I'll just remind you that on the small island nation of Utopia, all men and women must work. There are no idle landholders, because there is no private property. And in fact, there had been no private property in England until these lords started the Enclosure movement. Winstanley was quick to seize on these older meanings of the word "commonwealth," as he argued that the new version of England, to be true to its identity, would have to reign in the wealthy and ensure that all commoners had free access to the commons. The poor, he pointed out, had contributed greatly to the overthrow of the monarchy-- paying taxes, serving in armies. And the parliamentarians had indeed promised them a new freedom. The language Winstanley used in making these arguments of course, comes from traditions in theology, and philosophy, and politics specific to his time and place. And yet, I also want to argue that his discourse represents something both new and incredibly durable in its articulation of the environment as a shared resource to which all human beings have an equal claim. "Let us dig on the hill," he says, quote, "that we may work in righteousness and lay the foundation of making the earth a common treasury for all, both rich and poor, that everyone that is born in the land may be fed by the earth, his mother, that brought him forth, not enclosing any part into any particular hand, but all as one man working together and feeding together, not one lording over another, but all looking upon each other as equals in the creation, so that our maker may be glorified in the work of his own hands, and that everyone may see he is no respecter of persons but equally loves his whole creation and hates nothing but the serpent, which is covetousness." Unquote. "Let us dig on the hill," he says, "and practice usufruct," a word that arose in English at about the same time as "commonwealth," "to show that what matters is not ownership, but use, to show that, in fact, private property is a curse, since," quote, "those that buy and sell land and are landlords have got it either by oppression, or murder, or theft. "Let us dig on the hill," he says, "because in the beginning of time, the great creator reason made the Earth to be a common treasury to preserve beasts, birds, fishes, and man, the lord that was to govern this creation, for man had domination given to him over the beasts, birds, and fishes. But not one word was spoken in the beginning that one branch of mankind should rule over another." Remember man-versus-man? Man-versus-man is the real problem. "Go about your business, you landlords, and let us dig in peace. We told you that we were not against any that would have magistrates and laws to govern as the nations of the world are governed. But as for our parts, we shall need neither the one or the other in that nature of government, for as our land is commons, so our cattle is to be common, and our corn and fruits of the earth common, and are not to be brought and sold among us, but to remain a standing portion of livelihood to us and our children, without that cheating entanglement of buying and selling. And we shall not arrest one another." OK, I could quote Winstanley until the cows come back from their common grazing area. But you get the idea. And of course, you can predict that his diggers would not be able to hold out very long. There were, in fact, a few other communes that arose around the country. But in every case, the local gentry came down really, really hard on the rebels, attacking them on horseback, setting fire to their crops and huts, driving them away within a few months, because these planters on the commons represented such a direct threat to the protocapitalist system. And remarkably, at exactly the same time, similar scenarios were playing out across the ocean in the Americas, as colonizers gradually encroached on the various commons managed by native groups. Native Americans of the 17th century did not leave behind much in the way of documents. But based on the knowledge that we do have of their land-management practices and cultural-belief systems-- many of these groups, anyway-- we can note the almost uncanny parallels to Winstanley vision. These native groups did not live in a wilderness as John Locke would argue, but in fact, under a regime of collectively owned property, to which all human beings were bound under an ethic of careful, equitable, sustainable use. Now of course, there are limitations to Winstanley discourse. We can't just lift it and use it in the 21st century. He was dealing with a pretty homogeneous population of white Christian men. I don't think he ever challenged the authority of the patriarchal family. He consistently did endorse a universal egalitarianism, but we're left to wonder whether he would have applied it to people of color, like the black Africans already being enslaved by his countrymen, or the Native Americans already being dispossessed by his countrymen. I think Murray Bookchin surely would have approved of Winstanley invocation of a kind of primitive solidarity and anarchism. Still, to most modern ears, this form of communalism probably sounds romantic and naive. I just have to admit that I've found it very helpful for myself to travel back to a time before the discourses of capitalism and colonialism had been fully formed and justified, before many people took Adam Smith and David Hume for granted and assumed that all human beings would always just dominate, and accumulate, and covet, according to their own self-interest. The idea of the tragedy of the commons has been thoroughly debunked by now-- most notably by the Nobel-Prize winning economist, Elinor Ostrom. But many environmentalists still assume that it's impossible to protect any commons, because each individual human being is inherently bent on consumption and destruction. For me, Winstanley at least represents a moment when it was still possible to invoke the collective over the individual, the common good over private advantage, when it was still possible to speak of a universal right to direct subsistence from the earth. Winstanley often uses the word "livelihood" in this context. It's even important to me to consider the implications of Winstanley's embrace of humanity's domination over nature. And I'm sure many of you noted that language. Some environmentalists still blame the Judeo-Christian tradition for its emphasis on subduing the earth. But in Winstanley's writings, "dominion" does not mean exploitation, but rather, responsibility. Yes, we all use the resources of the Earth to survive. But it's our duty to protect them and share them equally with everyone, precisely because that dominion was granted to every single human being. The physical material fact of the commons for Winstanley correlates with a vision of commonality for all human beings. I think environmental justice has too often been theorized as something that divides us, leaving us with victims and perpetrators, which in turn, leaves even the most idealistic activists embittered. And that embitterment is absolutely justified, because, in fact, capitalism and colonialism, for the past 400 years, have clearly raised up certain people at the expense of others. But still, it's important to find ways not just of righting old wrongs, but also of moving forward as inclusively as possible, like at the end of the Black Panther movie, which I would be happy to talk about if people have seen it and are interested. And if you haven't seen it, you should see it. It's the cultural conversation. OK what does Winstanley and his legacy-- what do they mean in 2018 here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? The abstraction of commonality is important. And I'll come back to that briefly. But especially since we're here at a design school, I wanted to pause for a moment and embrace the physical material commons as a site of possibility for the environmental-justice movement. In a way, maybe Occupy Wall Street was as much about that as it was about economic inequality. We need to claim as much public space as we can, where we can act as commoners, where we can embody our role as members of a community, where we can care jointly for shared resources. I realize this might be very old-hat for a design-school audience. But couldn't it be helpful to redesign our cities with a new emphasis on the commons? I'll just mention two historical examples that I find compelling. I hope suggesting how, through our experience of physical commons, we could gradually try to bring our culture back around to putting a higher value on the common good. One could, of course, invoke Olmsted himself. But I happen to like even better, a landscape architect named Horace Cleveland, whom Anita mentioned at the start. He was from Massachusetts. Some of you will know him, some of you might not. But after the Civil War, he moved out west to Chicago and then Minneapolis and St. Paul, where he became the primary planner of the park system there. And if you've ever spent time there, even in winter, you know how well used the green spaces are in those cities. There's a real network of parks. And the lakes become rinks for skaters and hockey players. And I think the reason it's been so successful is that Cleveland so carefully emphasized public over private space. I was learning about this, and I was sitting in the archives, in St. Paul actually, and suddenly thought back to this place in Newton, where I grew up, called Crystal, Lake which is a lovely spot. Some of you, I'm sure, have been there. And I've taken my kids there, and it's wonderful. But there's only a little slice of it that is accessible to the public, because mostly, it's ringed with private homes. And that slice is run by the city. And it's open for a few weeks in the summer for a few hours each day. Otherwise, you have to be one of the very lucky people with one of those homes. But in Minneapolis and St. Paul, specifically by Cleveland's order, houses were permitted only on the far side of the road that were built around the lakes. The city had to quote, "reserve for public use every foot of land between the avenue and the water," which made it clear that the entire lake and shoreline were intended as a commons to be enjoyed freely by anyone who wandered into the neighborhood. And then one more example-- my favorite 20th-century urbanist, Lewis Mumford wrote about this community, Sunnyside Gardens, in Queens. He actually moved there in 1925. And he framed it also, as an attack against the privatization of space. From his perspective, privatization had given rise to new feelings of isolation, alienation, apathy. And if you're interested in Sunnyside Gardens, and you also like fiction, there's a great novel by Jonathan Lethem that just came out about five years ago called, Dissident Gardens, that is actually about this place. It was designed by Mumford's friends, Clarence Stein and Henry Wright. And the idea was that there would be lots and lots of residences that were oriented inward toward the green spaces at the center there, which were places where the children could play and adults could stroll through the gardens and have gardens, where they raised vegetables and flowers. And the whole plan was meant to defy the suburban model based on isolated freestanding middle-class homes in order to foster constant contact and an investment in communal living. As Mumford put it, "When dwelling places were understood as social units with the visible coherence in the architecture, with a sufficient number of local meeting rooms for group activities, as in Sunnyside Gardens, a robust political life with effective collective action and a sense of renewed public responsibility would have a good chance of developing. Effective, collective action, renewed public responsibility-- let's hope so. Maybe we could even take responsibility for the climate as a kind of ultimate commons. Could we perhaps say that every human being has a right to a livable climate? Well, with every right come responsibilities, duties, obligations. To ensure the preservation of the commons, everyone has to be involved in its management. Mitigation and adaptation are equally important. And both require systemic change, which in turn, will require sacrifice. At the 2014, People's Climate March in New York, one, of the key slogans was "To change everything, we need everyone." The more you've benefited from a relatively stable climate, the more you owe. I would urge you, especially, to find ways of offering direct aid to those who have suffered from climate instability. Alternatively, we could all just buy a Prius Solution. Thank you. I'd love to take questions. Yes. Thank you for that incredibly provocative talk. To take up your [inaudible] provocation, I ask the following. Towards the beginning of the talk, you began with the holy trinity of race, class, and gender. And so I'm curious-- the glancing reference to religion as such or Judah-Christian precepts. And I'm not referring here to Murray Bookchin, who could very well, in fact, quite possibly went to grammar school with my grandfather in the Bronx. And we can look into Isaiah Berlin to see the generation of dissident Jewish sons that gave rise to this marvelous communal ethos. I'm referring to Winstanley, in fact, because when I think of the diggers, I immediately think of John Ball's rebellion. And the rallying cry there-- when Adam delved-- the diggers-- there was no social inequality at that time. And here was this prelapsarian social justice, but prior to the "sweat of the brow" that you referred to. And I'm just curious that-- I won't belabor this-- but a reluctance sometimes to take on the core of Judeo-Christian values that inform so much of this discourse. I just put that out to you as an invitation to address that. Yeah. Thank you. That's great. And it is actually frustrating to me, as well, that environmentalists are so unwilling to engage with religion. And I think probably the more work that I do-- and I'm just I'm just beginning to really get into 17th century history. It's not my normal field. The more reading I intend to do on religious thinkers who would have influenced Winstanley-- it's such a it's such complicated question, especially here in the United States. But if you're interested, one book that leaps to mind that might be useful is-- I have a friend at Williams College named Nick Howe, who just wrote a book called Landscapes of the Secular, where he really gets into the question of, what does it mean that we commemorate, that we have memorials in the form of crosses on hillsides here in the United States? Is that religious? Is that a religious landscape? Anyway, thank you. I definitely take your point. And I intend to follow up on it. So this is actually related to religion and environmentalism in Cornell. And that is in the 1970s, there was a religiously inspired movement called eco-justice at Cornell. It started at Syracuse, apparently. But I worked at Cornell in the late '70s. And in 1978, we had a eco-justice forum, where I first met Murray Bookchin in person and got really into his things. There's actually a book that was published with a collection of articles. And you can find it on Google Play. It's still available from SUNY Press in hardcover. Wow, thank you. I just looked it up. I didn't know about it. Yeah. But it's very interesting, because it happened right at Cornell. And it involved, literally, the environmentalists associated with Cornell-- they are academic people who actually had got their hands dirty on local environmental issues, like the fact that there was an attempt to build a nuclear power plant on Cayuga Lake because of all the deep water which was cold, to cool it, and salt mines to store waste, and all sorts of things. So these are people who are academics but also were involved with local issues. So I just wanted to get you informed about that. Everybody you talked about are people I've studied as I've gone back. And as far as neighborhoods go, there's one locally, which is the Oak Hill neighborhood of Newton, which was designed post-war, rather than pre-war like the Sunnyside, to turn people inward, has paths so kids don't have to walk on streets. And then going another 100 years back, there's the Brook Farm commune in West Roxbury, which was gender egalitarian, which was really rare in any of these earlier attempts. Yeah, thanks. I'm sorry, that's a Cambridge question. That's good. Well, I do have a question. But I also wanted to mention in passing, if you don't mind me saying so, you remind me Rod Serling. You have the same kind of voice. You even look a little like him. But I don't know if we're in our own twilight zone here. But I wanted to ask you a question too. But Winstanley notwithstanding, I'm still not clear, even after all these centuries, why all human beings, even if they are equal, have dominion over nature and over the Earth. Shouldn't all species have access to the commons? Are we going to continue to privilege the human species in its relationship to the Earth, regardless of their own interspecies relationships? Yeah, great question. And I have to admit to being a humanist. So I do, in fact, privilege human beings. At the same time, I think our idea of community should be as expansive, and inclusive, and capacious as possible. And so yes, ideally, there should be room for all kinds of species. I do think environmentalists have not come to grips fully with the simple fact that we must use natural resources to survive. The key question is how we use them-- how carefully we use them. So yeah, I acknowledge my humanist bias. I went into the humanities for a reason. Hi. Where are we? Oh, hi. Hi. Thanks for your talk. I was just wondering how you think these white male American community, or just communities in privileged positions for whom you seem to have framed this history, can respectfully engage and support marginalized or indigenous communities, who have essentially, basically always been practicing environmental justice for like thousands of years in their communities, who actually do respectfully engage with other species, and who are still constantly oppressed today, even by modern environmental justice movements. I'm wondering, what are your ideas about respectful engagement? Yeah, so right now, my favorite metaphor for the kind of engagement that I think you're talking about is friendship. And that that would entail a kind of mutual discourse to discover the best ways of providing support. Meanwhile, I think all privileged communities, like I suggested at the very end, owe an incredible to the rest of the world. And it's absolutely time to start paying that. All people of privilege should be, in my opinion, contributing whatever they possibly can to people who are right now experiencing the horrible effects of climate change. It really disturbs me when we talk about the future and what is going to happen to quote unquote "us," when in fact, we've got lots and lots of examples of people who are struggling with things that were caused by what has gone on in industrial countries. Those industrial countries owe it to the rest of the world to try to help with money, first and foremost. A number of ethicists recently have published sort of simple injunctions to people in the industrial world saying like, we know that you feel that contributing $20 to a nonprofit is not really doing anything. But in fact, if everybody did that, it would mean a huge amount. So please keep doing that. So thanks. I'm here. It's fun to hear Murray Bookchin mentioned years after. I knew him also. I knew him in New York. He was an, as I remember him, a very obnoxious character. You probably never heard that. And I would never have expected his ideas, the written form, anyway, to get the kind of attraction they seem to have, which is interesting to me. And I'm not against it. I don't know if you know about his daughter's work. Have you by any chance-- depending on your level of interest, his daughter is very involved with an entity called the Left Forum that happens every spring in New York and is very involved in a community, in a Kurdish-- yeah, you know about that. OK, so that's I guess an embodiment of some of Murray's ideas according to some people, perhaps. I don't know. As an aside, I remember advertisements in the subway in New York-- "If everybody would just be a little less greedy." And I always thought to myself, yeah, here I am riding the subway. Why don't you tell that to the people in the limousines, and the cabs, and the privileged people? So I want to mention that in terms of the that's owed, it's differentially owed. We don't all owe the same level of debt. We didn't all incur the same. We're not all equally responsible. So I just want to make that observation if you care to elaborate on it. But I'm always wondering, when you hear this story about the diggers and stories like that, how was it that what one might have thought would have been a majority of the population, were not able to prevail over the 1%-- or whatever the percent was at the time. The lords of the manor were presumably a minority. How are the lords of the manor able to mobilize enough support from the rest of us to suppress those who resist the privatization of the common? They seem to be able to do it quite well all the time, even here in Cambridge. Well, I think it's about power. But about the differential debt-- of course I agree with you on that. That's why I phrased it the way I did-- "The more you've benefited from a stable climate, the more you know." but yeah, the lords had a huge amount of power. Thank you for a wonderful talk, which resonates with a lot that goes on in this school. I want to go to the late middle of your historical brackets-- so second half of the 19th century. And I couldn't stop thinking about the displacement of African-Americans in the project of the Central Park in New York-- so the Seneca Village issue. And maybe it's unanswerable, certainly unreconcilable, because this is not a project of capitalism, nor of colonialism, but one of democracy. Well this is where I thought you might lend a hand. Albert [? fein, ?] 30 or 40 years ago, would have said, this is the greatest expression of the American democracy in physical form, or physical terms. Ethan Carr might say, the greatest American work of art. And yet, we have enormous contradiction. I just wonder how you reflect on that. Yeah. Thank you for the question. And it's a tough one. I think probably many of us in this room really want to love Central Park. And I certainly do. But it would be hard to make an argument that any kind of development in the 19th century was not about capitalism and colonialism. Those people living in Seneca village had no chance. And the people really driving Central Park were elites. And as I'm sure you know, some geographers have even made the argument that part of the rationale for building Central Park was just to bring property values up. So it's always complicated. I do think Central Park is a great democratic institution. And some of the motivation behind it was democratic. But some of it was also capitalistic. And that image of the removal of people is one I think we should all try to keep in our minds as something that has always happened in the last 400 years. And I try to be hopeful in the kind of history that I do. And I try to emphasize positive examples that can be of use to people today. But I also sometimes think about the last 400 years as one extended land grab. Unfortunately, there's a lot of evidence to support that kind of characterization. I was wondering whether you could elaborate even further on your ideas about how humanity scholars, humanists, historians can contribute effectively to making maybe policy changes or shaping the environment at large. Yeah, thanks. Now I think the realm of culture is always up for grabs. And many humanists specifically, work on culture. I'm struggling with this question a little bit, because I know that in this case, it was asked from a very sympathetic perspective. But I've often answered the question, when asked by scientists, who are saying, basically, who are you, and what can you contribute? We've got the technological solutions. And the thing that I usually say-- and I hope this doesn't come across as defensive-- is that it's interesting, isn't it, that we've had technological solutions for a long time? And the problem has been implementing them. The problem has been mindsets and political will. And we in the humanities, I think, are pretty well positioned, depending on how we choose to communicate, to get people to reconsider their assumptions, their mindsets. And I think there is some power and influence there. I hope there is. It's surprising what happens in our culture. It's when those of us who care about these things sometimes have a tendency to get really, really frantically upset when something happens, like the Trump election, myself included. But I think one nice thing about the humanities in general, and, history in particular is is that it helps you step back and gain perspective. And when many of my colleagues have told me they assume that Trump must be the worst president ever in US history, I'll say like, well, let me tell you about James K. Polk. It's always possible to think differently. Thank you. Thanks. Thank you. Thinking about the tool to make people feel responsible and to act responsible towards the environment, I'm going to ask you the question, where do we need to start to create this human-responsibility list? Should we go to the United Nations organization level and create something like, in parallel with human rights? In my opinion, we are like mist to create from the very beginning, like to parts of human rights and human responsibility. Yeah, so where is the starting point you see? And to what extent we should go further to feel responsibility and tale responsibility toward the environment. Yeah, thanks. I think for me, the most interesting scholars working on environmental justice today are emphasizing that it's a multi-scaler problem. So the interventions that we can make have to happen at the very local neighborhood level. They have to happen at the regional level, the state level, the nation level, the international-community level. And it has to be in many different disciplines and arenas-- not just culture, but also law, for instance, et cetera, et cetera. So I don't have any way of prioritizing one kind of intervention. But I just would emphasize that it has to happen at all of those different scales. And one can also then say, well anything I do even at the local level is a contribution. I do believe what I said about the creation more and more common spaces, where people feel the need to care for them as a community. I think that that creates a powerful sense of responsibility. The most obvious one for me right now is the community garden, which is becoming really, an incredible trend, especially in large post-industrial cities around this country. Urban gardening, urban farming are really important now. And I think those are great movements. Hi. Just talking more about common spaces, could you give some like examples or best practices, in terms of implementing or how common spaces have been implemented or introduced to cities, municipalities, and moving forward, like how we can try and make that more of a priority, I guess? I don't have any more examples off the top of my head than the ones I've already talked about. But I will just say that especially in Elinor Ostrum's work, the economist who debunked the tragedy of the commons, the key point is that there has to be a communal system of management for the commons. In other words, everybody has to buy in and participate in the development of various kinds of regulations. So for any kind of common space, the corollary is political participation. That's a must. That's one of the keys to anything we might wind up calling environmental justice. Thank you so much, Aaron.

Contents

Biography

Early life and education

Olmsted was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on April 26, 1822. His father, John Olmsted, was a prosperous merchant who took a lively interest in nature, people, and places; Frederick Law and his younger brother, John Hull, also showed this interest. His mother, Charlotte Law (Hull) Olmsted, died before his fourth birthday.[8] His father remarried in 1827 to Mary Ann Bull, who shared her husband's strong love of nature and had perhaps a more cultivated taste.

When the young Olmsted was almost ready to enter Yale College, sumac poisoning weakened his eyes, so he gave up college plans. After working as an apprentice seaman, merchant, and journalist, Olmsted settled on a 125-acre farm in January 1848 on the south shore of Staten Island, New York, a farm which his father helped him acquire. This farm, originally named the Akerly Homestead, was renamed Tosomock Farm by Olmsted. It was later renamed "The Woods of Arden" by owner Erastus Wiman. (The house in which Olmsted lived still stands at 4515 Hylan Boulevard, near Woods of Arden Road.)

Marriage and family

On June 13, 1859, Olmsted married Mary Cleveland (Perkins) Olmsted, the widow of his brother John (who had died in 1857). Daniel Fawcett Tiemann, the mayor of New York, officiated the wedding. He adopted her three children (his nephews and niece), John Charles Olmsted (born 1852), Charlotte Olmsted (who later married a Bryant), and Owen Olmsted.

Frederick and Mary also had two children together who survived infancy: a daughter, Marion (born October 28, 1861), and a son Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., born in 1870. Their first child, John Theodore Olmsted, was born on June 13, 1860, and died in infancy.[9][10]

Career

Journalism

Olmsted had a significant career in journalism. In 1850 he traveled to England to visit public gardens, where he was greatly impressed by Joseph Paxton's Birkenhead Park. He subsequently wrote and published Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England in 1852. This supported his getting additional work.

Interested in the slave economy, he was commissioned by the New York Daily Times (now The New York Times) to embark on an extensive research journey through the American South and Texas from 1852 to 1857. His dispatches to the Times were collected into three volumes (A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States (1856), A Journey Through Texas (1857), A Journey in the Back Country in the Winter of 1853-4 (1860).

These are considered vivid first-person accounts of the antebellum South. A one-volume abridgment, Journeys and Explorations in the Cotton Kingdom (1861), was published in England during the first six months of the American Civil War, at the suggestion of Olmsted's English publisher.[11]

To this he wrote a new introduction (on "The Present Crisis"). He stated his views on the effect of slavery on the economy and social conditions of the southern states:

My own observation of the real condition of the people of our Slave States, gave me ... an impression that the cotton monopoly in some way did them more harm than good; and although the written narration of what I saw was not intended to set this forth, upon reviewing it for the present publication, I find the impression has become a conviction.

Olmsted argued that slavery had made the slave states inefficient (a set amount of work took 4 times as long in Virginia as in the North) and backward both economically and socially. He said that the profits of slavery were enjoyed by no more than 8,000 owners of large plantations; a somewhat larger group had about the standard of living of a New York City policeman, but the proportion of the free white men who were as well-off as a Northern working man was small. Slavery meant that 'the proportion of men improving their condition was much less than in any Northern community; and that the natural resources of the land were strangely unused, or were used with poor economy.'

Olmsted thought that the lack of a Southern white middle class and the general poverty of lower-class whites prevented the development of many civil amenities which were taken for granted in the North.

The citizens of the cotton States, as a whole, are poor. They work little, and that little, badly; they earn little, they sell little; they buy little, and they have little – very little – of the common comforts and consolations of civilized life. Their destitution is not material only; it is intellectual and it is moral ... They were neither generous nor hospitable and their talk was not that of evenly courageous men.[12]

Between his travels in Europe and the South, Olmsted served as an editor for Putnam's Magazine for two years[13] and as an agent with Dix, Edwards and Co., prior to the company's insolvency during the Panic of 1857. Olmsted provided financial support for, and occasionally wrote for, the magazine The Nation, which was founded in 1865.[13]

New York City's Central Park

View of Willowdell Arch with the team that created Central Park. Standing on the pathway over the span, from Right: Frederick Law Olmsted, Jacob Wrey Mould, Ignaz Anton Pilat, Calvert Vaux, George Waring, and Andrew Haswell Green. Photographed in 1862.
View of Willowdell Arch with the team that created Central Park. Standing on the pathway over the span, from Right: Frederick Law Olmsted, Jacob Wrey Mould, Ignaz Anton Pilat, Calvert Vaux, George Waring, and Andrew Haswell Green. Photographed in 1862.

Andrew Jackson Downing, the charismatic landscape architect from Newburgh, New York, was one of the first to propose developing New York's Central Park in his role as publisher of The Horticulturist magazine. A friend and mentor to Olmsted, Downing introduced him to the English-born architect Calvert Vaux, whom Downing had brought to the U.S. as his architectural collaborator. After Downing died in July 1852 in a widely publicized fire on the Hudson River steamboat Henry Clay, Olmsted and Vaux entered the Central Park design competition together, against Egbert Ludovicus Viele among others. Vaux had invited the less experienced Olmsted to participate in the design competition with him, having been impressed with Olmsted's theories and political contacts. Prior to this, in contrast with the more experienced Vaux, Olmsted had never designed or executed a landscape design.

Their Greensward Plan was announced in 1858 as the winning design. On his return from the South, Olmsted began executing their plan almost immediately. Olmsted and Vaux continued their informal partnership to design Prospect Park in Brooklyn from 1865 to 1873.[14] That was followed by other projects. Vaux remained in the shadow of Olmsted's grand public personality and social connections.

Olmsted and Vaux in 1863 adopted 'landscape architect' as a professional title and used it to describe their work for the planning of urban park systems.
Olmsted and Vaux in 1863 adopted 'landscape architect' as a professional title and used it to describe their work for the planning of urban park systems.

The design of Central Park embodies Olmsted's social consciousness and commitment to egalitarian ideals. Influenced by Downing and his own observations regarding social class in England, China, and the American South, Olmsted believed that the common green space must always be equally accessible to all citizens, and was to be defended against private encroachment. This principle is now fundamental to the idea of a "public park", but was not assumed as necessary then. Olmsted's tenure as Central Park commissioner was a long struggle to preserve that idea.[15]

Leader of Sanitary Commission

In 1861 Olmsted took leave as director of Central Park to work in Washington, DC as Executive Secretary of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a precursor to the Red Cross. He tended to the wounded during the American Civil War. In 1862 during Union General George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, Olmsted headed the medical effort for the sick and wounded at White House plantation in New Kent County, which had a boat landing on the Pamunkey River.

On the home front, Olmsted was one of the six founding members of the Union League Club of New York.

In addition to the above, Olmsted helped to recruit and outfit three African-American regiments of the United States Colored Troops in New York City. He contributed to organizing a fair which raised one million dollars for the United States Sanitary Commission.

Olmsted worked tirelessly for the Sanitary Commission to the point of exhaustion: "Part of the problem was his need to maintain control over all aspects of the commission's work. He refused to delegate and he had an appetite for authority and power."[16] By January 1863 a friend wrote: "Olmsted is in an unhappy, sick, sore mental state ... He works like a dog all day and sits up nearly all night ... works with steady, feverish intensity till four in the morning, sleeps on a sofa in his clothes, and breakfasts on strong coffee and pickles!!!"[16] His overwork and lack of sleep led to his being in a perpetual state of irritability, which wore on the people with whom he worked: "Exhausted, ill and having lost the support of the men who put him in charge, Olmsted resigned on Sept. 1, 1863." Yet within a month he was on his way to California.[16]

Gold mining project in California

In 1863, Olmsted went west to become the manager of the newly established Rancho Las Mariposas-Mariposa gold mining estate in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.[17] The estate had been sold by John C. Fremont to New York banker, Morris Ketchum, in January of that same year. The mine, for whatever reason, did not prove to be successful; and "[b]y 1865, the Mariposa Company was bankrupt, Olmsted returned to New York, and the land and mines were sold at a sheriff's sale."[18]

U.S. park designer

In 1865, Vaux and Olmsted formed Olmsted, Vaux & Co. When Olmsted returned to New York, he and Vaux designed Prospect Park; suburban Chicago's Riverside parks; the park system for Buffalo, New York; Milwaukee, Wisconsin's grand necklace of parks; and the Niagara Reservation at Niagara Falls.

Olmsted not only created numerous city parks around the country, he also conceived of entire systems of parks and interconnecting parkways to connect certain cities to green spaces. Some of the best examples of the scale on which Olmsted worked are the park system designed for Buffalo, New York, one of the largest projects; the system he designed for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the park system designed for Louisville, Kentucky, which was one of only four completed Olmsted-designed park systems in the world.[citation needed]

Frederick Law Olmsted, oil painting by John Singer Sargent, 1895, Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina
Frederick Law Olmsted, oil painting by John Singer Sargent, 1895, Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

Olmsted was a frequent collaborator with architect Henry Hobson Richardson, for whom he devised the landscaping schemes for half a dozen projects, including Richardson's commission for the Buffalo State Asylum.[19] In 1871, Olmsted designed the grounds for the Hudson River State Hospital for the Insane in Poughkeepsie.[20]

In 1883, Olmsted established what is considered to be the first full-time landscape architecture firm in Brookline, Massachusetts. He called the home and office compound Fairsted. It is now the restored Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site. From there Olmsted designed Boston's Emerald Necklace, the campuses of Wellesley College, Smith College, Stanford University and the University of Chicago, as well as the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, among many other projects.

Conservationist

Olmsted was an important early leader of the conservation movement in the United States. An expert on California, he was likely one of the gentlemen "of fortune, of taste and of refinement" who proposed, through Senator John Conness, that Congress designate Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Tree Grove as public reserves.[21] This was the first land set aside by Congress for public use. Olmsted served a one-year appointment on the Board of Commissioner of the state reserve, and his 1865 report to Congress on the board's recommendations laid an ethical framework for the government to reserve public lands, to protect their "value to posterity". He described the "sublime" and "stately" landscape, emphasizing that the value of the landscape was not in any one individual waterfall, cliff, or tree, but in the "miles of scenery where cliffs of awful height and rocks of vast magnitude and of varied and exquisite coloring, are banked and fringed and draped and shadowed by the tender foliage of noble and lovely trees and bushes, reflected from the most placid pools, and associated with the most tranquil meadows, the most playful streams, and every variety of soft and peaceful pastoral beauty."[22]

In the 1880s he was active in efforts to conserve the natural wonders of Niagara Falls, threatened with industrialization by the building of electrical power plants. At the same time, he campaigned to preserve the Adirondack region in upstate New York. He was one of the founders of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1898.[23]

Olmsted was also known to oppose park projects on conservationist grounds. In 1891, Olmsted refused to develop a plan for Presque Isle Park in Marquette, Michigan, saying that it "should not be marred by the intrusion of artificial objects."[24]

Later life, death and legacy

In recognition of his services during the Civil War, Olmsted was elected a Third Class member of the Massachusetts Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS) on May 2, 1888, and was assigned insignia number 6345. Olmsted's election to MOLLUS is significant in that he was one of the few civilians elected to membership in an organization composed almost exclusively of military officers and their descendants.[25] In 1891 he joined the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution by right of his descent from his grandfather Benjamin Olmsted who served in the 4th Connecticut Regiment in 1775.[26]

In 1895, senility forced Olmsted to retire. By 1898 he moved to Belmont, Massachusetts, and took up residence as a patient at the McLean Hospital, for whose grounds he had submitted a design which was never executed. He remained there until his death in 1903. He was buried in the Old North Cemetery, in Hartford, Connecticut.

After Olmsted's retirement and death, his sons John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., continued the work of their firm, doing business as the Olmsted Brothers. The firm lasted until 1980. Many works by the Olmsted sons are mistakenly credited to Frederick Law Olmsted today. For instance, the Olmsted Brothers firm did a park plan for Portland, Maine, in 1905, creating a series of connecting parkways between existing parks and suggesting improvements to those parks. The oldest of these parks, Deering Oaks, had been designed by City Engineer William Goodwin in 1879 but is today frequently described as a Frederick Law Olmsted designed park.

A quotation from Olmsted's friend and colleague architect Daniel Burnham could serve as an epitaph. Referring to Olmsted in March 1893, Burnham said, "An artist, he paints with lakes and wooded slopes; with lawns and banks and forest covered hills; with mountain sides and ocean views."[6]

A residence hall at the University of Hartford was named in his honor. Olmsted Point, located in Yosemite National Park,[27] was named after Olmsted and his son Frederick.[28]

Frederick Olmsted is known as the "father of American Landscape Architecture."[29]

Olmsted's principles of design

Drawing influences from English landscape and gardening,[30] Olmsted emphasized design that encourages the full use of the naturally occurring features of a given space,[31] its "genius"; the subordination of individual details to the whole so that decorative elements do not take precedence, but rather the whole space is enhanced; concealment of design, design that does not call attention to itself; design that works on the unconscious to produce relaxation; and utility or purpose over ornamentation. A bridge, a pathway, a tree, a pasture: any and all elements are brought together to produce a particular effect.

Olmsted designed primarily in the pastoral and picturesque styles, each to achieve a particular effect. The pastoral style featured vast expanses of green with small lakes, trees and groves and produced a soothing, restorative effect on the viewer. The picturesque style covered rocky, broken terrain with teeming shrubs and creepers, to express nature's richness. The picturesque style played with light and shade to lend the landscape a sense of mystery.

Scenery was designed to enhance the sense of space: indistinct boundaries using plants, brush and trees as opposed to sharp ones; interplay of light and shadow close up, and blurred detail further away. A vast expanse of greenery at the end of which lies a grove of yellow poplar; a path that winds through a bit of landscape and intersects with others, dividing the terrain into triangular islands of successive new views.

Subordination strives to use all objects and features in the service of the design and its intended effect. It can be seen in the subtle use of naturally occurring plants throughout the park. Non-native species planted for the sake of their own uniqueness defeat the purpose of design, as that very uniqueness draws attention to itself where the intention is to enable relaxation: utility above all else. Separation applies to areas designed in different styles and different uses enhancing safety and reducing distraction. A key feature of Central Park is the use of sunken roadways which traverse the park and are specifically dedicated to vehicles as opposed to winding paths designated specifically for pedestrians.

A beautiful example of this mix of principles is seen in the Park's Mall in New York's Central Park, a large promenade leading to the Bethesda Terrace and the single formal feature in Olmsted and Vaux's original naturalistic design. The designers wrote that a "'grand promenade' was an 'essential feature of a metropolitan park'";[32] however, its formal symmetry, its style, though something of an aberration, was designed so as to be subordinate to the natural view surrounding it. Wealthy passengers were let from their carriages at its south end. The carriage would then drive around to the Terrace, which overlooked the Lake and Ramble to pick them up, saving them the trouble of needing to double back on foot. The Promenade was lined with slender elms and offered views of Sheep Meadow. Affluent New Yorkers, who rarely walked through the park, mixed with the less well-to-do, and all enjoyed an escape from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city.

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ A celebration of the life and work of Frederick Law Olmsted - Biography Page.
  2. ^ "F. L Olmsted is Dead; End Comes to Great Landscape Architect at Waverly, Mass. Designer of Central and Prospect Parks and Other Famous Garden Spots of American Cities" (PDF). New York Times. August 29, 1903. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  3. ^ Caves, R. W. (2004). Encyclopedia of the City. Routledge. p. 500. ISBN 9780415252256.
  4. ^ "Firsts". springfield375.org. Springfield 375. Archived from the original on May 21, 2013. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  5. ^ Lewis, William E. (March 2007). "18". Through the Heartland on U.S. 20: Massachusetts: Volume I: A Historical Travel Guide. Publish America. ISBN 9781462624591. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Martin, John Stuart (October 1964). "He Paints With Lakes And Wooded Slopes ...". American Heritage. 15 (6).
  7. ^ Robert Muccigrosso, ed., Research Guide to American Historical Biography.
  8. ^ Martin, Justin (2011). Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted, p. 8. Da Capo Press.
  9. ^ Witold Rybezynski, A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century, Scribner, New York, 1999.
  10. ^ Frederick Law Olmsted; Theodora Kimball Hubbard (1922). Frederick Law Olmsted, Landscape Architect, 1822-1903. G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 78–.
  11. ^ Cf. Wilson, p. 220. "At the beginning of the Civil War, it was suggested by Olmsted's English publisher that a one-volume abridgment of all three of these books would be of interest to the British public, and Olmsted, then busy with Central Park, arranged to have this condensation made by an anti-slavery writer from North Carolina. Olmsted himself contributed to it a new introduction on The Present Crisis."
  12. ^ Olmsted, Frederick Law, The Cotton Kingdom: A Traveller's Observations on Cotton and Slavery in the American Slave States. Based Upon Three Former Volumes of Journeys and Investigations, Mason Brothers, 1862.
  13. ^ a b Filler, Martin (November 5, 2015). "America's Green Giant". New York Review of Books. 62 (17). Retrieved November 8, 2015.
  14. ^ Lancaster, Clay (1972). Handbook of Prospect Park. Long Island University Press. pp. 51–66. ISBN 0-913252-06-9. Archived from the original on August 27, 2009.
  15. ^ Kalfus 1991, pp. 308ff
  16. ^ a b c Masur, Louis P. (July 9, 2011). "Olmsted's Southern Landscapes". New York Times. New York Times Company. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  17. ^ "Olmsted Introduction".
  18. ^ Chamberlain, Newell D. (1936). The Call of Gold: True Tales on the Gold Road to Yosemite. Mariposa, California: Gazette Press.
  19. ^ Carla Yanni, The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States, University of Minnesota Press, 2007, pp. 127–139.
  20. ^ Farrell, Barbara Gallo (August 14, 2019). "Through photographs, history of 'Hudson River State Hospital' unveiled". www.poughkeepsiejournal.com. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  21. ^ Laura Wood Roper. "FLO: A Biography of Frederick Law Olmsted".
  22. ^ Frederick Law Olmsted, "The Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove".
  23. ^ Albert Fein, Frederick Law Olmsted and the American Environmental Tradition (1972).
  24. ^ Martin, Justin (September 2, 2011). "Jewels of Olmsted's Unspoiled Midwest". The New York Times.
  25. ^ 1912 Register of the Massachusetts Commandery of MOLLUS.
  26. ^ Yearbook of the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution 1897, 1898 & 1899, p. 587.
  27. ^ "Olmsted Point". Russ Cary. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
  28. ^ "Hundreds Celebrate Completion of Facelift to Yosemite's Dramatic Olmsted Point Overlook". "National Park Service". Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  29. ^ https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/massachusetts_conservation/frederick_law_olmsted.html
  30. ^ Walter Rogers; Michaal Dollin (2010). The Professional Practice of Landscape Architecture: A Complete Guide to Starting and Running Your Own Firm. John Wiley & Sons. p. 19.
  31. ^ Kalfus 1991, pp. 196, 313
  32. ^ Rosenzweig & Blackmar 1992, p. 133

Citations

Primary sources

Historiography

  • Muccigrosso, Robert ed., Research Guide to American Historical Biography (1988) 5:2666-74

External links

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