Park Maker: A Life of Frederick Law Olmsted

Overview

On April 28, 1858, municipal officials announced the winner of the design contest for a great new park for the people of New York City--Plan no. 33, "Greensward" by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Though the appropriated ground for what was to become Central Park was nothing more than a barren expanse occupied by squatters, in a matter of a few years, Olmsted turned the wasteland into a landscape of coherence, elegance, and beauty. It not only surpassed the design ingenuity of its existing European ...
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Overview

On April 28, 1858, municipal officials announced the winner of the design contest for a great new park for the people of New York City--Plan no. 33, "Greensward" by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Though the appropriated ground for what was to become Central Park was nothing more than a barren expanse occupied by squatters, in a matter of a few years, Olmsted turned the wasteland into a landscape of coherence, elegance, and beauty. It not only surpassed the design ingenuity of its existing European counterparts but gained the designer national acclaim in a profession that still lacked a name.

Olmsted was an American visionary. He foresaw the day when New York and many other growing cities of the mid-nineteenth century would be plagued by what we presently term "urban sprawl." And he was convinced of the critical importance of adapting land for the recreational and contemplative needs of city dwellers before the last remnants of natural terrain were engulfed by "monotonous, straight streets and piles of erect, angular buildings." As a result of his early efforts to revolutionize the design of public parks, many cities today are able to preserve the recreational space and greenery within their urban limits. In addition, his thoughts and words on wilderness areas still echo across a century of preservation in the wild.

This lively and insightful account of his prodigious life features many of his outstanding landscape projects, including the Biltmore Estate, Prospect Park (Brooklyn), the capitol grounds in Washington, DC, the Boston Park System, the Chicago parks and the Chicago World Fair, as well as measures to preserve the natural settings at Niagara Falls, Yosemite, and the Adirondacks. It traces his early years and describes events that were to form his artistic, intellectual, and deeply humanistic sensibilities. And it restores this lost American hero to his prominent place in history. In addition to being the acknowledged father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted helped shape the political and philosophical climate of America in his own time and today.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Reprint of the 1977 edition with a new (3 p.) introduction by Stevenson. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765806147
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/3/1999
  • Pages: 484
  • Product dimensions: 7.06 (w) x 9.98 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Stevenson (1919-1999) held a variety of jobs during her working life, jobs which supported a writing habit. She found a home at Emory University and retired as Candler Professor of American Studies in the innovative graduate division, the Institute of Liberal Arts. She was the first woman to ever win the Bancroft Prize. Some of her books include Henry Adams: A Biography and The Grass Lark: A Study of Lafcadio Hearn.

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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Transaction Edition xi
Preface: A Search for Olmsted xv
Acknowledgments xxv
I. A Boy in the Connecticut Woods 1
II. Idler 10
III. Sailor 17
IV. Company and Solitude 23
V. Scientific Farmer 35
VI. A Walk in England 53
VII. A Visit to Newburgh 63
VIII. Journeying South 70
IX. New York Streets and Texas Trails 89
X. The Back Country 106
XI. Yeoman: The Southern Writings 112
XII. Editor and Publisher 132
XIII. Greensward 154
XIV. The Boss of Central Park 170
XV. Secretary of the Sanitary Commission 195
XVI. The Chief of the Hospital Ships 216
XVII. The End of Olmsted's War 226
XVIII. Mariposa 247
XIX. Between Two Worlds 274
XX. A Wider Work 285
XXI. A Humane Life 309
XXII. Buffetings and Accomplishments 322
XXIII. Interlude 337
XXIV. Recovery 350
XXV. A Liberal Profession 361
XXVI. North, South, and West 380
XXVII. A Pisgah View 394
XXVIII. The End before the End 415
Notes 429
Selective Bibliography 453
Index 470
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