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Authors: Justin Martin

Genius of Place

BOOK: Genius of Place
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Table of Contents
Greenspan: The Man Behind Money
Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon
“There's a great work wants doing,” said FLO.
This book is dedicated to my twin sons, Dash and Theo,
and those are words to live by.
John Olmsted
(Courtesy of Historic New England)
FLO and friends
(Courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site)
FLO's brother, John
(Historic New England)
Mary Perkins Olmsted
(National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site)
FLO in cap and cape
(National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site)
Greensward plan
(Courtesy of City of New York/Parks & Recreation)
The Ramble
(Courtesy of The Frances Loeb Library, Harvard Graduate School of Design)
The Cave
(The Frances Loeb Library, Harvard Graduate School of Design)
Central Park's creators
(Courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film)
The partners
(Both from National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site)
U.S. Sanitary Commission
(Courtesy of the New York Public Library)
The cannon
(Courtesy of Kansas State Historical Society)
(Courtesy of the Yosemite Research Library, National Park Service)
Riverside plan
(National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site)
Fairsted, 99 Steps, and Muddy River
(All from National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site)
Capitol plan and aerial view
(Both courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol)
FLO's three children
(The Frances Loeb Library, Harvard Graduate School of Design)
FLO with signature
(National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site)
World's Fair 1893
(Courtesy of Peter Marsh)
FLO and Marion
(National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site)
FLO's Sargent portrait
(Courtesy of The Biltmore Company, Asheville, North Carolina)
The Biltmore
(The Biltmore Company, Asheville, North Carolina)
(Courtesy of McLean Hospital)
The frontispiece on page vi is a woodcut image that appeared in Frederick Law Olmsted's
A Journey Through Texas
. It was based on a sketch by Olmsted, featuring himself and his brother John camping on the prairie.
It starts with my subject—thanks to Frederick Law Olmsted. Fresh from college, on my very first day in New York City, I followed a hectic round of job interviews by seeking refuge in Central Park. At the time, my thoughts went something like this: “Who created this amazing place?” This launched an interest in Frederick Law Olmsted that, with time, has only grown. I was married in Central Park, his masterpiece. After my twin sons were born, I moved to Forest Hills Gardens, New York, a 147-acre planned community that is Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.'s masterpiece.
Writing this book was a huge project, and I can honestly say that my two years steeped in Olmsted's story were a pleasure. Thanks again, FLO, for leading such a large, varied, interesting life. It made my job fun.
A great big thanks is also due my friend Catherine Fredman. After Catherine landed a gig as a guide for the Central Park Conservancy, I accompanied her on a number of her excellent tours. My Olmsted fascination grew, and I began to think about writing a biography. Once the project got under way, Catherine continued to help: reading drafts, chasing down hard-to-find facts, cheering me on.
At my publisher, Da Capo, it was a great pleasure to work once again with Merloyd Lawrence. She's an old-school editor in the very best sense. The rap on publishing these days is that harried editors have no time to shape books. Happily, that was not my experience. From the germ of an idea to finished book, this was truly a collaboration. Every single page of this text features changes, additions, and literary flourishes wisely suggested by my editor. Thanks, Merloyd!
At Da Capo, I also wish to thank Lissa Warren, publicist nonpareil. Well into the Internet age, Lissa remains a pro at getting attention for
books. Kudos to Jonathan Sainsbury for the gorgeous cover design and to Brent Wilcox for such an elegant design of the book's interior. I also want to thank Annette Wenda for a thoughtful and meticulous job of copyediting, which served to further refine and clarify the text. Annie Lenth: Thanks for keeping things rolling in production.
To write a book on Olmsted, you really need to visit his creations. I wish to thank a number of people for conducting me through various Olmsted sites. What follows can't help but read like a list. But that's an injustice. All of these people gave generously of their time and shared their knowledge while showing me around the assorted majestic works of FLO.
Julia Bachrach of the Chicago Park District brought the 1893 World's Fair vividly to life during our visit to modern-day Jackson Park; Lonnie Sacchi provided a superb walking tour of Riverside, Illinois, a model suburb designed by Olmsted; my appreciation to Tim O'Connell, a peerless historian, for a thoroughly memorable and memorably thorough survey of the Rochester park system; Alan Banks of the National Park Service provided valuable domestic details on my subject at Fairsted, Olmsted's home in Brookline, Massachusetts; Jeanie Knox of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy guided me through the Back Bay Fens and other gems of the Boston system; Lanae Handy introduced me to Boston's Franklin Park, and Chris McArdle led me around the Arnold Arboretum; I spent a wonderful morning with Dennis Evanosky and Barbara Smith at Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery, a graveyard with a scenic setting that's simply unrivaled; thanks to David Lenox for the tour of Stanford, one of the world's most striking campuses; historian Bill Alexander provided invaluable perspective on the incomparable Biltmore Estate, and Susanne Woodell showed me around its grounds; Steve Livengood of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society gave me fresh perspective on a place I'd visited countless times—the Capitol grounds—revealing all kinds of hidden and inspired Olmsted touches; Christian Zimmerman and Amy Peck of the Prospect Park Alliance gave me a great tour of this timeless Brooklyn green space; and thanks to Terry Bragg for guiding me through the historic landscape of McLean Hospital, whose grounds evoke both sadness and hope.
I also want to give a special thanks to Francis Kowsky, who provided a wonderful tour of the Buffalo park system. Throughout the project, Dr. Kowsky, author of the excellent
Country, Park, and City: The Architecture and Life of Calvert Vaux
, went above and beyond, fielding my assorted questions.
An invaluable resource, while working on this biography, was the Olmsted papers, a multivolume collection of park plans, letters from private collections, unpublished manuscripts, and assorted Olmsted-alia. My appreciation to project editor Charles Beveridge and his team for this decades-long enterprise, still under way. I am also grateful to Laura Wood Roper, a pioneering Olmsted biographer who generously donated many letters she unearthed to the Library of Congress.
My uncle David Mel Paul, a researcher guidance volunteer at the LOC, helped me get rolling at this incredible institution. I appreciated the opportunity to stay with him and my aunt Margareta while visiting Washington, D.C. In the course of doing my research, I also visited a number of other archives and libraries and found the librarians and other staffers unfailingly helpful. I especially want to thank Mary Daniels of the Frances Loeb Library at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. With my deadline fast approaching, she generously arranged for me to work in the special collections outside normal hours. Mary also described John Olmsted, FLO's adopted son, as “dutiful to the point of masochism,” a line so irresistible that I simply cribbed it for my book.
I'm indebted to Larry Hott of Florentine Films, who is working on an Olmsted documentary that will air on PBS. I'm serving as a consultant to the project, a role that has greatly helped me to clarify my thoughts on Olmsted. I also want to thank Marjorie Perlman for her support, which included inviting me to speak before the Friends of the University of Rochester Libraries.
BOOK: Genius of Place
12.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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