• Friends of Fairsted Programs

Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Birth

Lecture presented by

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Saturday, March 12, 2022

Olmsted and Yosemite: Civil War, Abolition, and the National Park Idea

A book talk by Rolf Diamant and Ethan Carr

Olmsted Yosemite Lecture

Out of the turbulence of the 1860s, as the United States engaged in a civil war, abolished slavery, and remade the government, the public park emerged as a product of these dramatic changes. New York’s Central Park and Yosemite in California both embodied the “new birth of freedom” that emphasized the duty of republican government to enhance the lives and well-being of all its new citizens. A central figure directly connected with abolition, the Civil War, and the dawn of urban and national parks is Frederick Law Olmsted whose pre-war journalism about the South, design work on Central Park, and ground-breaking Yosemite Report created an intellectual framework for the “park idea.” Marking the bicentennial of Olmsted’s birth, this new book by Rolf Diamant, former superintendent of Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site and Ethan Carr, Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, offers a new interpretation of how the American park—urban and national—came to figure so prominently in our cultural identity, and why this more complex and inclusive story deserves to be told.

Rolf-Diamant-yosemiteRolf Diamant A landscape architect and historian, Rolf is adjunct associate professor in the University of Vermont’s Historic Preservation Program. In his previous 37-year career with the National Park Service, Rolf was a planner, resource manager and park superintendent. A believer in expanding the national park system in new directions, Rolf worked on the development of urban national parks, national heritage areas and partnership-based wild and scenic rivers. As superintendent of Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, he organized the multi-year initiative to conserve and open-up the Olmsted Archives. As first superintendent of Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller National Historical Park, he guided park’s early development as a catalyst for creative approaches to conservation issues. Rolf was a Beatrix Farrand Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received a BS and master’s in landscape architecture, and he was a Loeb Fellow in Advanced Environmental Studies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He currently writes about the history of national parks and their impact on American society. He is coeditor and contributing author of A Thinking Person’s Guide to America’s National Parks and his column on national parks regularly appears in the journal Parks Stewardship Forum.

Ethan-Carr-yosemiteEthan Carr, Phd, FASLA, is a professor of landscape architecture and the director of the Master’s of Landscape Architecture program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is a landscape historian and preservationist specializing in public landscapes. Three of his award-winning books, Wilderness by Design (1998), Mission 66: Modernism and the National Park Dilemma (2007), and The Greatest Beach, a History of the Cape Cod National Seashore (2019) describe the twentieth-century history of planning and design in the U.S. national park system as a context for considering its future. Carr was the lead editor for The Early Boston Years, 1882-1890, Volume 8 of the Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted (2013). Olmsted and Yosemite: Civil War, Abolition, and the National Park Idea (2022) was co-written with Rolf Diamant and traces the origins of the American park movement. His latest book, Boston’s Franklin Park: Olmsted, Recreation, and the Modern City (2023) reconsiders the history of this landmark urban park. Carr consults with landscape architecture firms developing plans and designs for historic parks of all types.

To order book “Olmsted and Yosemite: Civil War, Abolition, and the National Park Idea


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We thank our co-sponsors for the 2021-2022 Lecture Series:
Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
Nancy McGovern
Pat Suhrcke

Beauty, Efficiency, and Economy: A Life of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.
Elizabeth Hope Cushing

April 2021:
Ecologies of Memory

Sara Zewde

December 2020:
The Olmsted Brothers’ Planning in California: A Prescient Approach to Ecological Design

Christine E. O’Hara

November 2019:
Climate Change and Urban Landscapes: Extending Olmsted’s Legacy

Chris Reed

December 2018:
Saving Central Park: A History and A Memoir

Elizabeth Barlow Rogers

April 2018:
What Is a Park For? Olmsted, Obama, and the Meanings of Urban Landscape

Carlo Rotella
December 2017:
Beyond Drawings: The Olmsted Archives as Muse and Vision

Lucinda Brockway

March 2017:
Lewis Mumford’s Green Urbanism

Aaron Sachs
December 2016:
From the Granite Garden to West Philadelphia (with a nod to the Fens): Restoring Nature & Communities

Anne Whiston Spirn

April 2016:
Parks: Cornerstone of Civic Revitalization

Rolf Diamant
December 2015:
The “Fairsted School”: An Enduring Legacy

Ethan Carr

March 2015:

Gary Hilderbrand

December 2014:
Dwelling in Landscape

Daniel Bluestone