2017-2018 NHS Lecture Series & Public Programs

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Plans, Policy and Passion: How the Olmsteds Helped Shape the National Park System for the 21st Century

6:00pm Reception | 7:00pm Lecture
Wheelock College, Brookline Campus
43 Hawes Street, corner of Hawes and Monmouth Streets, Brookline, MA

“I believe to be the most priceless recreational quality of these great reservations was the sense of freedom and independence which they give. To be free, and to know that one is free, of his own right as human being, without trespass or intrusion, to go where the spirit moves…” – FLO, Jr. 1921

Shaped by four years of Civil War, Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1865 political manifesto calling for the protection of Yosemite Valley, “for all time”, was one of many tuning points in the creation of our National Parks and National Park Service. Nearly a half-century later, his son, FLO Jr, would distill and build upon his father’s beliefs to forge an organization to administer these special places “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Today the Olmsted influence is everywhere, from policy to planning to on-the-ground design work in the parks. And the core belief, that parks were for “the free use…of the whole body of people”, is a cornerstone of what it means to be a free citizen in 2017. Looking at the uncertain future for national parks, the legacy of the Olmsteds, now more than ever, offer America a vision for a national park system that draws inspiration from principles of equity and benevolence and relies on professional stewardship employing the best design, science and scholarship. There is an urgency to tell a refreshed National Park Service history that that connects back to the Olmsteds and the responsibility of government to preserve special places for the benefit of all people.

This program will include presentations and panel discussion with the authors of a recent study by the Organization of American Historians and the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site titled The Olmsteds and the National Park Service that has uncovered new information about the importance of the Olmsted firm members in shaping the agency.

Program Participants

Ethan Carr, Phd, FASLA, is an associate professor of landscape architecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the director of the MLA program. He is a landscape historian and preservationist specializing in public landscapes, particularly municipal and national park planning and design. His two award-winning books, Wilderness by Design (1998) and Mission 66: Modernism and the National Park Dilemma (2007) describe the twentieth-century history of planning and design in the U.S. national park system as the context for considering its future management. Carr is also the volume editor of the eighth volume of the Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, The Early Boston Years, 1882-1890 (2013) which covers the period when the Olmsted’s practice developed into the first modern landscape architecture office. His career in the fields of landscape architecture and historic preservation began in the professional world, in the New York City Parks Department and the National Park Service, where he was the lead historical landscape architect at the Denver Service Center. He has taught at the Harvard GSD, the University of Virginia, and at the University of Massachusetts, where he is currently inaugurating the Cultural Landscape Management program.

Rolf Diamant is currently an adjunct associate professor at the University of Vermont, School of Environment and National Resources and is co-author of A Thinking Person’s Guide to America’s National Parks (2016). He retired as superintendent of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park after a career focused on advancing forward-thinking policies and programs in the national park system and was formerly the superintendent of Fairsted, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, MA, where he led the effort to conserve and make accessible the extensive archive of Olmsted plans and drawings. Rolf serves on several non-profit boards and advisory groups including the Vermont Historical Society and the Center for Park Management – National Parks and Conservation Association and is past president of the George Wright Society.

Lauren Meier, ASLA, is one of the editors of the Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, currently completing the final volume of the 12-book series, Plans and Views of Communities and Private Estates and is co-editor of The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm, 1957-1979 (2008). Meier has had a long career in both public and private practice, focused on the preservation of some the nation’s most significant cultural landscapes. In 1989, she was the founding coordinator of the NPS Historic Landscape Initiative, followed by appointment to the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation where she completed many historic landscape preservation projects from California to Maine including the restoration of Olmsted’s own home landscape, Fairsted. Her work on Olmsted-designed landscapes has included national parks, municipal parks, parkways, residential communities, estates and gardens, campuses, and memorials. She is active in many boards and commissions including Friends of Fairsted.

Lucy Lawliss is the co-chair of the National Association for Olmsted Parks. In 2013 she was named superintendent of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park after serving five years as superintendent of George Washington Birthplace National Historic Site and Thomas Stone National Historic Site. Prior to that she was resource manager for four historical national parks in California’s East San Francisco Bay and NPS national program manager for the Park Cultural Landscapes Program and from 1991–2001 she was the lead for the NPS Southeast Region’s Cultural Landscape Program. As a registered landscape architect, she worked in the private sector from 1979 to 1991 when she joined the NPS. She is a co-editor of the award winning NAOP publication, The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm 1857–1979 (2008) and author of the Southern Garden History Society’s first Magnolia Essay, “Residential Work of the Olmsted Firm in Georgia, 1893–1937”.


Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
99 Warren Street
Brookline, MA