Synopses & Reviews
In a brilliant collaboration between writer and subject, the bestselling author of andlt;Iandgt;Homeandlt;/Iandgt; and andlt;Iandgt;City Lifeandlt;/Iandgt; illuminates Frederick Law Olmsted's role as a major cultural figure and a man at the epicenter of nineteenth-century American history. andlt;BRandgt; We know Olmsted through the physical legacy of his stunning landscapes -- among them, New York's Central Park, California's Stanford University campus, Boston's Back Bay Fens, Illinois's Riverside community, Asheville's Biltmore Estate, and Louisville's park system. He was a landscape architect before that profession was founded, designed the first large suburban community in the United States, foresaw the need for national parks, and devised one of the country's first regional plans. andlt;BRandgt; Olmsted's contemporaries knew a man of even more extraordinarily diverse talents. Born in 1822, he traveled to China on a merchant ship at the age of twenty-one. He cofounded andlt;Iandgt;The Nationandlt;/Iandgt; magazine and was an early voice against slavery. He wrote books about the South and about his exploration of the Texas frontier. He managed California's largest gold mine and, during the Civil War, served as general secretary to the United States Sanitary Commission, the precursor of the Red Cross. andlt;BRandgt; Olmsted was both ruthlessly pragmatic and a visionary. To create Central Park, he managed thousands of employees who moved millions of cubic yards of stone and earth and planted over 300,000 trees and shrubs. In laying it out, "we determined to think of no results to be realized in less than forty years," he told his son, Rick. "I have all my life been considering distant effects and always sacrificing immediate success and applause to that of the future." To this day, Olmsted's ideas about people, nature, and society are expressed across the nation -- above all, in his parks, so essential to the civilized life of our cities. andlt;BRandgt; Rybczynski's passion for his subject and his understanding of Olmsted's immense complexity and accomplishments make this book a triumphant work. In andlt;Iandgt;A Clearing in the Distance,andlt;/Iandgt; the story of a great nineteenth-century American becomes an intellectual adventure.
"[An] excellent biography....a straightforward work, thorough and respectful, yet easeful in a way that is reminiscent of Olmsted himself." New York Times Book Review
"[A Clearing in the Distance] goes a long way toward capturing Olmsted the man. [A] biography that communicates, with feeling, the ups and downs of Olmsted's career as well as of the profession he helped to invent." Wall Street Journal
"Having written incisive and original books on architecture and art and even a social history of the weekend, Rybczynski has found his ideal biographical match....Clearly, Olmsted thought at least as much about the interaction of art and society as Rybczynski himself." Library Journal
Includes bibliographical references (p. 429-460) and index.
About the Author
andlt;Bandgt;Witold Rybczynskiandlt;/Bandgt;, born in Edinburgh, raised in Canada, and currently living in Philadelphia, is the Meyerson Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania. He has written on architecture and urbanism for andlt;i andgt;The New York Timesandlt;/iandgt;, andlt;i andgt;The Atlanticandlt;/iandgt;, andlt;i andgt;The New Yorkerandlt;/iandgt; and andlt;i andgt;Slateandlt;/iandgt;, and is the author of the critically acclaimed andlt;i andgt;Homeandlt;/iandgt; and the andlt;i andgt;A Clearing in the Distanceandlt;/iandgt;, a biography of frederick Law Olmsted, for which he was awarded the J. Anthony Lukas Prize. He is the recipient of the National Building Museumand#8217;s 2007 Vincent Scully Prize.
Table of Contents
andlt;Bandgt;CONTENTSandlt;/Bandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Forewordandlt;BRandgt;Schemesandlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;1. "Tough as nails"andlt;BRandgt;2. Frederick goes to schoolandlt;BRandgt;3. Hartfordandlt;BRandgt;4. "I have no objection"andlt;BRandgt;5. New Yorkandlt;BRandgt;6. A year before the mastandlt;BRandgt;7. Friendsandlt;BRandgt;8. Farmingandlt;BRandgt;9. More Farmingandlt;BRandgt;10. A walking tour in the old countryandlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Jostling and Being Jostledandlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;11. Mr. Downing's magazineandlt;BRandgt;12. Olmsted falls in love and finishes his bookandlt;BRandgt;13. Charley Brace intervenesandlt;BRandgt;14. Yeomanandlt;BRandgt;15. A traveling companionandlt;BRandgt;16. The Texas settlersandlt;BRandgt;17. Yeoman makes a decisionandlt;BRandgt;18. "Much the best Mag. in the world"andlt;BRandgt;19. Abroadandlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Hitting Headsandlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;20. A change in fortuneandlt;BRandgt;21. The Colonel meets his matchandlt;BRandgt;22. Mr. Vauxandlt;BRandgt;23. A brilliant solutionandlt;BRandgt;24. A promotionandlt;BRandgt;25. Frederick and Maryandlt;BRandgt;26. Comptroller Greenandlt;BRandgt;27. King Cottonandlt;BRandgt;28. A good big workandlt;BRandgt;29. Yeoman's warandlt;BRandgt;30. "Six months more pretty certainly"andlt;BRandgt;31. A letter from Danaandlt;BRandgt;32. Never happierandlt;BRandgt;33. Olmsted shortens sailandlt;BRandgt;34. A heavy sort of bookandlt;BRandgt;35. Calvert Vaux doesn't take no for an answerandlt;BRandgt;36. Loose endsandlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;A Magnificent Openingandlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;37. Olmsted and Vaux plan a perfect parkandlt;BRandgt;38. Metropolitanandlt;BRandgt;39. A stopover in Buffaloandlt;BRandgt;40. Thirty-nine thousand treesandlt;BRandgt;41. Best-laid plansandlt;BRandgt;42. Henry Hobson Richardsonandlt;BRandgt;43. Olmsted's dilemmaandlt;BRandgt;44. Aloneandlt;BRandgt;45. "More interesting than nature"andlt;BRandgt;46. Olmsted in demandandlt;BRandgt;47. "I shall be free from it on the Ist of January"andlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Standing Firstandlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;48. An arduous convalescenceandlt;BRandgt;49. Fairsteadandlt;BRandgt;50. The character of his businessandlt;BRandgt;51. The sixth parkandlt;BRandgt;52. Olmsted meets the Governorandlt;BRandgt;53. Olmsted and Vaux, together againandlt;BRandgt;54. "Make a small pleasure ground and gardens"andlt;BRandgt;55. Olmsted drives hardandlt;BRandgt;56. The fourth museandlt;BRandgt;57. Dear Rickandlt;BRandgt;58. Sunsetandlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Olmsted's Distant Effectsandlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;Distant Effectsandlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;A Selected List of Olmsted Projectsandlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Acknowledgmentsandlt;BRandgt;Notesandlt;BRandgt;Indexandlt;BRandgt;Illustration and Photograph Credits