Olmsted & Yosemite
Olmsted & Yosemite: Civil War & National Parks
Friday, March 3, 2023
11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
This event is free and open to the public; registration is required.
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During the turbulent decade 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 had inspired the Union during its greatest crisis, epitomizing the duty of republican government to enhance the lives and well-being of all its citizens. A central thread connecting abolition, the Civil War, and the dawn of urban and national parks is the life of Frederick Law Olmsted. In 1864, Olmsted was asked to prepare a plan for a park in Yosemite Valley, created by Congress to expand the privileges of American citizenship associated with Union victory. His groundbreaking Yosemite Report effectively created an intellectual framework for a national park system to provide every citizen access to the restorative benefits of nature. The talk will explain how this momentous period of national re-invention enabled the public park to emerge as part of our cultural identity and a vital institution of American democracy.
A landscape architect and historian, Rolf is adjunct associate professor of historic preservation at the University of Vermont. In his previous career with the National Park Service, Rolf was superintendent of five national parks including Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site and Marsh-Billings- Rockefeller National Historical Park. Rolf’s book, Olmsted and Yosemite: Civil War, Abolition, and the National Park Idea*, is a great starting point for this lecture.
*Available at https://lalh.org/books/featured/olmsted-and-yosemite/