This is the blog for my journey across the U.S., to visit the major Olmsted parks, as well as some of the cities and landscapes that inspired the great park designer, Frederick Law Olmsted.  I am traveling as Olmsted would have, mostly by train.  I will write in the parks, engage the public and edit on the train.  The goal is to produce a book written in and on Olmsted’s open spaces: a reflection on the history of “green” aesthetics (including notions of the picturesque, the beautiful, the sublime, etc. that underly American feelings about “nature”) as well an investigation of the current status of public space in the U.S. (including that of public transport).  I also hope to dialogue with many characters in these public spaces.  The journey will take five weeks and includes stops in twelve cities: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, Louisville, New Orleans, San Antonio, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York.  (I will spend roughly two days in each city, writing in the parks and, in some cases, exploring the environs–such as a visit to Riverside outside Chicago, the first planned suburban community that Olmsted designed, and a visit to Fredericksburg north of San Antonio, which Olmsted passed through on horseback with his brother.)  I will also visit some sites important to Olmsted’s history such as Yosemite and the Biltmore Estate.  I will have to reach Louisville by car and I will fly back to the East Coast from San Francisco.  Otherwise, the journey proceeds by rail.  (I am also interested in the oddly pastoral mythos of trains.)


  1. […] Skinner, moderated by Cole Swensen, pretty much rocked my world. Except when I learned that Skinner is working on an Olmsted project, when my heart sank a little (perhaps there is still time for me to scoop Skinner with my own […]

  2. Olmsted inquirer said

    Where does the project stand? Will you be writing more here?

    • ecopoetics said

      Have picked the project up again (after a delay due to some transition between jobs) and am working on it now!

  3. John Olmsted said

    Did you ever get this book written ?
    I have long contemplated writing more specifically on the psychology of Olmsted’s designs. This is two fold – his desires to create distinct psychological states in the minds of park goers (Central Park was meant to be a big asylum for stressed city dwellers) and secondly his ideas of perception to create these changed states. His use of the curve for example we now know creates a constant state of the new and uncertain in the brain which in turn has profound affects on attention and mood.
    I have wanted to merge Olmsted’s designs and writings with current brain science (which I happen to teach).
    Let me know,
    John Olmsted
    Portland, Or.

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