The Spoils of the Park: Day 1

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.)  My journey begins in Boston, where I am writing this (on the Downeaster, to be precise, about a half hour north of the city.)  I am heading to Franklin Park late this afternoon, one of Olmsted’s grandest parks . . .

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