Chautauqua 2010 – Olmsted

[ Music ]>>Chautauqua 2010
is brought to you by the Maryland Humanities
Council, a private educational nonprofit
organization that stimulates and promotes, inform
dialogue and civic engagement on issues critical
to Marylanders. [ Music ]>>Hello and welcome
to Chautauqua. I’m Angela Rice Beemer here
at the Germantown Campus of Montgomery College. Chautauqua is a living
history program where scholar actors
portray famous and influential historical
characters. This year’s theme is
“Beyond Boundaries.” And tonight Chautauqua character
expanded the boundaries for all of us. He was a man of trees and
flowers, but also a sailor, a scientific farmer,
and a journalist. He believed that cities
should be built with nature and parks all around us. Someone once said of him
that he built palace grounds for common people. He was America’s foremost
landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.>>Good evening!>>Good evening.>>Fred Olmsted. I was born in Hartford
on April 26 of 1822. My mother died tragically
when I was only four. My father was a dry
good salesman and he owned his
store, well off. He was the kindest man as I
looked back from years ahead that there ever could have been. In the beginning when I was
a small boy he’d take me out into the fields
around our home. And then he took me on trips
to northern New England to the White Mountains
and to Niagara Falls. One evening when we were
walking to the woods, it was late by the time
we were getting back home. And it was dark so we
could see the stars and I watched my father
look up and he was pointing at one bright star and I heard
him say, “Our infinite love.” And I knew he was
speaking of my mother. My brother John was only
one when our mother died. I used to take John on walks, in fact one time we walked all
the way to my mother’s hometown in Cheshire to visit our uncle
and the sister of our mother. Then there was my grandfather,
he was a sea captain, once when I was struggling
and trying to understand what it
was I was going to do in my life I was lying down
in front of the elm tree, in front of our home and my
grandfather came up and he said, “Fred, what is it you’re doing?” And I said, “Grandfather I’m
looking up at all the branches and all the different ways
they’re going and I’m thinking about my life and wondering what
is it that I’m going to do.” Well, my grandfather looked down
at me and said, “You know Fred, I planted this tree and it’s the
most important thing I ever did in my life.” And that made a big
impression on me. My schooling wasn’t
very much at all. I was sent away probably because
I wasn’t getting along too well with my stepmother. My father sent me to
a series of ministers and they made me work hard
and I learned some things, but there was a minister
sort of person who was telling stories once in
a while when the minister is out and he’d come into the room and
we’d be laughing and he come over and he’d hit me with
a broom on the shoulders. And then when I was 14 I
developed a very serious case of poison sumac. And the doctors were very
worried then they said, “Fred must rest his eyes.” I told my father I couldn’t
continue to prepare for Yale. So it took almost a year for me
to recover and slowly I started to walk out into the woods and
I basically became a vagabond out there in the fields and
climbing the hills and walking through the forest, along
the streams, letting sort of nature be my teacher. At 18 my father got very
concerned of what I might do, he knew of a dry
goods store down there in Manhattan, New York. So he took me down, he set me
up in the room over in Brooklyn. And I used to take the ferry
across to this dry good store and I worked hard
and I got promotions. And soon I was working all day and then keeping the
books half the night. And I forgot that what was I
doing here this wasn’t going to be the life that I was
thinking about envisioning. I wanted to get back
to the hills and the woods and the streams. The only thing I did recall
was when I cross the ferry and all those great sailing
vessels there in the China trade and I thought of my grandfather. When I went back to Hartford
and I began again walking and kept thinking about those
sailing vessels and I said to my father, “Do you think
it would be possible to go out and to be one of those
ships” and my father said, “I will see what I can do.” I was successful in getting on
the Ronaldson with Captain Fox. Well, a couple of
things I learned. I learned first that I wasn’t
going to be much of a sailor, because for about three
weeks I was over the deck. [ Laughter ] The other thing that struck
me was Captain Fox seemed to be a nice individual,
but as the trip went on he became more
brutal in his language and actually more brutal
in his physical attacks, because one time there
was a young sailor who we knew hadn’t stolen
money, but he accused him. He got the first mate
to hold them down and he beat him, beat him. My first riding was named at sea
and I wrote what can atone for? What can retain? What can restore the humanity
degraded by the brutal beating from a depraved tyrant? Well, I got back. When I landed in New York, I saw
my father and he walked right through me, he didn’t
recognize me. It took me about half a year
to recover and then I went down to Yale where my
brother had enrolled. And with John, I met some
of his wonderful friends, one in particular,
that was Charlie Brace. Later on Charlie was
able to create something that I thought was one of
the most worthwhile projects in America and that was
the Children’s Aid Society in New York City, where he
take the kids off the streets and provide a home. Then there was Fred Kingsbury. Fred Kingsbury was sort of
an insightful person at least when he wrote to John
and wrote this about me, he said Fred is an
enthusiastic type of individual. The world needs people like him. He’ll fail at one thing and
then he’ll move on and fail with something else,
and then he’ll move on to a third and fail at that. The rest of us will be
blubbering and crying about the failure of the first. Well, it seemed that
they’re at school at Yale. There were two things that I
began thinking about, one was– and most importantly
I was in love. Elizabeth Baldwin,
Lizzie Baldwin, daughter of the governor who
was the most beautiful woman in Hartford according to the
other guys as well as myself. And she unfortunately
didn’t accept me. I thought it was probably
because I wasn’t at Yale. I had no schooling. But she gave me three
gifts, one when she said to me Fred you are very great
man, you have a great intellect. And secondly, you
have the capacity to do many things
for our nation. And thirdly, she gave me this
book, Ralph Waldo Emerson, essays like self reliance. And that book stayed
by the side of my bed for the rest of my life. The other romance that
I turned to was farming. It became clear that farming
was needed to take a change and develop scientific farming. So my father got a place for
me up in New York to Mr. Geddes who was known throughout the
northeast as a good farmer. And then, I heard
about a farm for sale, down there at Sachem Head
where the family vacationed. And I thought that’s
exactly where I want to go, so my father purchased
that farm for me. And I went down and unfortunately I
hadn’t really checked or had Mr. Geddes come down. I worked and I planted
and cultivated, but the farm was used up,
the ground was used up. The only thing I really did
was I planted a couple of trees and I had envisioned them
around the farm house. Well, I read another
advertisement for a farm down at Staten Island, so I sat
down and I wrote to my father, “Dear father, there’s
a farm on Staten Island that I think will
be just perfect.” Well, I went down there and
I begin to get very excited about farming because
things were working. And not only where
they’re working for myself after a couple of
years, but I look– people were coming to me saying
Mr. Olmsted how do you do this? How is this working? And I had developed
different areas of the farm and fenced them in and protected
them and put drainage in. And that’s where I developed
the word of communicativeness, that we should communicate
across fences to other people who, yes, may be
we were in competition in a way, but if we were to have
a civil society we had to have a dialogue. And we developed the Staten
Island Agricultural Society, and people were excited
about it. Then one day, I heard that John and Charlie Brace were
going to go to England. Well, John wasn’t too well and father had already
sent them to England. So I sat down and I wrote, “Dear
father, I think it’s important that I go to England to learn
about scientific farming and the greater degree from
a different perspective”. All my kind and generous
father, agreed. So, off to England we went. We landed in Liverpool and we
were getting something to eat and evidently the man at the
store overheard our conversation and he said, “Boys, from the
way you’re talking you want to go to this park.” And I said, “Certainly
we’ll go.” So he gave us directions and
took us about half an hour to get there and as I walked
to the park he told us that this was just a
swampland and a lot of rocks. But there with these
rolling hills now. And this weeding pass and a
stream, this was such beauty that it was so grasping. And I thought to myself,
more importantly look at the people, people
from all over. This is a democratic park. And that got to me and I went
back and I wrote a book “Walks and Talks of an American
Farmer in England.” And at one point I wrote what
artist so noble, as he who, with conceiving power and
beauty sketches the outline and writes the colors, and
directs the shadows of a picture so great that nature
will be employed upon it for generations. And I also wrote, “Dame
Nature is a gentlewoman.” No guide’s fee will
get you her attention, nor abrupt demand hardly will
she bear her questioning, nor the direct gaze
into her beauty. Least of all where her
true nature be understood from the hurry days
of the traveler. Always we must quietly and
patiently wait upon her. Well, I got back to the farm
and I was captivated, you know, by this writing that was
going on and the response? And I ask Charlie
Brace what should I do? I mean I want to start this
maybe some more writing and Charlie said to me,
“Well, I tell you what Fred, New York Times, Mr.
Raymond, editor he’s looking for someone who will go south.” And I said, “Well, that
sounds like the job for me.” So I went over and Charlie
Brace set up the appointment. I walk in and Mr. Raymond said
to me, “Well we have a job.” I said, “I’ll take it.” Well, I did take it and
I went south, two trips, and wrote three books. And wrote over 40
articles for the Times and on the second
trip I took my brother and we went all the
way to Texas. Father and I thought it
might be good for his health, because he having some problems and we weren’t sure
what they were. He’d also married the
woman on Staten Island, who I thought was my sweetheart. But Mary was a vivacious
person and they were to have three children. So at this point I
said well, he came back and he’s doesn’t feeling
too well when we got back from that second trip. And I said, you know,
there’s opportunities in the publishing business
for me John, so would you stay on the farm and run the farm. And I looked around and then
there was this advertisement from Dix and Edwards,
they wanted a partner. Well, there was one problem it
was going to cost 8,000 dollars to be a partner, “Dear father.” And once again, my generous
father, he made it possible for me to become a member
and we published Thoreau and we published Melville,
and I was excited so we’ve got to get English authors. So they set me to England and I
got some of the English authors that we’re going
to get involved. And then, one day I got a letter
from Mr. Dix and he wrote, unfortunately, “Fred, Mr. Edwards has embezzled
our money.” Damn! Well, what I was I do to? I was finishing my
third Book “Journey through the Back Country.” And I was seating at an inn in
Connecticut, next to the sea, and an old friend Charles Elliot
came up and, “How you doing?” Charles– he said I’m
doing fine and you? Well, I’m not doing
too well right now. Well, you know what
Fred, he says to me, there is a job superintendent
in Central Park. I’ll take it. [ Laughter ] It sounded to me like just the
opportunity I was looking for. So he said, “Whoa, there’s
competition for this.” So I went down to New York and I
got my literary friends together and had them write,
but the word went out that Mr. Olmsted
is a literary man. We want a practical man. Well, you know, what
happened on the vote? I won by one vote and the
deciding vote Washington Irving, a literary man. So I said to myself now is the
chance to really go to work. This is what I’ve
been waiting for. And for four years I worked as
hard as I probably for the rest of my life, but people said
I worked day and night anyway for the rest of my life. But I had to prove
myself at Central Park. So, day after day
I was up at dawn, I stayed up half the night till after midnight writing
the plans for the foremen. First we had 500,
then a thousand, then 2,000 workers out there. The one big problem was
Mr. Green, the controller. He would not give the
money that was necessary to make the park
what it should be. And I felt we had to
do it the right way. Well, it turned out that we
made progress despite Mr. Green. And then, one day I got
a letter from my father. That John was not
doing well at all. He’d gone to Europe
with his wife. And then, I got a letter from
my brother John, “Dear Fred, it appears as if we will not
see each other ever again. I only have a few days
left says the doctor. The friendship we have
had is the greatest that I possibly could
have treasured so much. Say hello to the boys for me
and do not let Mary suffer when you are alive, your
dearest brother John.” Well, what next? Calvert Vaux, good to see you. You say what? There’s going to
be a competition, a design competition
for Central Park? Yes, so I’ve convinced him
he tells– and you want me? You think I can help
you design the park? No, I’m the superintendent. I organize people. I bring people together. I get the work done. You really think I’m an artist? Well, then let’s do it. So we– evenings for four
months worked constantly. They’re developing the
plan for Central Park. There we had this great
meadow, called the Sheep Meadow, where you could look
and see forever. And then, there was a field where the young children could
come and could play ball. And then there was a
promenade with the elms that we could envision,
and then the lake. And then on the hillside
there we would have thousands of rhododendrons
and mountain laurel. And they said what
are you going to do with the transfers
roads across the park? And we came up with the
idea we would sink them. So when you’re looking across the landscape you
did not see the carriages and the horses, but only
far into the distance. And we won the competition. Well, things were
going very well. Mary and the three children
were in Staten Island and I would visit them and
I sort of begin to have some of the old feelings for Mary. And we got married, there
on June 13th of 1859. And about a year later we had a
child, our first child, a boy. And I wanted to take Mary
out and show the park and I thought bring
along the baby. So we were riding
in the carriage and I was explaining things,
then all of the sudden we came to an area where I
wanted to plant trees and Mr. Green had not provided
the funding and I hit the horse and the horse went up
and “Ah,” I went down. Mary, save the baby,
save baby Mary. My leg fell, it was
broken, broken many places. Well, I heard the doctor say
when they got me to the house, well, we got to amputate
and another doctor says if we amputate he’ll die. Well, finally after a couple
a days they’ve done some sort of operation, where now one
leg was two inches shorter than the other. And I lay there in
bed and I wanted to have people just pick me
up which I insisted they do and strap me, there on
a cart with the horse so they could take me around and I could watch the
work that was going on. And I did that for a
long period of the time and in the morning I
meet with the foreman, and then in evening I get their
reports and I write the plans and the directions
for the next day. Well, Mr. Green continued
to tie my hands. And I threatened I would leave. Well, something happened
in the country that was more important
in Central Park. The nation was going to war. What could I do in my condition? I thought I would be good if
I could be placed in charge of the training of the
Negro after they were freed. I was convinced we would win. Well, a Reverend Bellows
had another job for me, Executive Secretary to
Sanitary Commission. And he said, this
is a job for you. This is the group that
we privately funded, it will be part of the
government and we will be able to go out and take care of the
wounded and serve the dying. Well, I took the job. And they said I was going
down to meet Mr. Lincoln. Well, that would be
a rare privilege, certainly to meet this man who
certainly everybody was talking about that he had a power about
him and that he clearly was one that was going to be
able to save the union. Well, we got down there and
I walked into the meeting when Mr. Lincoln, quite frankly
I was not that impressed. Well, he seemed to gaze off
as if he wasn’t listening. And then, I went to
first battle of Bull Run after the people were
coming back from Washington. And there what did
I behold but a group of just bedraggled troops
that were all over the place. They were stumbling. There was no discipline. And I wrote to my Mary and
said, “Mary, the one thing that the Sanitary Commission has
to do is have some discipline and it starts with
the sergeant general.” And I wrote a letter for better
or worst it get up to Lincoln. “It is criminal weakness to
install the responsibilities of the sergeant general
onto a self-satisfied, supercilious, bigoted
blackhead.” Well, it made an
impact all right. However, it took
about three months and then we got the change. And then things from the top
started again into order. One of the most creative
things I thought we did was when the transports,
the hospital transports, in my idea was in the campaign
of Richmond, we’d go down there and we would have the ships, and
then we could put the wounded on the ships, and
we did just that. And then, the evening I would go
up onto the deck into the rooms where the wounded
were, after midnight, and I’d spend hours there. And one nurse came
up one time and said, “Mr. Olmsted, why do you this?” I said, because this is
the reason we’re all here. These are the soldiers
that are winning this war, I trust for them we
all agreed to death. And I am doing my
best to care for them. Well, the conflicts
continued with people on the sanitary commission,
I would draw up my plans which I thought were organized. I spend all night practically. George Templeton
Strong the diarist from New York wrote a very
interesting thing about me. He said, “Olmsted is
the most unique specimen of humanity I have
ever laid my eyes on. He stays up all night and then
he goes to sleep on the couch and then he wakes up and
has a cup of black coffee and pickles for breakfast.” Well, I was only trying
to get the job done, so that the union would
have strong forces. However, I was exhausted
as often I was in all my work, through
all my years. And I became no one. I knew I had to leave
because I knew that they really
imparted me anymore. Now, what was I going to do? I received a letter
from a Mister Dana. He said that a group of business
people had purchased the Mariposa Goldmine in California, supposedly the largest
goldmine in California. Well, that got my interest. And so, I met with the group and they said Olmsted we
want you to direct us. So I talk with Mary and I said, “Mary I think this is my
great opportunity financially for you, for the family. I went out west, went to
the goldmine, worked again, half the evening,
sometimes right through the night
writing the plans. And then, I got another
message from New York. The investors had been swindled. Well, one thing happened out
west there in California. A person who I got to know said,
“Take your horse and go camping for a while down
the Merced River.” And I went down the Merced River
and there, I went over a hill and then all of a sudden in
a distance I saw these great, great rock formations. And going further I saw these
falls, magnificent falls. And then as I looked down in the
valley there was the meandering stream and beautiful
flowers and delicate trees. Yosemite, Gloria in excelsis. I wrote back to Mary,
what a magnificent land. This must be preserved
for all people of America. And I saw selected
Chairman of the Commission and I wrote a long report
focusing on the philosophy and the practical reasons why
we needed lands like these, saved by the nation
for all people. And one day Mary came running
up to me full of glee and joy. And I said, “Mary, what is it? What is it?” “The union has won!” I said, “Mary, get all the
red, white, and blue we can and get the children
and decorate our home.” Well, a week later
Mary came and I looked at her face and she had tears. “Mary, what is it?” “The president is dead.” “No. No.” How I miscalculated
on this, the wisest, smartest president we had
ever had, who’s brought out union together and saved it, but I know his spirit
will continue. Four score and seven years
ago, our fathers brought forth, upon this continent a new
nation conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition
that all men are created equal. Well, I still had a big problem
personally what was I going to do? I got a letter from Calvert Vaux and Calvert Vaux
said, “Come back. Come back to New York. I’ve got 400 acres of land
in Brooklyn,” and I did. I went back and we
created Prospect Park. And I wrote in the report
the purpose of a park is to provide a feeling of relief
for everyone who enters into it and escape from the crowded and cramped conditions
of the city streets. In other words, it is
sense of enhanced freedom for every person who
enters this park. Well, we decided
to create Olmsted and Vaux Landscape Architects
and soon we were getting calls from all over the nation and I
was going up to the New England to Maine, and Massachusetts
and Connecticut, and going out to Chicago
and going down even to the south to Atlanta. And there was a conflict that
developed and Calvert Vaux, he wanted to just sort
of stay more central in New York and I said, “No. The call is too great. We have a responsibility
and duty to do to the nation to create these open free
spaces,” so we split. Well, one of the first things
I did was cross the border and went up to Canada to
Mount Royal and worked there for four years and
then followed out more to create a park in Montreal. And I got worried that
my father was dying. And I went up and I
sat with my father in his bed as he passed away. “No kinder, gentle or generous
person could have lived on the phase of this
earth,” I said to myself. And then, there were
the children. The baby died two weeks
after the accident and I had another son that
died shortly after birth. But on July 24th of
1870, a son was born and I called him Theodore
Perkins, but I called him “boy, “around the house. Then, four years after his
birth, I changed his name to Frederick Law
Olmstead, Jr. Then the work in New York City became brutal. Tammany Hall wanted to do this
and wanted to that and even some of my friends wanted
to put him in museum into the center of Central Park. And I fought them tooth and
nail and I won the battles then, but H. H. Richardson, the great
architect wanted me to come to Boston and I took him on
that and moved up to Boston, but I wrote a report,
spoils of the park in which at one point I stated, “Open space is the one thing
you cannot get in buildings. Picturesqueness, you can get. Make you buildings are
picturesque as they can be, that is the beauty of the city. On the other hand, the beauty
of the park is of the fields and woods and green pastures
beside the still waters.” All through the 80s,
we carried on. I was called to California. I was called by Governor
Stanford to design Stanford University. I was called at Biltmore
which became one of the most important project
for us, and Rick was growing up and send him down there to learn because we’ve created the
Scientific School of Forestry. And Pinchot, I got to go
down and he became the Father of Forestry in America. However, there were conflicts
at one time with Freddie, Jr. He wrote to me
and said, “Dad, I don’t think I can be
a landscape architect.” I wrote him a 10-page
letter saying, “You must be a landscape
architect,” and told him all
the reasons why. This is the only thing
I can bestow on you. This is my life and this
is the life for America and there are people
in different parts of America that need you help. I went to Baltimore and I’ve
created one community there, Sudbrook, but there’re great
people there and I tell you, you could do a lot there
in Baltimore, in Maryland and many other states. He decided that yes he would. Then I got a letter that
Charlie Brace had died. I was so shocked. The man who had the most
worth while vocation. And I sat down, I
wrote a 20-page letter to Elizabeth Baldwin Whitney and
I recalled those great things that she had told me and without
her in my life I doubt very much that I would have been
successful and I thanked her. And near the end of
the letter, I wrote, “I have sold being for doing.” And then, it seemed
that I was losing– remembering names
to a certain degree. So, I said that, all right,
I’ll talk to Rick and I’ll talk to John, the oldest brother
who was now my partner, my adopted brother, so
we tried to get a grasp on where things where. Then they sent me to England because they thought maybe
a vacation would help out. I got to England. My mind at times was very clear and I wrote letters back
instructing the boys what they should be doing. Then, Mary one day
was looking at me and I said, “Mary, what is it? Tell me. Calvert Vaux is dead? How did he die? They say suicide? No. No.” I’ve told them without
Calvert Vaux, I am nothing. How can this be, they have
destroyed Calvert Vaux in New York. They ridiculed him. I told them, they just shouldn’t
stay there in that brutal city. Now, and then I was so upset
that Mary took me back to Boston and took me right up
to Thoreau with John. And with Rick, they’d
build a home for me there. But one day, yes maybe
I did beat the horse and maybe I did beat
the keeper of the horse. They took me back to
Boston, but again, they didn’t go home and office. They took me out
to McLean Hospital, and there I was at McLean. I’d walk day and night
sometimes across the fields. What was it I said in that
final report in the big park, Franklin Park, what it
not be for use and delight at this time only, but
let it be of such a work that our descendants
will thank us for it. And someday, men will say,
this, our fathers did for us. And then one dark evening as I
woke up, yes, mother, father, brother John, I have felt
the presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated
thoughts. A sense sublime of something
far more deeply interfused, who’s dwelling places that of
setting suns and the broad sky, and the blue sea and in the
hearts of man, and therefore, I’m a still a lover of the
streams and meadows and woods and hills and mountains and
trees and all that we behold on this Green Earth,
Gloria in excelsis. [ Pause ] [ Applause ]>>We’ve just seen a
wonderful performance of Frederick Law Olmsted by Gerry Wright and
he’s with me now. Thank you very much
for joining me.>>Thank you, Angela.>>I want to ask you a few
questions about the character and then some about the–
yourself and what you’re doing and how you got into
this process. But one of the quotes that mentioned during
your performance, it really struck me. I’ve been sold on being
a– I’ve sold be– I’ve sold being for doing.>>Correct.>>Did Olmsted get a
chance before he declined? Did he a get a chance to
actually be– did he– did he got a chance to–
because he worked so much.>>I believe he was very
self-critical and he was been, he spent a lot of time
with his children. It wasn’t that he was away
from home all the time, but he was so self-critical he
felt he should have been doing more with his children. He thought he should be going
out in nature and sitting with nature but he would
had so many demands on him to do projects and each
project he took so seriously that it was good for the nation. It was good for a private state
but that was part of the nation. It was good for a community. So, he was driven for
this feeling of duty and the democratic way.>>Did his– did that come from his family upbringing
or what do you think? Was that something
unique to him or was it–>>I think that his father
who was a gentle person, but he was very committed
to the community. He was committed to his church. He was committed to
community civic activities. So, in a small way, each
day, his father was part of the community of Hartford. He was a responsible business
person and he cared obviously so much for Olmsted
that he provided these different opportunities. He bought a farm, and
he bought another farm, he paid for his trip to England. He paid the price
of 8,000 dollars so he go into publishing. So he was encouraging
and enabling Olmsted. And Olmsted I think felt such a
responsibility from his father to produce, produce because
he’d been giving so much. But also, very important,
the democratic notion that it’s not just a
materialistic world, he said to his friend, Charlie
Brace when he’s in Germany, “Charlie, you must come back. We need thousands like you. Our country is being
overrun by materialism.”>>The idea of melding democracy in the environment was
important then and that was part of how you designed some of
his work, is that correct?>>Absolutely, that’s
exactly correct. It was the whole idea that
the park in the center of New York City, Central
Park was open for all people. And he actually said that
sometimes it’s in the summer when the poor people don’t
have a chance to go away and there won’t be as many
carriages as are in the spring and the fall that I went
out and I put pamphlets out in the poor areas
of the city so that they would have
the same opportunities that the wealthy had,
because it’s free. Open space is free.>>Someone once said that
he developed palace grounds for common people and that
sort of embraces that–>>Absolutely. I think that’s the
perfect example.>>He found the healing
in nature. I’ve been very curious. His father was very kind,
but when he remarried, when the father remarried,
he sent Frederick away. You’ve mentioned in your
performance that might have been because of a bit of
friction with the stepmother?>>Yes, that’s correct. Yes, I think that the loss of
his mother I think was immense. And I don’t know
whether he was cognizant of it as a young person. But clearly, when he
took his younger brother and they walked 16
miles to Cheshire where their mother was born,
it was like going someplace where the spiritual presence of
their mother was because that’s where she lived and grew up.>>Yeah, yeah. He traveled a lot. He– did– much more even around
the United States because he had so many projects in
different states. Did he write a lot about that? I know he wrote about– in England, or was he
was just working so much that he didn’t get a chance
to write a lot about it?>>He– you’re absolutely right
that he was writing a lot. And of course, the first
book, Walks and Talks of an American Farmer
in England. That was the one that inspired
them and inspired other people and that’s why Charlie
Brace got in the job with the New York
Times to go south. Then he wrote three books
on the economic conditions of the slavery situation. He was not an abolitionist. He believed that somehow, you have to provide
economic opportunities when Negro people will going
to be free and that he strived to do because he had a– it wasn’t just he
talked about things. Now, as far as the writing is
concerned, he wrote his reports on these parks, every park
he’d sit down sometimes, all night writing the
report for the park. So, he didn’t publish books
after those on the south. He would write reports
for city government, for private individuals,
multitudes or reports for Stanford, Governor Stanford,
when he went out there, multiple reports for
George Vanderbilt. We was a writer, writer,
writer because he was trying to show these are the details
that are necessary if I’m going to create a park that
is acceptable to me and acceptable to you.>>And because he wrote, we
have those records to refer to. So, it can be duplicated
and expounded upon. Had he not written so much? It may have– there may
have been a bit of a void as with some other
historical characters where they did what they did
but if we don’t have a record, it’s not– we don’t
particularly get the essence of what they were trying to do so that you could be done
again or, as I said expounded.>>Right, absolutely correct. I mean, this phrase,
the Genius of the Place. I mean, like every place he
went, he’d look out there and he says other
people wouldn’t see it but so he would look into what
is the genius of this place. I’m not going to just start
all over a tabula rasa and then build things,
every place. And of course, my conviction
is the phrase applies to each human being, there’s
a genius within everybody, and you’ve just go to find that and that’s what needs
to be nurtured. Now, for Olmsted, it was the
landscape that he would– and he changed it but there
was something that was natural at the– as the foundation
that– literally, the roots of it.>>When you’re not doing Olmsted
by know that you have worked with homeless children, tell
us a little bit about some of that work you’ve done. Well, this has been
the heartbeat of my work for 52 years. And when I came to Boston, I was
not sure what I wanted to do. But through a series of
circumstances, I got involved in working with adolescent
kids and was living with adolescent kids
and then I thought that what we needed were
group homes in the city rather than the large institutional
settings where kids were warehoused
from the city. And they were not
getting education. So, the small group home
that I’ve been involved with allows us to support the
kid, get them up in the morning, go the school and I could
tell story after story where kids never had that
opportunity living with families who weren’t able to get them up because they couldn’t get
themselves up and this is one of the tragedies of our cities
today and it still exist and because we haven’t
been able to get education into our city schools to
the degree that it’s needed. So, this is the issue
that I struggle now with because I was
trained in conservation and wildlife ecology
and conservation seems to me will be almost
the number one because we don’t do what
Olmsted did, create open spaces, preserve open lands, where’s
our environment going today. But the inner city, I
still continue to work in and I will not stop. I mean, they’re just
too much commitment and I have kids coming up
and I don’t recognize them, they’re 55 years of age. “Do you remember me Gerry?” I said, “Give me
just a first name.” “Jerome,” and I said, “Jerome.” I said, “Jerome Frazier, you were in the school
when Kennedy spoke.” He says, “That was me.” We had three grads and had go
into paper was three grads, one speaker of a class. So these are the things
to me are as heart warming as if you graduated from Harvard
and I believe that we need to develop just a
wealth of young adult. People of all ages but our
young people, a commitment for the democratic principle
that the land belongs to everyone, we need to come in
and share together and we need to share our lives
together, so that kids in the city have
the best resources, human and financial
in the schools.>>It has to do with
the communicativeness that Olmsted talked about. Can you expound upon
that a little bit more? You mentioned it in
your performance.>>Yes, the communicativeness. I think, I mean he comes up
with these wonderful words. You know, when I first
communicativeness. Now, for myself, it’s
community caring, but I think communicativeness,
it grabs you in a different way. If I say community caring,
they’ve heard it so many times but communicativeness was
where he would reach out. And even though he
was so opinionated that some people
would say, “Whoa,” but he’d always be
interested in what the– where the other person
was listening where they would
be a common thread that they could work together on and that he felt was
communicativeness. And his unfinished project was
going to be this great tome, this great book,
“Barbarism and Civilization”. So, that’s an unending book
that humanity will never finish from my perspective
because there are always be barbaric acts. Each of us will do unkind
things in someway but we need to be civilized so that the
civilized always has the upper hand to keep us moving forward.>>How did the humanities
play into that? We don’t have a lot of
time left but I would– how did the humanities play into
sort of bringing civility even through the information. For instance, even through a
care that what I have learned through Chautauqua learning
about the characters, the various historical
characters that have come through Montgomery College. There’s something to
be shared from this. I’ve learned about
civility, the democracy, the merging of the environment,
the healing power of nature by hearing what you have
taught us about Olmsted. Do you have some
comments about some–>>Yes, I am very enthused about
the Maryland Humanities Council and this project that’s
coming up to understand about how can we be more
civilized in our discourse and the humanities I think
has terrific opportunity. I mean, as it goes back to
the Greek theater, you know, theater, what do go and what
do get out of the theater? Well, sometimes, the theater I
think and get more of a message to us then going to
church because in church, it sort of ritual sometimes. But in theater, it can
break into the heart of us and we can be as, “Whoa,
you know, that’s who I am. Whoa, wow.” And so, when we breakdown and
can be accepting of ourselves when we strayed away from the
path we would like to be on, then I think, you
can have humanity. And in art, in the theater,
all these reading, literature, this is why this program
that I understand I going to take place next year for
the Maryland, overall program, not just for Chautauqua
that this is going to be a terrific opportunity.>>Yeah. What’s next for you?>>Well, I’ll continue
to do the work. I also had this vision of 2022 when Olmsted will have
his 200th birthday. I’ve always tried to get
people thinking about it. And I started, well one
celebration now, I said, “Well, let’s have 200.” Now, I think with all the way
you can communicate these new ways that I don’t
use electronically, let’s have 2022 different
celebrations in America that year. And so, if we can get young
people planting a tree and what it grow over
the next 12 years, I think that’d being
exciting project.>>Very exciting. Very exciting, well I’m very,
very glad [Background Music] that you brought Olmsted to
us here at Montgomery College. And I hope that you
get to the 2023, 200th Anniversary celebration
and continued success in the other projects
that you’re doing. It’s sort of a duty
and a responsibility.>>Duty and responsibility,
Olmsted would be very pleased with the words you used.>>Thank you. Thank you. And thank you very
much for joining us. You’ve been watching
Chautauqua: Beyond Boundaries. From the Germantown Campus
of Montgomery College, I’m Angela Rice Beemer. Goodnight. [ Music ]

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