In 1890, Frederick Law Olmsted, then nearly sixty-eight years old, had risen to the pinnacle of his career. Together with his partners, stepson John Charles Olmsted and protégé Henry Sargent Codman, he was involved in a number of major ongoing projects, including the Boston, Buffalo, and Rochester park systems, the campus plan for Stanford University, and numerous private estates. In July, he reported that the firm had "twenty works of considerable importance" underway, including nine large parks and six estates that he believed were "matters of public interest." Before the summer ended, the firm's commitments would expand dramatically as Olmsted and his partners were appointed landscape architects for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. As commissions for new park systems, residential communities, grounds for educational institutions, and private homes increased, Olmsted feared that their commitments would exceed the partners' ability to do their best work.
Despite these fears, Olmsted's work in the final six years of his professional career would only enhance his considerable reputation, as the ninth and final volume of The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted reveals. With its impressive waterways, monumental buildings, and verdant islands and shores, the Chicago fair proved to be one of the firm's crowning achievements. The early 1890s also saw the culmination of Olmsted's wide-ranging work on one of his other great projects: the design of the grounds of George W. Vanderbilt's massive estate, Biltmore, near Asheville, North Carolina. In planning the estate's thousands of acres, Olmsted outlined new approaches to landscape design, promoted the creation of the first scientific forestry operation in the United States, designed a model residential subdivision, and proposed an arboretum that would have been the most ambitious in the nation.
The Last Great Projects, 1890-1895, chronicles the history of one of the world's greatest landscape design firms while offering a fascinating retrospective on Frederick Law Olmsted's productive final years. The volume also gathers together the important documents of this last triumphant era. As Olmsted neared the end of his career, he wrote some of his most reflective letters and reports, summarizing the legacy of his involvement with the U.S. Sanitary Commission, the quality of landscape design in England and France, the biographical circumstances that proved most important to his development as an artist, and his hopes and fears for the future of his profession.
"It goes without saying--yet it must be said--the editors David Schuyler and Gregory Kaliss, with Jeffrey Schlossberg as assistant editor, continue to perform a massive task... There are indeed hoards of materials here that will be perhaps not just looted but used and cited punctiliously by scholars and modern architects."
--John Dixon Hunt "Landscape Architecture Magazine "
"A fascinating new door stop of a book... [whose]revealing glimpses into the mind of America's greatest landscape architect take on fresh relevance."
--Blair Kamin "Chicago Tribune "
"The excellence of the scholarship... as well as [the] comprehensiveness is indisputable. Needless to say, those deeply interested in the works of Olmsted would be remiss indeed not to at least consider the acquisition of these volumes for their respective permanent collections."
--John Riutta "Well-Read Naturalist "
"Essential. Academic and general readers; practicing landscape professionals."
"This is the last volume of an amazing scholarly project that began in 1972... Olmsted and his firm produced an extraordinary amount of correspondence (in today's world it is hard to imagine such length and thought) of which a huge amount surviving in several archives has been mined for these volumes. The level of scholarship, footnotes, and explanation is a model for any scholar."
--Richard Guy Wilson, University of Virginia "North Carolina Historical Review "
"Once again, the editors of the Olmsted Papers have collected a treasure ripe for looting."
--Journal of American History