cover image Olmsted's America: An ""Unpractical"" Man and His Vision of Civilization

Olmsted's America: An ""Unpractical"" Man and His Vision of Civilization

Lee Hall. Little Brown and Company, $40 (270pp) ISBN 978-0-8212-1998-0

Frederick Law Olmsted (1843-1903) is still, perhaps, the nation's preeminent landscape architect. He was responsible for the design of New York's Central Park, Brooklyn's Prospect Park, the grounds of the United States Capitol, the Washington Monument and Stanford University, as well as numerous other open spaces across the country. In 1893, a contemporary described Olmsted as an artist who ``paints with lakes and wooded slopes, with lawns and banks and forest-covered hills, with mountainsides and ocean views.'' Hall (Common Threads: A Parade of American Clothing) demonstrates how Olmsted's liberal and egalitarian predispositions informed his projects. Central Park, she writes, ``was to be a democratic institution, a place where people of all classes and interests could meet, share experiences, and appreciate one another.'' Hall paints a complete picture of this American icon and deftly provides the full social context in which Olmsted worked. Written for a general audience, Olmsted's America successfully animates both the architect and his work. Illustrations not seen by PW. (June)