A final day in New York, before moving west toward Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, and it has been filled with inspiring moments from history at the Theodore Roosevelt (T.R.) Inaugural Site in Buffalo. Although I have visited Niagara Falls two times, I had never been to the city where Olmsted and Vaux designed one of their city jewels. Unlike Boston, where the 5 different parks were connected as a linear system, forming with The Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Mall, and creating a seven mile “Emerald Necklace” from Beacon Hill to Franklin Park, this system was described as shaped like a baseball diamond by one author.
How exciting to enter into a dialogue with the tour guides at the T.R. Inaugural Site. Being “Olmsted,” at 193 years of age, gave an interesting perspective to how history is viewed as well as observations made on the influence of T.R. in his time and in our world today. Clearly, he struggled against the forces of raw capitalism which held no regard for the future of National Resources, and this was one of the critical accomplishments of his presidency. His focus on Nature clearly came, in part, from his love of the outdoors and time spent in the glorious openness of the West with its majesty mountains in the Rockies and Sierras, along with countless glorious forms of geological formations such as the Grand Canyon. Once again, Olmsted was influential in providing inspiration for T.R. When Olmsted published “Spoils of the Park” when he was leaving Central Park after 20 years of immersion, a young member of the Assembly (House) at the State House in New York asked for copies. The man was Theodore Roosevelt.
This historic site, operated by the National Park Service and aided by a private non-profit, presented dramatic and graphic insights into the moment of the raw inauguration of T.R. after the assignation of President McKinley. However, the progressive policies were presented in striking ways with voices from those on both sides of the Issues. Clearly, the fact that American capitalism has developed a creative and dynamic economy. But as Roosevelt and Olmsted point out, poor people are often left out of from having the opportunities to share the beauty and benefits of natural settings for increased health and well-being.
My final stop in New York was at the Botanical Gardens, which is a part of the original design of Olmsted and Vaux. Such a joy to spend time walking and taking a tour of the land, which Olmsted had declared should be part of the South Park. Jeff Thompson, Director of Horticulture, provided marvelous guidance on our tour… So filled with a deeply rooted passion for the botanical gardens and the visions of Olmsted for an Arboretum. Olmsted’s plan also called for a much greater area, all the ways to the water’s edge of Lake Erie. Clearly, the battles Olmsted fought to create natural areas was monumental. Always ready to go the extra mile to realize his visions for bringing Nature to the lives of all Americans.
Yes. I reviewed magnificent sights from natural landscape to architecture of incredible power and beauty. But of equal value are the people who are so dedicated, competent and compassionate to their work they not only provided opportunities, but have inspired me to help bring the philosophy, principles and practices of Olmsted into all of our communities. For Mark, at the State House, for Angela & Sara, at Niagara Falls, for Jennifer at the Library, for Ally and Dan at Roosevelt site, for Jeff at the Botanical Gardens with visions of the Arboretum: Thank you! And all your colleagues, a heartfelt expression of deep gratitude. I do love the New York you shared with me.