Celebrating Olmsted’s legacy 

Frederick Law Olmsted 

BAR HARBOR — April 26 marked the 200th anniversary of Frederick Law Olmsted’s birth. Olmsted was a Renaissance man – a writer, philosopher, social reformer, advocate for the preservation of natural scenery, founder of landscape architecture and creator of some of the most beautiful public and private parks and gardens, as well as academic and institutional campuses across North America. 

Writer, historian and filmmaker Laurence Cotton is spending a year touring the nation to present on Olmsted’s life and career.  

Cotton will present a program called “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing American,” from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18, at College of the Atlantic’s Gates Auditorium in a special Mount Desert Island Historical Society event.  

Cotton will give a visual tour of representative landscapes designed by Olmsted, as well as by his two sons and the Olmsted Bros. landscape architecture firm. Their works literally stretch across the continent. Cotton’s program will include select Olmsted landscapes in northern New England, with a focus on eastern Massachusetts and Maine, including the Maine State Capitol, Camden waterfront and University of Maine Orono campus. 

MDI Historical Society’s Jenna Jandreau will follow Cotton with a short talk on Olmsted’s landscaping project at George Vanderbilt’s Bar Harbor estate, Point D’Acadie, and the work of Olmsted’s firm in creating some of the landscapes on MDI today, such as the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park. 

This event is part of a nationwide bicentennial celebration titled Olmsted 200. With a theme of “Parks for All People,” the Olmsted 200 national campaign engages a creative coalition of landscape architects, design professionals, city planners, public health professionals, conservationists, community leaders, historians and educators to explore the many ways in which Olmsted’s values can address today’s challenges. 

Cotton, currently based in Portland, Ore., a city that benefits from an Olmsted-master planned park system, originally hails from Boston, renowned for its Olmsted landscapes and the home base for generations of landscape design practitioners working for the Olmsted Bros. firm.  

Cotton originated the PBS film “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America,” and served as lead content provider and consulting producer. A practicing public historian, Cotton was trained as a cultural anthropologist and brings that lens to bear on much of his work.  

As trustee for the Oregon State Parks Foundation, Cotton helped formulate plans and fundraise for new parks and trails throughout the state of Oregon. He played a leadership role in the creation of two water trail systems along the Snake and Columbia rivers and has worked closely with the tribes of the Columbia River Basin on natural and cultural resource protection issues. 

This event is free and open to the public through support of Machias Savings Bank. Register at www.mdihistory.org/events/olmsted or call (207) 276-9323. 

The mission of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society is to foster meaningful engagement with the histories of MDI. For more information, go online to www.mdihistory.org 

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