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Most people have heard of our great parks Cherokee Park, Shawnee Park and Iroquois Park Central Park but few can identify Frederick Law Olmsted as the man behind the great design of those parks. He also design Baxter Square and the six parkways that connect this cities grand parks.
Of those who do know Olmsted, even fewer know him as anything other than a landscape architect. In Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted, Justin Martin explores Olmsted’s roots as a reformer. As a journalist, Olmsted championed the abolitionist cause to Northern and British audiences in the 1850s and 60s, exposing the evils of slavery; as an environmentalist, he created public spaces that preserved the already-existing endangered natural world. Olmsted’s conservation efforts are still felt today in places like Niagara Falls and Yosemite.
Genius of Place also delves into Olmsted’s personal life. Despite previous portrayals of Olmsted as a devoted family man with a tranquil home life, Martin exposes the tensions of Olmsted’s marriage and familial relationships, as well as Olmsted’s struggle with illness and personal tragedy, to paint a comprehensive picture of one of the most influential people of the nineteenth century.
Justin Martin, author of highly praised biographies of Alan Greenspan and Ralph Nader, was married in Central Park and lives in Forest Hills Gardens—an enclave of New York City designed by Olmsted’s son.
Books are available at Carmichael’s Bookstore at either location: 1295 Bardstown Road or 2720 Frankfort Avenue.
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