Boston is home to more landmarks and historic sites than one could possibly see in one visit or even a lifetime so I know that the home and office of Frederick Law Olmsted, the founder of landscape architecture, doesn’t receive the same visitation as say the site of the Boston Massacre or Paul Revere’s house or Harvard or (one of my personal favorites) Fenway Park.
If you were lucky enough to visit Olmsted’s historic home and office before last month then you no doubt saw the American elm that graced the center of the expansive lawn. I was lucky to work in an office, located on the corner of the second floor (shrouded in vines in this photo I took about five years) with a view of the elm. I watched the elm’s shadows move over the snow in winter and was grateful for its shade in the hot humid summers.
Tree specialists often visited the site to monitor the old tree and their report was always peppered with words of caution that the end was near. Somehow their words, as true as I knew them to be, fell on deaf ears. The tree had lasted this long. Surely it could keep on ticking.
Unfortunately it reached the end of its life this year and was taken down at the end of March. This time-lapse video captures that day and also in some strange way expresses the life the tree possessed. It almost comes alive, even as it’s being taken down. Its majesty is captured on fim so that even those who didn’t get a chance to see it in person will have a sense of its place in this historic landscape.
I have a small piece of the elm that was given to me when I left Boston. And I’m excited to hear that the wood was donated to the Rhode Island School of Design for their artists to create something beautiful out of a life that was long and distinguished… and prized by one of America’s most renowned designers.
If you have rolls of kodachrome film still hanging around your closet like I do, then check out this story. There is only one lab left in the world that develops the iconic film. This film changed the trajectory of popular photography and was memorialized by Paul Simon in one of my favorite songs, Kodachrome. The lab in Kansas will continue to develop this film until the end of 2010, which means I have some photography shoots to schedule! Looking forward to 2010!
Seven years ago I started research on the Lincoln Cottage, a small house situated on a hill on the edge of Washington D.C. where Abraham Lincoln spent his summers while President. He couldn’t travel to the Shenandoah Mountains like Herbert Hoover did or Camp David like many modern presidents do now. Our country was at war so he needed to stay close to Washington.
However he needed a place that was quiet, where he could think outside the chaos of Washington, and escape the hot swampy weather surrounding the White House. Even during the usually idyllic summer months Lincoln was often described as sad and restless as he wandered the grounds. During the summer of 1862 while living at the cottage he formed his thoughts on slavery that would he would eventually formalize with the Emancipation Proclamation.
My research led to the restoration of the Lincoln Cottage grounds which are now open to the public. The restoration project was initiated in anticipation of the Lincoln Bicentennial, which was in full swing this week surrounding what would have been Lincoln’s 150th birthday. Leading many of those celebrations was President Barack Obama.
In 2002, when I started this project I would not have believed that an African-American would reside in the White House when the celebration commenced. Now I can’t imagine anything else. In itself it’s the most profound element of the celebration and exactly what Lincoln foresaw as he pondered this very issue at the Lincoln Cottage.
the cottage and grounds in 2002 before restoration
today i got to talk about cultural landscapes. today i got to feel like i was sharing my experience with people who appreciate it. today i got to remember wonderful discussions in my old office at fairsted. today i got to remember going to coffee with amy. today i got to feel passionate.