Olmsted & Yosemite

Olmsted & Yosemite: Civil War & National Parks

HyFlex Lecture
Friday, March 3, 2023
11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
This event is free and open to the public; registration is required.

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During the turbulent decade the United States engaged in a civil war, abolished slavery,
and remade the government, the public park emerged as a product of these dramatic
changes. New York’s Central Park and Yosemite in California both embodied the “new
birth of freedom” that had inspired the Union during its greatest crisis, epitomizing
the duty of republican government to enhance the lives and well-being of all its citizens.
A central thread connecting abolition, the Civil War, and the dawn of urban and national
parks is the life of Frederick Law Olmsted. In 1864, Olmsted was asked to prepare
a plan for a park in Yosemite Valley, created by Congress to expand the privileges
of American citizenship associated with Union victory. His groundbreaking Yosemite
Report effectively created an intellectual framework for a national park system to
provide every citizen access to the restorative benefits of nature. The talk will
explain how this momentous period of national re-invention enabled the public park
to emerge as part of our cultural identity and a vital institution of American democracy.

Rolf Diamant

A landscape architect and historian, Rolf is adjunct associate professor of historic
preservation at the University of Vermont. In his previous career with the National
Park Service, Rolf was superintendent of five national parks including Frederick Law
Olmsted National Historic Site and Marsh-Billings- Rockefeller National Historical
Park. Rolf’s book, Olmsted and Yosemite: Civil War, Abolition, and the National Park Idea*, is a great starting point for this lecture.

*Available at https://lalh.org/books/featured/olmsted-and-yosemite/

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