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Annual Meeting January 13, 2012

Olmsted Biographer Justin Martin, author of Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted, was the Guest Lecturer at the Annual Meeting of the Frederick Law Olmsted Society of Riverside on January 13, 2012.   Martin’s book is a lively read detailing Olmsted’s life and works, including his “masterpiece of social engineering” and model village of Riverside Illinois.  Martin was married in Olmsted’s Central Park, and lives with his wife and twin sons in Forest Hills Gardens, New York, a neighborhood designed by Olmsted’s son, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

Martin’s lecture educated the audience about the intense father/son relationship between Olmsted and Olmsted, Jr., the development of their respective careers in landscape architecture and then focused on the comparisons between the Olmsteds’ model villages.  Both Riverside and Forest Hills Gardens feature open spaces, curvilinear streets, and homes designed by noted architects, resulting in communities that offer modern conveniences in a tranquil setting.

Martin’s research was greatly facilitated by his use of the Olmsted Collection: books and documents housed in the Riverside Public Library.  He remarked that the Olmsted Collection has documents that cannot be found anyplace else and is one of Riverside’s treasures.  From its humble beginning of about 200 works in 1983, the Collection has grown to almost one thousand items, including a number of rare, non-circulating books that influenced Olmsted’s thinking.  The Collection also offers Olmsted’s papers on microfilm or in seven printed volumes.  A searchable database of all titles in the Collection can be accessed through the Olmsted Society’s website under the Education tab.

Travelers interested in viewing the Olmsted Collection and experiencing Riverside first hand may wish to enhance their visit with one of the Olmsted Society’s Walking Tours.  This year also marks the Olmsted Society’s biennial Housewalk, which takes place on Sunday, May 20, and FRED (Frederick Law Olmsted Riverside Education and Design Weekend), a new landscape architecture conference with both professional and public tracks, scheduled for August.  The Olmsted Society is a wonderful resource not just for authors and scholars, but for everyone wishing to make the most of their visit.

Justin Martin

Justin Martin

Justin Martin Author Bio

Justin Martin is the author of three biographies, most recently Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted (Da Capo, June 2011). His new book tells the story of one of the most important figures in the history of America. Olmsted was a fervent abolitionist, noted journalist, Civil War hero, early environmentalist, and the pioneering landscape architect behind New York’s Central Park, Boston’s Emerald Necklace, Stanford University, the Biltmore Estate, and dozens of other green spaces around the U.S.

Martin’s previous biography subjects: Alan Greenspan and Ralph Nader. The Greenspan bio was selected as a notable book for 2001 by the New York Times Book Review. The Nader bio was a primary source for An Unreasonable Man, an Academy Award nominated documentary

Martin is a 1987 graduate of Rice University in Houston, TX. He was married in Olmsted’s Central Park. He lives with his wife and twin sons in Forest Hills Gardens, NY, a neighborhood designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.