Today, Ericka and I had an opportunity to photograph and tour the Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site. I know I’m only supposed to blog on Friday, but I was so excited, I had to get my thoughts down now! Prior to our visit, I had expected to enter a fancy mansion with lots of floral prints and manicured formal gardens, and I had expected to hear about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s life and poetry. What I learned on my visit was so much more.
On our ranger-led tour, I learned that the house was actually the meeting place of many very progressive thinkers. George Washington was against slavery and wrote a letter inviting an enslaved African American woman poet to the house. Longfellow and Charles Sumner sat around in the dining room discussing how they could use their talents to support the abolitionist movement and the revolution. Learning about these former inhabitants who were people of their time yet carried a deep desire for freedom and social equity was fascinating to me.
After the tour, we entered the park’s gift shop and I noticed a big sign saying, “Find Your Park.” I did not expect to “find my park” here, but I think that I actually did find parts of myself in this park. Although I’m hundreds of miles away from my home in California, my family wasn’t in the US during the revolution, and I’m not (yet) a US history enthusiast, I feel like I can now relate to Washington and Longfellow through our shared desire to improve the lives of others in this country.
During our brown bag speaker series today, Bob Page, director of the Olmsted Center, talked to the other interns and I about how the center’s landscape architects are designing the “largest classrooms.” I definitely see what he means! Reflecting on how much my visit inspired me to feel connected to these historical figures, I think that I’ve gained a new perspective on how, as an aspiring landscape architect, I also can help tell the stories of people who I think are pretty revolutionary.