A Closer Look Into The Olmsted Office

We are back from Cape Cod, and had a dynamic third week at the Olmsted Center! This week Angelina, Julian, Ella and I commenced our work on our individual projects. We had an inspiring start to the week by visiting Fairsted (Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site) which was the Olmsted Center’s original location. It was through this visit that I really began to feel and recognize the importance of historic preservation of our cultural landscapes and monuments first hand. As a student focusing on Landscape Architecture, this visit was particularly moving and stimulating because I was able to witness the evolution of the discipline.

The whole experience of touring the interior spaces within the Olmsted house and office as well as the surrounding landscape was especially alluring due to Park Ranger Alan Bank’s informative guidance. The tour was also influential for Angelina and I, due to our current collaboration on a landscape treatment plan for the Green Hill Parcel which is a part of the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.
As soon as we entered Olmsted’s home and office, we were greeted by a quote by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., “I want to make myself useful in the world-to make others happy-to help advance the condition of society…”
I identified very much with this quote, and it also sparked my curiosity. I wondered what it would be like to be a landscape architect or designer in the time period of Olmsted in comparison to now. This thought stuck with me throughout our tour of the site, and began to unfold into a very interesting story.

One idea that became clear throughout our tour was that I would not be able to practice landscape architecture in the time of Olmsted. In the early twentieth century, women faced many obstacles in securing professional employment due to the idea that women were not able to withstand heavy workloads. Many women were only employed to fill clerical positions within the firm.

This is evident through a series of cartoons and drawings that the Olmsted staff created which give an idea of what it was like to work in the Olmsted’s firm at that time.

Helen Bullard Cartoon

Cartoon Clerical Staff
Stella Obst is one woman who had an essential role at the Olmsted Office. Stella graduated from Wellesley College and was searching from employment upon her graduation. Stella had an interest in Olmsted and pursued a position at the firm. She was appointed a position as Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.’s secretary and became an essential part of the firm.

Stella Obst - Frederick law Olmsted Jr.
It was very inspiring to learn of Olmsted’s work, his firm, and the emergence of women into the field of landscape architecture. I hope to apply the same passion and determination to my current and future work as a DTP intern and eventually as a Landscape Architect.

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