Vol. III No. 2 1/15/2022
The Laurel Hill Association and The Olmsted Bicentennial
By Hilary Somers Deely
It has always seemed to me that these two memorable advocates for parks, planning, and beautification must have met at some time after the Laurel Hill Association was founded in 1853. Frederick Law Olmsted and Mary Hopkins Goodrich were both children of a rapidly growing, prosperous nation.
Olmsted and Goodrich were prescient and recognized that, left unchecked, urban sprawl would dominate the landscape and destroy the green spaces which provided refuge, beauty, and recreation. Olmsted developed a philosophy of natural design and founded a firm that literally transformed the American countryside. Goodrich's goals were more modest-her primary focus was on Stockbridge. I suspect she would have been pleased and amazed to read in the New York Times nineteen years after her death that "the Laurel Hill Association has provided the model for 1500 similar organizations across the country."
Olmsted's legacy is being celebrated this year as 2022 is the Bicentennial of his birth. It was exciting for me when I discovered that there was a deep tie between Olmsted's firm, The Berkshires generally, and the Laurel Hill Association in particular. In 1912 a Mr. Lakin, representative of Laurel Hill, contacted the Olmsted firm with the request that they design the landscape around the Stockbridge Railroad Station. In those days railway stations served as triumphal entrances; towns across the Berkshires and the Nation vied to create the most beautiful entryway.
Olmsted's design influence was felt throughout the Berkshires. Here's a short list of his work in our region.
The Laurel Hill Association has been designated a sponsoring partner for the Olmsted Bicentennial and big plans are afoot for speakers and special programs. Make sure to save-the-date for Laurel Hill Day Saturday August 27, 2022. LHA will recognize Olmsted's contributions to the region and our special tie. I hope that some of our Dear Readers might be willing to help with planning, logistics and implementation of lectures, displays and special events. Please contact Laurel Hill if you would like to help on this special project.
Left: Fredrick Law Olmsted by John Singer Sargeant, Biltmore Estate, Asheville NC; Right: Mary Hopkins Goodrich/Wikisource Creative Commons CC
Frederick Law Olmstead Projects in The Berkshires
Editor's Note: Wheatleigh is entirely in Stockbridge. Most of Elm Court, including the cottage and 315 acres, is in Stockbridge.
Hilary Deely is President of the Laurel Hill Association.