Day 5: On the trail, we came across an odd looking, wrinkly dog shaped thing with tentacles, which turned out to be a dog mole! That evening, we saw three people on horseback riding west, about a mile and a half south. Night 5: We saw a herd of elk, which uncovered hole in the ground. Light was cast on Hooter, to find that this appeared to be some sort of underwater tunnel that had been collapsed on both sides.
Winding Paths To Purpose
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Roads trip and travel background starline 9. Winding road through a city park onlyyouqj 4k Even here Olmsted could not sit still. In he set off with his brother and a friend on a six-month walking tour of England, planning to live on 75 cents per day. He did not intend to write a book about it, but as it happened, the publisher George P. With his knowledge of agriculture, he was a perceptive observer who correctly foresaw that cheap American wheat would soon devastate the English rural economy.
The book brought Olmsted literary celebrity and a more ambitious writing project. The newly founded New-York Daily Times as it was then called seized the opportunity to send him on a fact-finding tour of the American South, with a strict injunction to report only what he personally saw and experienced. Olmsted later revised and abridged them as The Cotton Kingdom , which appeared in and remains in print. It still makes for remarkable reading.
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One has the sense that he found the American South a far more alien and unfamiliar place than England. The ostensible framework for his journey was the economics of slave agriculture, and at every stop, he gathered exhaustive statistics: the cost of slaves and their care and feeding; the cost of land and its cultivation; annual productivity and profit. He did not generalize, distinguishing carefully between the raising of cotton, tobacco, and sugar.
But as it happened, he did much more. And so his writings on the South had the distinction of being moral without being polemical. He did not set out to gather only the data that discredited slavery. He paid attention to matters of diet and living conditions, working hours and family life, education and punishment, providing exact figures whenever possible for example, that Louisiana was the only state that legally required slaves to receive meat with their meals, four pounds per week.
He spoke to individual plantation owners and poor white farmers, slaves and free blacks, transcribing their accounts immediately after the interviews. With The Cotton Kingdom , Olmsted emerged as a thinker of great synthetic power, able to organize a great deal of information into a coherent whole. He offered a kind of Tocquevillian sweep of a complete economic, cultural, and social order that would disappear in just a decade. There is nothing like it in the literature of the American South.
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Had he remained a journalist, he would have been one of the great commentators on American life. Instead, in , in a decision that remains inexplicable, he applied for the position of superintendent of Central Park. C entral Park had already been surveyed and provisionally laid out, but with unhappy results. Clusters of trees alternated with open meadows without unity or coherence.
Straight streets cut directly through the park, inflicting the city grid on what should have been rolling natural scenery. The few paths that did curve and meander did so halfheartedly, like someone trying unsuccessfully to relax from attention. But worst of all, the park terminated abruptly at the edges, without any attempt to screen the city by a veil of trees. It was the work of a West Point—trained military engineer, and it looked it. Lobbying discreetly, Olmsted was able to arrange for a competition for a new design that would remedy the failings of the first.
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But there was no way around it: A fire truck, for example, needed to be able to cut directly across the half-mile park instead of driving two and a half miles to go around it. Such was the program that Olmsted set out to tackle in the final months of Olmsted was supremely qualified for the competition but for one glaring deficiency, his absolute lack of any artistic experience. What he needed was a collaborator who would remedy this weakness without challenging his considerable strengths.
It was a stroke of great good luck that just the right man appeared at this moment. This was Calvert Vaux, an English-born and London-trained architect who happened to be a superb watercolorist. Vaux would prepare all the technical drawings needed to depict the park precisely and the ravishing sketches that would help sell it. He would also design all its many incidental structures. This was a role that Vaux understood quite well.
Downing and Vaux had designed a monumental park for the Mall in Washington, D. Here, too, a rectangular parcel of real estate in a city of exquisitely formal geometry was to be transformed into something resembling natural scenery. Under the circumstances, Downing and Vaux performed brilliantly.
They first wrapped the periphery with a mantle of trees to screen out the city and then variegated the interior to show a lively assortment of different kinds of landscape: pastoral meadows, picturesque woods, gardenesque plantings, and even a formal parade ground. Between the Mall and the White House was to be a stately triumphal arch, designed by Vaux. But try as he might, Downing could not master the four broad transverse roads that sliced the Mall into fragments.
The best he could do was to run gentle serpentine drives at right angles to these roads, crossing them occasionally with bridges. Nonetheless, it was a thrilling proposal, and it is curious to think that if Downing had not died in in a steamship explosion, Washington would have had at its heart something more akin to Central Park than the chilly monumental axis that is the National Mall.
The first thing one notices about their design is that, despite its many intricacies and incidents, it is an imaginative whole.