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Landscape of a Marriage: Central Park Was Only the Beginning Reviewed by Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com
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Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal, QC
Monday, August 9, 2021

 

Author: Gail Ward Olmsted

Publisher: Black RoseWriting

ISBN: 978-1-68433-721-7

Living in Montreal, I haveoften roamed through the many picturesque, twisting pathways of oneof the city’s landmarks, Parc Mont-Royal. The gifted Americanlandscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted planned and sculptured thismagnificent park. Fred also designed over thirty major city parksduring his forty-year career, including New York City’s CentralPark, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and the U.S. Capital grounds inWashington. D.C., Yosemite National Park, and dozens of collegecampuses, hospital grounds, and individual residences.


Who was Fred? We know hewas born in1822 in Hartford, Connecticut, and died in 1903? How abouthis family life? Was he married, and if he was, did his spouse haveany sway on him? Did he have any offspring? 

Gail Ward Olmsted, theauthor of Landscape of a Marriage, informs her readers that“she felt compelled to write the story of Frederick Law Olmsted andhis marriage to his widowed sister-in-law Mary for one simple reason:To paraphrase writer Toni Morrison, ‘I wrote it, because I wantedto read it!’ By the way, Gail’s husband was a distant cousin ofFred.

The narrative opens in1858, where we meet twenty-eight-year-old Mary returning to New Yorkfrom England. She had visited all over Europe with her husband, Dr.John Hull Olmsted, and her three children seeking a remedy for herhusband. The physicians had already diagnosed John with tuberculosis.Unfortunately, despite all endeavors, John passed away in Europe atthirty-two. 

Upon her return to NewYork, Mary asks her brother-in-law Fred to aid her. She neverexpected that her appeal would wind up as a proposal of marriage.Mary confesses that Fred’s affection for her was initially morelike that of an older brother, “not a besotted bridegroom.” Sheeven questioned if Fred regretted marrying her and taking on theburden of a wife and three children. Fred felt a commitment to hisbrother John to wed Mary and take care of her youngsters.

At the commencement oftheir marriage, Fred admitted that he knew very little of love andmarried Mary out of a sense of duty. However, over the years, as welearn, this changed where Mary thoroughly captivated him, and hebecame hopelessly in love with her. Their fondness for one anotherdeveloped into a rich and enduring passion. They experienced manyyears of devotion through health, ill health, loss of offspring, andtheir many moves in New York, Washington, California, Brookline, andDeer Isle, Maine. 

Incidentally, thecelebration of their marriage transpired when Fred and his partner,Calvert Vaux, were drafting an 800-acre tract in Manhattan,which ultimately became known as Central Park. This eventually ledFred and his partner Cal on their path to developing into the mostsought-after landscape architects, and the rest is history. 

There has been aconsiderable amount of information written about Fred, yet, we know little aboutMary. The author admits she has taken significant libertiesconcerning the true nature of Mary and Fred’s relationship. Itreally is a tale that is easy to imagine. Olmsted has done her homework inre-creating the historical setting, and when you’re done reading,the realism and sentiments will cause you to believe it is genuine.In addition, in spare and elegant prose, she effectively unfolds themany events that brought the couple together in a true enduring lovingrelationship.

Most of us are acquaintedwith the proverb, “Behind every great man is a great woman.”Could it be that Mary, with her unceasing loyalty and inspiration toFred, was an admirable example?

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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