Laurence Cotton, writer, historian, and filmmaker, will present “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America,” a deep dive into Olmsted’s life and prolific career, at a special Mount Desert Island Historical Society event at College of the Atlantic’s Gates Auditorium on Thursday, August 18, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.

April 26, 2022 marked the 200th anniversary of Olmsted’s birth, and Cotton is spending the year touring the nation presenting on this Renaissance man – writer, philosopher, social reformer, advocate for the preservation of natural scenery, a founder of the field “landscape architecture,” and creator of some of the most  beautiful public and private parks and gardens, as well as academic and institutional campuses across North America.

During this special program, Cotton will also give a visual tour of representative masterful landscapes designed by Olmsted, Senior, as well as his two sons and the Olmsted Bros. landscape architecture firm, as the footprint of their works literally stretch across the continent. He will include select Olmsted landscapes in northern New England, with a focus on Eastern Massachusetts and Maine.

Cotton, currently based in Portland, Oregon, a city that benefits from an Olmsted-master planned park system, originally hails from Boston, renowned for its Olmsted landscapes and the home base for generations of landscape design practitioners working for the Olmsted Bros. firm. Laurence originated the PBS film Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America, and served as lead content provider and Consulting Producer. A practicing public historian, Cotton was trained as a cultural anthropologist and brings that lens to bear on much of his work. He also brings training as an interpretive naturalist, and is a birder and photographer.

As Trustee for the Oregon State Parks Foundation, Cotton helped formulate plans and fundraise for new parks and trails throughout the state of Oregon. He played a leadership role in the creation of two water trail systems along the Snake and Columbia Rivers, and has also worked closely with the tribes of the Columbia River Basin on natural and cultural resource protection issues.

Jenna Jandreau of the Historical Society will follow Cotton with a short talk on Frederick Law Olmsted’s landscaping project at George Vanderbilt’s Bar Harbor estate Point D’Acadie, and the work of Olmsted’s firm in creating some of the landscapes we love on Mount Desert Island today.