Charles E. Beveridge
By David Schuyler
Charles E. Beveridge has been studying and writing about Frederick Law Olmsted’s career for more than five decades — as series editor of The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted. As a scholar and preservationist, Charlie is the most important individual explaining and defending the significance of Olmsted’s legacy in our time. His remarkably rich career has led to a broader popular as well as scholarly understanding of Olmsted’s many contributions to American life, in the 21st century as well as the 19th and 20th. For his many accomplishments, Charlie was elected an honorary member of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2005 and the following year received its Frederick Law Olmsted Medal for “environmental leadership, vision and stewardship.”
Charlie was born in Boston on May 17, 1935. He grew up on the Maine coast in an 1850s farmhouse his great-grandfather built and his parents restored. Eliot Beveridge, a painter devoted to the landscapes and seascapes of coastal Maine, surely influenced his son in important ways, as did the rugged coast and North Haven Island, which remains Charlie’s spiritual home. After attending the Putney School, then Harvard College (class of 1956), from which he graduated magna cum laude, Charlie pursued graduate study in history under William Best Hesseltine at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his PhD in 1966.
While still a graduate student, Charlie moved to Washington, D.C., in 1963, to work on the Olmsted Papers. He taught social history at the University of Maryland beginning in 1964, but in 1973 joined the staff of the Olmsted Papers Project, which Charles C. McLaughlin had begun with his doctoral dissertation in 1960. In 1972, the sesquicentennial of Olmsted’s birth, the Olmsted Papers Project took off, and McLaughlin hired Charlie and Victoria Post Ranney as associate editors. Charlie continued teaching, though, through one-on-one conversations with younger scholars and in public lectures, interviews, appearances in films devoted to Olmsted’s life and works, and other venues that enabled him to reach a broad audience.
As the series editor of the Olmsted Papers since 1980, Charlie pushed the project forward when funding was uncertain and worked with a number of volume editors as well as a succession of graduate research assistants. If I could summarize Charlie’s leadership approach simply, I would single out his remarkable patience and absolute determination that we do our best work.
In addition to his work as a scholar and editor, Charlie has been passionately involved in promoting the preservation of Olmsted landscapes. He was one of the founders of the National Association for Olmsted Parks (now known as the Olmsted Network), and has served as historian or consultant for the restoration of Olmsted parks in Boston, Chicago, Rochester, New York, Louisville, Kentucky, Atlanta and New York City, among other places. He was also senior consultant for the Massachusetts Olmsted Historic Landscape Preservation Program; prepared a master plan for the preservation of the landscape Olmsted designed at Riverside, Illinois; advised on the preservation of the U.S. Capitol grounds; and helped plan the centennial celebrations of the preservation of the Yosemite Valley and the New York State Reservation at Niagara. In all of these capacities — scholar, mentor, advocate, preservationist — Charlie has become the voice speaking for Olmsted and the enduring significance of the public parks that are his greatest legacy.
*This biography was written by the late David Schuyler, formerly Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of the Humanities and American Studies at Franklin & Marshall College and author of Apostle of Taste. It appeared in the 2015 issue of VIEW, published by the Library of American Landscape History. It is reprinted with permission.
A Tribute to Charles E. Beveridge
In 2021, the National Association for Olmsted Parks hosted a virtual tribute to Charles E. Beveridge on the completion of the 12th and final volume of the Olmsted Papers. Watch the touching tribute on YouTube here, or read the tribute program here.
Friends of Fairsted Tribute
Friends of Fairsted, the nonprofit organization that supports the work of the National Park Service at the FLONHS, announced a fellowship in Charles E. Beveridge’s name in February 2012 to advance the knowledge and appreciation of the Olmsted legacy. Learn More!
Charles Beveridge (left) attends the 1984 Birkenhead Park Celebration
Charles Beveridge (middle) receives applause at the 2022 Olmsted Birthday Gala
Charles Beveridge (middle) hosts a tour of the U.S. Capitol Grounds
Charles Beveridge meets “Big Head Fred” at the 2022 Olmsted Birthday Gala
Essays on Olmsted by Charles E. Beveridge
Several essays have become the “go-to” overviews for those interested in the work of Frederick Law Olmsted and the Olmsted firm. Read them here:
Charles E. Beveridge’s essays have appeared for many years on the website and are provided in their entirety.
- Editing the Olmsted Papers: The Frederick Law Olmsted Papers and the Restoration of Olmsted’s Parks
- Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr: Landscape Architect, Author, Conservationist (1822–1903)
- Frederick Law Olmsted: His Essential Theory
- Frederick Law Olmsted: His Design Principles
- Frederick Law Olmsted: The Seven ‘S’ of Olmsted Design
- The Olmsted Firm: An Introduction