A Boston Son
November 1, 1859
Today is the birthday of the Boston Landscape Architect Charles Eliot.
Charles was the son of a prominent Boston family. In 1869, the year his mother died, his father Charles Sr. became the president of Harvard University.
In 1882 Charles graduated from Harvard with a degree in botany. A year later, Charles began apprenticing with the landscape firm of Frederick Law Olmsted.
As a young landscape architect, Charles made a list of his favorite walks, and he titled it A Partial List of Saturday Walks before 1878.
Between 1885 and 1886, Charles spent 13 months touring England and Europe. The trip was actually Olmsted’s idea, and the trip provided Charles with a smorgasbord of landscapes. During the trip, Charles kept a journal where he wrote down his thoughts and sketched the places he was visiting. Charles's benchmark was always Boston, and throughout his memoirs, he was continually comparing new landscapes to the beauty of his native landscape in New England.
Sadly, Charles's story ended too soon. He died at 37 from spinal meningitis.
Before he died, Charles had been working on plans for The Arnold Arboretum at Harvard, where he'd gotten to know the arboretum director Charles Sprague Sargent. Poignantly, it was Sargent who wrote a tribute to Charles after he died, and it was featured in Sargent’s weekly journal called Garden and Forest.
Charles's death had a significant impact on his father, Charles Sr. In tribute to his son, Charles Sr. compiled all of his son's work into a book called Charles Eliot Landscape Architect. The book came out in 1902, and today it is considered a classic work in the field of landscape architecture.