Visions of Paradise: Glimpses of Our Landscape's Legacy

Front Cover
University of California Press, Apr 15, 1999 - Nature - 387 pages
The American Revolution gave birth not just to a new nation, but to a new landscape. America was paradise to its native inhabitants, while to the colonists, it was an unlimited land of opportunity, a moral and physical wilderness from which they could create paradise. Powerful people like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton struggled to shape it to their opposing visions. Over the ensuing two hundred years, many other visions shaped the American landscape. Today, their imprints form a complex layering of messages—past and present, physical and cultural, public and private, local and national—that tell a story of many interwoven meanings. John Warfield Simpson traces this fascinating story in Visions of Paradise, providing a fresh perspective from which to understand not only our landscape but also the way we steward our environment.

Simpson describes the transformation of America from wilderness into an agrarian and suburban landscape as the nation expanded westward after the Revolution. He highlights the role of influential people in this transformation and the critical policies and programs they used to acquire, survey, and dispose of the public domain. He shows how their actions reflected changes in our traditional values that considered land as property and a commodity primarily for functional use.

This transformation in values has yielded a landscape of contradictions: It is at once a landscape of freedom and opportunity, order and disorder, permanence and transience. Ours is an egalitarian and litigated landscape shaped by reason and mobility, he argues, one that reflects our historical sense of separation from and superiority over a limitless land of endless abundance and resilience. These perceptions, he shows, have blinded us to the environmental consequences of our actions and created a people who behave as though they are temporary occupants of the land rather than residents who enjoy a deep connection to the land. That connection, he concludes, holds the key to our contemporary environmental debate.
 

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VISIONS OF PARADISE: Glimpses of Our Landscape's Legacy

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A well-conceived if sometimes plodding essay in the role of the landscape in American history. Writing in the tradition of Donald Meinig, J.B. Jackson, and other proponents of what might be called the ... Read full review

Contents

Landscape Vision I
1
Paradise Lost Paradise Found II
11
Actions and Outcomes
30
Forest Cathedral
39
Designs for a National Landscape
43
Westward the Course of Empire
65
Myth and Reality
83
Pilgrims Progress
97
Time Travel
203
Widening the Circle
207
Litigating the Land
220
The Emotional Landscape
236
Remaking Urban America
253
Dream Weavers
269
Americas Landscape Architect
288
City as Suburb
314

Looking Ahead Looking Back
116
Out of Sight Out of Mind
133
The View from Afar
137
The View from Within
146
A Tale of Two Parks
165
The Greater Good
177
Hearing the Echoes
335
A Last Look
341
Notes
347
Works Cited
369
Index
377
Copyright

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About the author (1999)

John Warfield Simpson is Associate Professor in the Knowlton School of Architecture and the School of Natural Resources at Ohio State University.

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