Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Connecting curious minds with uncommon, undeniably Northwest reads

Come and enjoy our 32nd Annual HOLIDAY BOOK FAIR!


December 6, 2023 from 11 am – 3 pm in the Terrell Library Atrium on the Pullman campus!

Festivities include authors signing books, steep discounts of 30-50% on all titles, drawings for free books, and complimentary refreshments.

Sale prices will also be valid for phone and online orders that use the coupon code HBF2023 during the online Holiday Book Fair timeline, December 4 – 11, 2023, but you can start your browsing now!


The fair highlights books published throughout the year. With every $45 purchase (pre-tax), choose one of these four books from our FREE book table! For qualifying online orders, the option to select one of the four free books will be available at checkout.

If you’re nearby, you can save on shipping. Stop at the Cooper Publications Building on the Pullman campus to pick up your order between 9AM and 4PM on Friday, December 8th, and Monday, December 11th, or request a convenient time. Just choose Pullman pickup when you check out, and indicate in the notes the day and time you expect to arrive.

As usual, shipping is free on orders above $50.


The fair features new titles on adventure, history, and politics, as well as unique perspectives from a variety of experiences, and all are 30% off!

Boyhood Among the Woolies delivers a rare look at life on an early eastern Washington sheep ranch. Coyote’s Swing combines the author’s firsthand experiences as a consulting psychologist with rare history and sociocultural critique to reveal how the U.S. mental health system often fails Native Americans. The Evergreen Collection features a wide variety of captivating stories from Washington State Magazine, and Getting Elected is the Easy Part offers a practical, no-nonsense guide for newly-elected lawmakers and others interested in state government. Inspirational WSU graduate and Global Nomad Tom Haig has dived off Acapulco cliffs, partied with sheiks, lived among Tibetan monks, and survived a tragic accident to win the Portland Marathon’s wheelchair division (twice). In The Last Lookout on Dunn Peak, a fire spotter’s wife journeys back to the narrow catwalks, stunning panoramas, and dry landscape of lookout life in Idaho’s St. Joe National Forest. Edmund C. Fitzhugh was appointed to Washington Territory’s District and Supreme Courts in 1857 despite being under indictment for murder. His biography, Man of Treacherous Charm, offers unique insights into the era’s people, personalities, and politics. In We Few, We Academic Sisters, three trailblazing female professors discuss the societal pressures and discrimination they faced as academics in the 1960s and 1970s. Railroad lovers can pick up a new wall calendar featuring photographs from lines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and its bordering mountain chains. Finally, we have a selection of new poetry titles from two publishers, Lost Horse and Lynx House, now distributed by WSU Press.

Founded in 1928 and revitalized in the 1980s, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories about the Northwest. For information about the book fair, contact WSU Press at 509-335-7880.

Washington State University Press invites manuscripts for a new book series

New Histories of the American West logo

Washington State University Press invites manuscripts for a new book series, New Histories of the American West, edited by Clay S. Jenkinson.

We are looking for new voices, new perspectives, new authors (and established authors too) for books about exploration, the American frontier, Native Americans, cultural encounters, the environment, bioregionalism, and of course Lewis and Clark.

We have a particular interest in projects that take the approach of James Ronda’s groundbreaking work, Lewis and Clark Among the Indians (1984).  We encourage manuscripts by Native Americans on:

  • Lewis and Clark Among the Osage
  • Among the Lakota
  • Among the Mandan and Hidatsa
  • Among the Shoshone
  • Among the Clatsops
  • Among the Blackfeet

About the series editor:

Clay Jenkinson is a historian and humanities scholar based in North Dakota. He is founder of both the Theodore Roosevelt Center and Listening to America. Clay received a BA from the University of Minnesota, and an MA from Oxford where he was a Rhodes and Danforth Scholar. He is the author of thirteen books, most recently, The Language of Cottonwoods: Essays on the Future of North Dakota. He has appeared in several of Ken Burns’ documentary films.

Clay portrays such historical figures as Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and J. Robert Oppenheimer. He lives and works on the plains of North Dakota. He is the founder of the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University in western North Dakota, dedicated to the digitization of all of Theodore Roosevelt’s Papers.


The Shocking Story of the Washington Territorial Justice Appointed to the Bench While Indicted for Murder

Man of Treacherous Charm cover


“Perhaps the single most enlightening takeaway for me was the stark contrast between the legal landscape of Fitzhugh’s time and that of my own. No current judge would even consider hearing, on appeal, a case over which they had presided as the trial judge…an entertaining and educational read.”—Chuck Snyder, retired Whatcom County Superior Court Judge

Along with his privileged education, Edmund C. Fitzhugh was deeply shaped by his Virginia family’s history and ethics. “From the moment Fitzhugh’s tall leather boots struck the mud flats in front of the Roeder-Peabody Mill in 1854, the effects of the charismatic man on the infant community and Washington Territory were wide, and for some people, destructive,” says Candace A. Wellman, author of the new book, Man of Treacherous Charm: Territorial Justice Edmund C. Fitzhugh, the first full biography of a Washington Territory justice. His life offers insights into the people, politics, and legal practices—vastly different from today—of the territory and 19th century American West. “Fitzhugh was appointed to the federal bench while under indictment for murder. He made measured judicial decisions, helped organize the early Democratic Party machine in California and Washington, helped run a national presidential campaign, and fought heroically in the Civil War. And yet he died alone in a dingy hotel,” she adds.

Wellman’s interest in Fitzhugh began while she volunteered at the Washington State Archives and started to research her first book about indigenous womens’ roles in early Pacific Northwest history. One of the women married Fitzhugh, and Wellman noted his influence on the region’s legal and social history, along with his participation in important events in gold rush era San Francisco and Civil War Virginia. She decided to tell his story, traveling to Virginia to conduct research in Fitzhugh’s hometown and state repositories, as well as to the National Archives, San Francisco’s library, and multiple Washington State collections. Across two decades, she worked with dozens of collaborators.

Born into a wealthy, slave-owning colonial Virginia clan, Fitzhugh learned to focus on accumulating wealth and power. Following his West Point expulsion, he became a small-town lawyer and legislator before seeking fortune in San Francisco, where he associated with prominent attorneys and California Democrats. After coal was discovered in Washington Territory, a newly formed syndicate sent Fitzhugh north to open and manage a Bellingham Bay coal mine, and to sway that region’s Democrats. Elected Whatcom County’s first auditor, he used his position as the territory’s largest employer to benefit himself and the mine. He married two important indigenous women who brought their own kind of wealth and influence. He also exploited family, personal, and political networks to become the first local Indian agent during the Treaty War, a military aide to Governor Isaac Stevens, a district and supreme court justice, and a member of Brigadier General Eppa Hunton’s Civil War staff. After Fitzhugh kidnapped his two children and sent them to a distant white family, his indigenous wives deserted him. Two later marriages to women from prominent colonial families also did not last.


Man of Treacherous Charm cover




A Nostalgic Look at a Life Few People Have Known

Idaho once had close to one thousand fire lookout towers—more than any other state in the Pacific Northwest. Today, that number has dropped dramatically as fire management increasingly relies on infrared and drone technology over human power. A new book, The Last Lookout on Dunn Peak: Fire Spotting in Idaho’s St. Joe National Forest by Nancy Sule Hammond, captures that lost era and recounts a life few will now experience—serving as a United Forest Service fire lookout.

When married high school sweethearts Don and Nancy arrived at his first post eight miles northwest of Avery, Idaho, in 1972, Nancy was puzzled. “I’d expected to find majestic conifers, lots of them,” she says. “But every mountain for miles around was covered in stubby scrub brush and weeds. Now I understood why that other lookout had quit. He was embarrassed to work in a forest without trees.” Their first task was to lug provisions and water up the Dunn Peak Lookout’s steep stairs to the fifteen-by-fifteen-foot cab two stories above the forest floor. The sparse furnishings included a single bed, small bookcase, cabinet, table, and a wood stove. There was no electricity or running water. A battery powered two-way Motorola radio was their only connection to the outside world. That night—engulfed by thunderbolts and filled with adrenalin—they faced their first storm. “It stalled right over our heads. I jumped at each lightning strike,” Nancy recalls.

Unless it was foggy or raining while he was on duty, the Forest Service required Don to conduct binocular searches from the catwalk for at least twenty minutes of every hour. He watched for smoke during the day and the glow of fire at night, and learned to distinguish between blue smoke plumes and white wisps of fog. Despite the primitive conditions, Don, Nancy, and their Dalmatian, Misty, settled in and came to love their lookout adventure. They spotted wildfires, were startled by their first cougar scream, encountered a wide variety of human and animal visitors, discovered delectable huckleberry patches, and simply enjoyed the enchanting beauty all around them.

Don was the last fire spotter to work there. The following year, the Forest Service decided to close the Dunn Peak Lookout, so the couple spent the summer of 1973 at the Middle Sister Peak tower, ten miles southeast of Avery. In The Last Lookout, Nancy shares stories from those two exciting, magical fire seasons, along with their return as volunteers 37 years later. Interspersing her accounts with regional fire history as well as dangers and details of the work, she journeys back to the narrow catwalks and stunning panoramas—a place where storms are building, the landscape is dry, and any lightning strike could ignite a raging wildfire.

The Last Lookout on Dunn Peak cover

Montana Modernists a finalist for two additional book awards

Montana Modernist artwork

Cover of Montana Modernists

Already a Montana State Book Award honor selection, Montana Modernists: Shifting Perceptions of Western Art written by Michele Corriel and published by Washington State University Press, is a finalist for two additional book awards, the 2023 High Plains Book Award in Art & Photography, and the 2023 Big Sky Award. Held in conjunction with the High Plains BookFest, the High Plains Book Awards recognize regional authors and/or literary works in a variety of categories that examine and reflect life on the High Plains. Introduced in 2019, the Big Sky Award is a special prize for the overall best book by a Montana author. Winners for all Book Awards will be announced at an awards event to be held in October 2023 in Billings, Montana. Each winner will receive $500 and a commemorative plaque.

The first book fully devoted to the topic, Montana Modernists presents stunning artwork and illuminates a little-known art movement. For many, Charles M. Russell’s paintings epitomize life in the West. But in twentieth-century postwar Montana, an avant-garde art movement—Montana Modernism—brewed. Its pioneers—ranchers, teachers, and professors Jessie Wilber, Frances Senska, Bill Stockton, Isabelle Johnson, Robert DeWeese, and Gennie DeWeese—created a community and pedagogy where, in stark contrast to stereotypical romanticized western art and frontier history themes, modernist ideas and art flourished, expanding traditional definitions of Western art.

Michele Corriel holds a Master’s in Art History and a PhD in American Studies/American Art from Montana State University, Bozeman. She has been an art writer for the last 17 years and is on the National Advisory Board for the Bozeman Art Museum.

Montana Modernists is full color, paperback, 10″ x 8″, 180 pages, and lists for $32.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide, direct from WSU Press online at or by phone at 800-354-7360. A nonprofit academic publisher associated with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.

A Rare Look at Life on an Eastern Washington Sheep Ranch

Photo of lambing time in the corrals.

Noted western writer Wallace Stegner once stated that the most fruitful years for memoirists were those up to age eleven.  Author Richard W. Etulain thought about that statement for a long time before setting out to write his story, Boyhood Among the Woolies: Growing Up on a Basque Sheep Ranch, just released by Basalt Books. It covers his early youth on a sprawling sheep ranch twenty miles east of Ritzville and about seventy miles south of Spokane—eleven years that became the launching point for his later career as a western history professor.

Etulain notes that his experiences markedly differed from those of most young men from the surrounding farms and estates. About 100 miles to the east were the rich wheat ranches of the Palouse Country; to the west, smaller stock ranches and less fertile and more compact wheat ranches. Almost no sheepmen were in this area, save for the Escure brothers, his family’s next-door neighbors. “When I bragged about our 10,000-acre ranch (I didn’t mention that our best crop was rocks) to fellow Ritzville school students, they were convinced I was lying.”

Etulain’s memoir provides a glimpse of the annual patterns of life and activities on a sheep ranch. Lambing began in the coldest months of January and February, the sheep shearers arrived in April or early May, and the “trailing” to the mountains commenced in late May. Their four bands of sheep, totaling up to eight thousand ewes and lambs, grazed for about three months in the verdant mountains on or near the Idaho-Montana border.  Meanwhile, the Etulain family resided in their St. Maries summer home. The boys swam, roamed the neighborhood, and enjoyed getting into trouble.  In October, they returned to the sheep ranch and restarted the yearly routines.

“If the dry grazing lands dominated the ranch setting, the personalities of my Basque Dad and saintly Mother molded our family and home life. An immigrant from Spain, Dad was a driven, nonstop worker who tried, unsuccessfully, to convince his three rascal sons to become gung-ho ranchers. Instead, we preferred sports and ranch games. Mom was the peacemaker, helping her sons with schooling and generally encouraging our interests,” Etulain says. He recounts their experiences in the rural, one-room Lantz School with fewer than ten students, as well as later schools in Ritzville. Trips to town for Saturday shopping, music lessons (he dreaded them), the library (a favorite), and church on Sunday were invigorating breaks from the isolation. He also portrays the lives of their sheep herders and ranch workers, ranch animals, and delightful, frequent pranks. The final chapter traces what Etulain considers the major legacy of early sheep ranch years—his work ethic (from his Dad), interest in books (encouraged by his Mom and grandma), and fascination with history, especially the American West, Abraham Lincoln, and the Basques.


Boyhood Among the Woolies cover

WSU Press Book Receives Montana Book Award Honors

Montana Modernist artwork

Cover of Montana Modernists

A Washington State University Press book, Montana Modernists: Shifting Perceptions of Western Art by Michele Corriel, was one of three honor books chosen by the 2022 Montana Book Award Committee. The annual award recognizes literary and/or artistic excellence in a book written or illustrated by someone who lives in Montana, is set in Montana, or deals with Montana themes or issues. Presentations and a reception for the four winning authors will take place on April 12, during the Montana Library Association Conference in Billings, Montana. Other winners include On a Benediction of Wind: Poems and Photographs, which won the main award, as well as Lucky Turtle, and The River You Touch: Making a Life on Moving Water, the other two honor titles.

The first book fully devoted to the topic, Montana Modernists presents stunning artwork and illuminates a little-known avant-garde movement—Montana Modernism—that began in twentieth-century postwar Montana. Its pioneers—ranchers, teachers, and professors Jessie Wilber, Frances Senska, Bill Stockton, Isabelle Johnson, Robert DeWeese, and Gennie DeWeese—created a community and pedagogy where, in stark contrast to stereotypical romanticized western art and frontier history themes, modernist ideas and art flourished, expanding traditional definitions of Western art. Divided into three parts, Corriel’s exploration concentrates on place, teaching/artistic lineage, and community.

From artist, writer, and Montana Governor’s Arts Award recipient Gordon McConnell’s viewpoint, “This book is singular, a milestone. It illuminates a precinct of western American art history that has been neglected by scholars up until now.” According to former curator of Art and Photography at the Museum of the Rockies Steven Jackson, “Montana Modernists presents important biographical histories of six Montana artists for the first time in one book, and provides valuable context for understanding how modernism evolved in Montana from the influences of artists like Cezanne to the movements of Dada, cubism, abstract expressionism, and the Bauhaus.”

Author Michele Corriel holds a Master’s in Art History and a PhD in American Studies/American Art from Montana State University, Bozeman. She has been an art writer for the last 17 years and is on the National Advisory Board for the Bozeman Art Museum.

Montana Modernists is full color, paperback, 10″ x 8″, 208 pages, and lists for $32.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide, direct from WSU Press online at or by phone at 800-354-7360. A nonprofit academic publisher associated with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.

A journey from extreme athlete to disability advocate to author

photo of Milwaukee's CBS58newsroom with Tom Haig on a screen

As a youngster growing up in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, suburb, Global Nomad author Tom Haig ran wild with the neighborhood kids. By seventh grade, the thirst for adventure and fearlessness he learned from them led him to springboard diving. “When I was older and experienced, I would feel, deep in my soul, that I was a diver.”

After graduating from the University of Illinois, Tom flew to Luxembourg on his first international trip. Despite being broke, hungry, and far from a flight home, he and his brother Dan headed to Venice, Italy. “Without any warning, the greatest and most powerful epiphany of our lives unfolded. We looked back at the paths we’d chosen to get to this starving moment, and concluded that not only had we made the right choice to stretch things to the limit, we were committed to continue to make those same kinds of decisions the rest of our lives.” And so began The Bridge to Venice Rule.

Living by that pact, Tom started work as a performance high diver in Missouri. Several times a day, he climbed to a small platform, lit himself on fire, and dove seventy miles per hour into a lake. Soon he was traveling all over the world, including to the 1989 Acapulco Cliff Diving Contest. In France he fell in love with cycling and carried a new passion back to Portland, Oregon, until one Sunday morning in September 1996. He crashed headfirst into a truck and found himself living a very different life from a wheelchair. His recovery—mentally, physically, and emotionally—was excruciating. “I’d been in car accidents, fallen from water towers, and landed flat on my back from 70-foot multiple somersaulting dives. No crying. I used to swear, jump up and down, and tell jokes. Anything but cry. I was going to have to learn how to cry again, or I wasn’t going to survive. Then again, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to survive.”

In Global Nomad, Tom shares his early free-wheeling life with its exciting cities and colorful personalities, and his extraordinary post-accident return to The Bridge to Venice Rule—racing in marathons, traveling solo in some of the poorest countries in the world, meeting the Dalai Lama, jamming with jazz great Oscar Klein, holding disability seminars, and starting the International Rehabilitation Forum with his physician brother, Andy. In the process, he bares the unvarnished aftermath and heartbreaking vulnerabilities that follow permanent paralysis, and inspires us all to take risks and live remarkable, generous, lives.

After being interviewed on Milwaukee’s CBS 58, Tom launched his book with about 130 people in the audience at Glendale, Wisconsin’s North Shore Library, an event co-sponsored by Boswell Books. He was interviewed by Mary Schmitt Boyer, former president of the Pro Basketball Writers Association. Here’s the fabulous CBS feature story on Tom.

For the next part of his book tour, he stopped at Jack’s West End, in La Grange, Illinois, and is also planning book signings in Portland and Seattle. Watch his web page,, for details.

Global Nomad is paperback, 6″ x 9″, 340 pages, and lists for $22.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide, direct from Basalt Books at 800-354-7360, or online at The trade imprint of nonprofit academic publisher Washington State University Press in Pullman, Washington, Basalt Books concentrates on general interest titles about cooking, nature, history, science, and more for young children to older readers—all with a connection to the Northwest.

photo of Tom Haig talking with Mary Schmitt Boyer  photo from the back of a room with Tom Haig and Mary Schmitt Boyer at the front

Longtime Agricultural Economist Recounts 50 Years of WA State’s Tree Fruit Industry

close-up of pink cherry blossoms

Tree Fruit Trade cover

Known for its apples, pears, and sweet cherries, Washington is now one of the world’s most competitive deciduous tree fruit producers, providing more than half the nation’s supply. In the 1970s, the state’s apple growers produced about 40 million cartons. Now they can generate 140 million. But it has never been easy. The industry has suffered from a loss of collective marketing, can be plagued by oversupply, and is moving from local family ownership to one controlled by large outside corporations. In his unique new book filled with personal anecdotes as well as expert observation, investigation, and analysis, Tree Fruit Trade: An Agricultural Economist Reviews Fifty Years of Washington State’s Key Orchard Crops, Desmond O’Rourke covers internal and external challenges and opportunities—from the devastating winter 1969 freeze to the Covid-19 pandemic. He shares his perspective on controversial areas like genetically modified organisms (GMOs), “super foods,” and the “dirty dozen.”

Written as both a tribute to those who served the industry in the past and as a cautionary tale that combines industry, economic, and world-events history with his own personal story, O’Rourke’s accounts help explain Washington’s tremendous success and illuminate emerging threats. They discuss multiple factors—both domestic and worldwide—that disrupt a variety of agricultural commodities, and describe significant changes, players, organizations, and how the tree fruit industry responded. Covered topics include environmental issues, virus problems, China, food trends, the free trade movement, shifting views on pesticides, concerns about labor shortages, retailer growth and failure, technological innovations, and much more.

Desmond O’Rourke has studied and worked in the Washington State fruit industry for more than fifty years—thirty in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Washington State University, and since 2000, as a private consultant. For 24 years, his company, Belrose, has published the World Apple Report. O’Rourke has also published books, monographs, journal articles, and special publications on many aspects of the world fruit trade, and has served on numerous national, state, and university committees, including—at the invitation of five consecutive governors—the Washington State Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.

 Tree Fruit Trade is paperback, 6” x 9”, 294 pages, and lists for $29.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide, direct from WSU Press at 800-354-7360, or online at A nonprofit academic publisher associated with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.

Frederick Law Olmsted’s last designs

Rendering of Frederick Law Olmsted's Chicago Fair wooded island

Two Olmsted sons—John Charles and Rick—step in to continue their father’s legacy, and help create the landscape architecture profession in America


Frederick Law Olmsted (FLO), now in his 70s, tried unsuccessfully to slow down. Clients kept calling, asking for design help with new university sites and grand private estates from Maine to California. With park work also continuing in Boston and many other cities, his sons back home in the Brookline, Massachusetts, office worried their father was overextended. Then, in the mid-1890s, the focus shifted to the four greatest and most important works of Olmsted’s long career.

The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 design commission came in quietly, but brought lasting fame and success when Olmsted was summoned to Chicago to work with architect Daniel Burnham on the master site design along Lake Michigan.

Chicago Fair architect Daniel Hudson Burnham valued Olmsted’s wooded island and water design and planning additions for the Fair. Olmsted “has been our best advisor….In the highest sense he has been the planner of the Exposition,” Burham told colleagues at a March 1893 New York architects’ dinner in his honor. Soon after, Harvard and Yale each awarded Olmsted an honorary degree.


George W. Vanderbilt’s Biltmore estate, created out of the magnificent Asheville, North Carolina, forest property, occupied FLO’s travel and working days before and after the Chicago World’s Fair opened on May 1, 1893.

The inspiration for Vanderbilt and Hunt’s architectural style came from their recent journey together to the French countryside. Olmsted had helped Vanderbilt build his Bar Harbor Maine summer retreat, but this southern warmer location suited Mr. Vanderbilt for a year-round retreat. Olmsted added educational suggestions—forestry study and an arboretum site before hiring young forester Gifford Pinchot years before he became first head of the U.S. Forest Service. By coincidence, Pinchot, like Olmsted, was also a Connecticut native with ties to Yale University. Later, Pinchot would thank Olmsted for starting him in the United States’ new forestry management career path.


The Stanford University campus work came to a close in the early 1890s. An October 2, 1891 New York Times headline read, “Stanford University Opened.” Olmsted wrote Stanford on October 28th, “I congratulate you and Mrs. Stanford with all my heart…I hope that you understand….our connection with your noble undertaking should continue.” Leland Stanford replied on November 9, 1891, thanking Olmsted and adding, “We are gradually improving the grounds in accordance with your plans.” Standford’s response contained no mention of FLO’s offer, and after Stanford’s death in 1893, Mrs. Stanford’s brother Ariel Lathrop came to be firmly in charge of the ground’s western campus improvements. As the campus grew beyond its original bounds, little hope for an Olmsted office reconnection surfaced.

Young Leland Stanford Jr., on the right, is pictured while traveling abroad with his father and mother just before his death. Five years later, in 1886, Olmsted was asked to design the California college campus in the boy’s honor.


The U.S. Capitol building and grounds re-design were also finally finished, but with Olmsted’s greatest supporters (especially Vermont Senator Justin Smith Morrill) still installed on the Senate committee that started Olmsted’s task two decades earlier, the Olmsted firm moved on to their next Washington, DC design suggestions at American University and the National Zoo, and more DC assignments soon followed.

Older son John Charles Olmsted continued managing the growing Brookline office while his father traveled extensively to meet clients and demands. Sadly, new partner Harry Sargent Codman, the lead partner on the Chicago Fair work, fell ill and died during crucial Chicago Fair design planning in 1893, leaving Olmsted to quickly fill in. John Charles Olmsted became an increasingly valuable office manager for his father, keeping office correspondence, apprentices, and the new client demands in order.

At the time of this image, John Charles had worked for his father for almost twenty years, mostly in the Brookline, Massachusetts office.


Meanwhile, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., (Rick) continued his Harvard studies, working toward his 1894 magna cum laude degree. FLO hoped to educate his younger son in professional landscape architecture studies before Rick finished at Harvard program—or even took his first Harvard class. In 1890, he asked his Chicago Fair architecture counterpart, Daniel Burnham, if Rick might fit into Burnham’s Chicago office summer internship. Burnham approved and gave Olmsted’s son some summer space in Chicago before the Exposition opened. Following the family tradition of showing his sons European sites, in the summer of 1892 FLO took Rick to old Parisian world’s fair locations and to Thames River waterside sites, studying boating and vegetation for Chicago World’s Fair design ideas.

Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (born Henry in 1870 but changed years later to Frederick Law, Jr., then Rick) enjoyed the front row landscape architecture education he received from his father.


The Chicago Fair eventually settled on a wooded island of Olmsted’s design directly in the middle of the formal architectural buildings lined up along Lake Michigan, where Olmsted’s scenery enhancements would offset their severity. At an architect’s dinner in March 1893, Burnham praised Olmsted and offered credit, “in a broad sense…of the design of the whole work” for the Jackson Park fair site.

From 1977 to 2015, Johns Hopkins University Press produced nine volumes examining the life and accomplishments of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903). Thanks to original editors Charles Capen McLaughlin and Charles E. Beverage, and their successors, the full story has unfolded across these volumes and three later supplements. This volume’s cover features the Olmsted-designed “wooded island”—acclaimed by architects and fair-goers alike—located in the center of the 1893 Chicago Fair site. Olmsted’s addition of floating boats cruising by the “White City” seemed a civilizing and popular gesture in the middle of the bright Lake Michigan building site.


Soon park districts across America called on Olmsted for advice and design ideas, and he admitted the public work was of more value to him, personally, than all the private estate work which also increased substantially during his later years. Above all, the Boston park system occupied his last years in Brookline. The one exception was George W. Vanderbilt’s private Biltmore estate, since the final landscape design was also for public education and enjoyment, with the Biltmore Village design addition down the road. Vanderbilt, like Burnham, was an Olmsted admirer. Forty years his senior, Olmsted had a “truly big and lovable nature,” Vanderbilt wrote to Olmsted’s sons years later. Handsome portraits of Olmsted and architect Richard Morris Hunt by artist John Singer Sargent still hang on the wall at Biltmore, Vanderbilt’s last support gesture for the estate’s two designers.

Architect Richard Morris Hunt, one of the most sought-after architects of his generation, had worked with Vanderbilt on the family’s Staten Island memorial, on the Chicago World’s Fair building site, and his grandest showplace, the North Carolina Biltmore estate.


But the frequent train travel was exhausting for the senior Olmsted, and by the mid-1890s, his many letters to John Charles and Rick began to show his apprehension and present realistic plans for the firm to continue should he become incapacitated. In a May 10, 1895 letter from Biltmore, FLO hinted to John Charles about the Olmsted firm’s future changing of the guard:

“It has today for the first time, become evident to me that my memory as to recent occurrences is no longer to be trusted…I suppose that I am a little affected physically, as I always have been in previous visits, by the elevation of this place [Biltmore estate] but I do not think that I can rightly conceal from you the fact that I am more distrustful of myself than I have ever before been…”

He then asked John Charles for partner help on jobs of “considerable importance.” The end was near and if possible, his sons were ready to help their father retire with dignity. At first, keeping FLO away from the office was awkward. A brief stay on Deer Isle, Maine, followed by a European winter with members of his family, failed to permanently solve the problem of their father’s failing memory. From Deer Isle, FLO wrote his partners:

“My will was drawn up some ten years ago…You, John are dealt with as my elder son, partner, and designated successor. Rick’s professional education is provided for and it is presumed that he will be partner with you…”

Indeed, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. did eventually join his brother in the firm, renamed Olmsted Brothers after the turn of the century, and both helped create the professional standing of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Later, each brother found new landscape work on the West Coast—John Charles in the Pacific Northwest, and Rick on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Southern California. After a half-century of carrying on his father’s legacy, Rick retired permanently to Palo Alto, where in 1886, he and his father had traveled by cross-country train to visit the Stanford University campus site. During his West Coast travels, John Charles sent vivid letters home chronicling his landscape architecture successes. He married a Brookline neighbor in 1899 and finally retired to the same Massachusetts suburb where in 1874, he and his father had created a new office briefly called F.L. and J.C. Olmsted—just one of many monikers. Prior to his death in 1903, Frederick Law Olmsted lived his quiet last years at the McLean Hospital in nearby Belmont, Massachusetts.

Now a National Park Service property, the original Brookline, Massachusetts, Olmsted office is accessible to visitors, preserving FLO’s—and his sons’—life’s work.


By Joan Hockaday, author of Greenscapes: Olmsted’s Pacific Northwest


The Untold Story Behind Steptoe Butte’s Luxury Hotel

artwork from a 1904 postcard featuring the Steptoe Butte hotel

James “Cashup” Davis was a puny kid with a quick smile, a brilliant mind, and a dream of traveling from his home in England to the American West. The British immigrant combined eccentricity, intelligence, and unstoppable drive, and left everything to come to the very edge of western settlement. More than 100 years later, his apple trees still bear fruit and his legacy lives on. After hearing about Cashup’s Steptoe Butte hotel since he was a boy, his great grandson, successful businessman Gordon W. Davis, decided to research the story. He reveals it in the new Basalt Books biography, Cashup Davis: The Inspiring Life of a Secret Mentor.

With his wife Mary Ann and nine of his eleven children, Cashup was among the first to plow the Palouse in 1870. Living at first in a simple sod house, they turned their bunchgrass acreage into a farm, built the first house in St. John, befriended Native Americans despite a war ignited by the U.S. government’s treaty violations, and eventually opened an immensely popular and prosperous stagecoach stop. Cashup was a regional celebrity, but he had another dream—one that may have sprouted from the English castles he saw as boy. Despite his advancing age, he was determined to build a luxury hotel on one of the region’s highest points. People told him it was a ridiculous idea, but obsessed, nothing could stop him. He faced extreme snow and rain, a cricket invasion, money woes, manpower shortages, construction site disasters, and more.

Against all odds, Cashup’s opulent Steptoe Butte hotel opened on July 4, 1888—a sensation reported in newspapers throughout the region. He reveled in entertaining, and hosted acclaimed parties with a decadence that belied the place and time. He featured magic shows of smoke and light, a telescope that peered beyond the horizon, and delicacies that partygoers had never seen before. Soon, Cashup became one of Washington’s first national celebrities—until it all came crashing down. Abandoned, the hotel burned to the ground in a spectacular 1911 blaze.

To uncover the details, Gordon, along with award-winning investigative television reporter Jeff Burnside, combed the archives of small-town museums, scoured burial records, sifted through countless newspaper articles and family records, and searched obscure digital archives. The pair used drones, and even put up posters in eastern Washington farm towns with the question, “Is Cashup Davis in your attic?”—all with the hope of finding additional photos, documents, letters, and artifacts to lend insight into the story. Eventually Jeff formed The Cashup Crew, an informal squad of people interested in unearthing as much as they could about the unlikely hotel’s builder. And it worked.

(Image above is artwork from a 1904 postcard featuring the Steptoe Butte hotel.)

Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1880s work, partners, and interns

Photo of John Charles Olmsted working at his desk

Olmsted moves his office north to Boston, and in 1884 sets up a new home and office in Brookline, Massachusetts with his new partner, young John Charles Olmsted.


Once his New York Central Park work and formal partnership with architect Calvert Vaux came to an end, Frederick Law Olmsted (FLO) made substantial changes to his life—and career.

After observing his great success with Central Park across the past two decades, Boston, Buffalo, and other city planners called on Olmsted to design new city parks and outdoor spaces. In addition to the overall transformation of Boston’s Franklin Park, the entire Boston park system—a series of waterside spaces adjacent to nearby neighborhoods and new suburbs—needed Olmsted’s expertise.

Boston, particularly, appealed to Olmsted’s New England roots. In addition, his close friend, architect Henry Hobson Richardson (HHR), had recently moved from New York to Boston for his own commission designing the Trinity Church there. The two had worked on Staten Island community plans as well as the New York State Capitol building in Albany, and enjoyed planning architecture and landscapes together. Perhaps HHR convinced FLO to think about a move up north in the late 1870s, when a bleak summer New York City railroad strike stranded Richardson in New York City and led to visits with Olmsted at his West Side townhouse. Surely the men discussed the possibility.

Portrait of Henry Hobson Richardson
A portrait of Henry Hobson Richardson from the biography printed two years after his early death in 1886. Olmsted urged the author, Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer to quickly ask Richardson’s associates and clients for timely reminisces on Richardson’s unique architecture practice, one of the newest American artists established in America. Within two years, she obliged and produced her classic, “Henry Hobson Richardson and His Works.”

During the railroad strike, new graduate John Charles Olmsted was touring in England and Europe. His father joined him for a whirlwind 4-month visit to FLO’s favorite established landscapes and architectural masterpieces abroad. It was the architecture which appealed to John Charles, FLO learned, before he wrote his landmark Christmas Day 1877 letter urging John Charles to enter a joint office operation.

With Richardson established in a combined home and office on a hilltop in Brookline, Massachusetts, a leafy suburb outside Boston, Olmsted began to make exploratory visits, renting Brookline properties until an old farmhouse came on the market in the early 1880s, just down the hill from HHR’s office and home. Both men helped one another find clients and work, in a busy first few years for both.

John Charles, as promised, helped his father establish the basics of a new office—and with his father’s expertise, the handsome garden outside, too. He assisted in setting up needed office procedures prior to hiring any staff or interns. They named their new home and office, “Fairsted.”

Photo of the side garden at Fairsted
The Fairsted side garden which JCO helped establish with plenty of advice from FLO


Photo of John Charles Olmsted working at his desk
John Charles Olmsted at his desk in Fairsted

Soon interns with well-respected local relatives were providing valuable energy—and travel time near and far with the senior Olmsted—while John Charles kept the new office running. Renamed F.L. and J.C. Olmsted in 1884, the revised moniker honored John Charles’ many contributions to the office during those formative years.

Intern Charles Eliot (1859 to 1897) was the son of Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard University from 1869 to 1909. The first office apprentice, young Eliot joined the firm in 1883, after his uncle, architect Roger S. Peabody, introduced him to Olmsted. He worked in Brookline for two years, then left to travel abroad and take Olmsted’s many suggestions on sights to see and absorb. Eliot’s eloquent letters back to his office mates from abroad rival the Olmsteds’ 1877 travel letters, when FLO helped his son discover the best landscapes and park contacts.

Eliot said he hoped to open his own landscape office when he returned to Boston—a temporary blow to the Olmsteds—but it was actually his father’s choice. He relented after the early death of another Fairsted apprentice in 1893, Harry Codman, who died unexpectedly at age 29 during critical Chicago World’s Fair planning. The firm’s name changed again, this time to Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot.

A draftsman, Eliot traveled with Olmsted on important early commissions to the New Jersey campus of the Lawrenceville School, to the Cushing’s Island design project in Maine, and to the U.S. Capitol West Front building and grounds design in progress during the 1880s.

Portrait of Charles Eliot
Charles Eliot
Eliot planned to open his own office specializing in establishing new Boston parks, but instead rejoined the Olmsted firm and worked at Fairsted through the late 1890s. He brought his Boston Park works with him.

Henry (Harry) Sargent Codman (1864-1893), nephew of Charles Sprague Sargent, director of the nearby Arnold Arboretum for fifty years, joined the firm in 1884 after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was a key associate on the Stanford University campus job from 1886, as he traveled across country to the Palo Alto, California school site with both FLO and son Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to meet with Mr. Stanford.

Portrait of Henry Sargent Codman
Henry Sargent Codman

Meanwhile, John Charles, then in his early 30s while his brother was still a teenager, kept the office records and correspondence flowing on each historic visit, as on-going work at the U.S. Capitol (now in its second decade of Senate committee design decisions), continued at a slow but steady pace. The western entry to the U.S. Capitol, Olmsted insisted, should support a more dignified facade and footing, including a handsome set of terraces designed to strengthen the stone building against the weak grass hill now balancing the building on the hilltop overlooking the Mall. The cost naturally caused great debate in Congress, but eventually Olmsted’s greatest supporters —among the keenest, Vermont Senator Justin Smith Morrill— managed to convince colleagues of needed changes.

During this same decade, new residential work for five Vanderbilt family members’ homes and memorials included the vast Shelburne Farms on the shore of Vermont’s Lake Champlain for Eliza Vanderbilt and her husband, Dr. William Seward Webb. For George Washington Vanderbilt (1862-1914), work began on the North Carolina Biltmore estate. That work continued into the next and final decade of Frederick Law Olmsted’s career, before the sons continued the landscape office and field work.

Today, both of these Olmsted-designed Vanderbilt estates—Shelburne Farms and the forested hilltop Biltmore Estate—open the public to the lasting legacies of Olmsted ideals—enhancing and preserving the natural beauty of landscapes apart from designed “parks” across America. More than a century later, each original family estate property designed by Olmsted allows visitors to share an interest in nature and to study and savor the designed landscape beauty.

As easy as the Vanderbilt and Boston parks commissioners proved to be as clients—especially after decades of New York City political intrigues—Leland Stanford was one of the most cautious before he finally accepted Olmsted’s ideas and vision. Simply convincing Mr. Stanford that vast green lawns were less appropriate in California than in the East, where Mr. Stanford lived his early years, was difficult, but finally achieved after a tug of ideas. The architects for the Stanford campus were the successors to H.H. Richardson, who died shortly before Olmsted’s first cross-country trip to meet Mr. Stanford in 1886.

Photo of Olmsteds' Leland Stanford Jr. University campus plans
Stanford campus plan crediting both Frederick Law and John Charles Olmsted


By Joan Hockaday, author of Greenscapes: Olmsted’s Pacific Northwest

Next month: The last decade of Olmsted’s office years in Brookline
The final Frederick Law Olmsted works, highlighting his Stanford University campus, the Biltmore Estate and U.S. Capitol designs, along with the Olmsted’s much-admired Chicago World’s Fair site design of 1893, which crowned his landscape design career with a flourish.