The Human-Scale Architect Pioneer: Charles Eliot

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with REAL ESTATE RESOURCES & NETWORK 209970

I'm sending this along in appreciation and celebration of Sharon Simms' NEW GROUP, Building Architecture and Dings. I approached the subject of this article back around Thanksgiving. Like Ines' article, it didn't get much notice at the time, but I loved writing it anyway.. I was feeling appreciative and sentimental. Thanksgiving does it to me every year. History does it to me. Imagine how amazing it is for me to live in a city (Asheville, N.C.) -- known not only for historic charm, but for  architectural diversity...Romanesque Revival,Victorian, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Georgian, Classical Revival, Art Deco, Craftsman, Bungalow...Cabins and Castles. 

              Here is one such castle, the Biltmore House at the Biltmore Estate   "House" in this case may be a misnomer as you can see with this photo, courtesy of Wikipedia. 

 

St Mary's Asheville, North Carolina

                                                               

I drive by THIS beauty on my way home almost every day. This is St. Mary's Church, constructed in 1914 in  the English Gothic Revival style. The red brick church building built with a stone foundation has a steeply pitched gabled roof. The windows are pointed arches with leaded glass diamond panes. According to the National Park Service, of prominent Asheville architect Richard Sharp Smith had his hand in this project.

For a run-down of other incredible architectural finds in Asheville, check out this link....

But, before you do, let me tell you the story of a man who found himself on the grounds of a castle and took away with him the inspiration that changed the world... Like many others, this man believed that  buildings and their architectural features must be taken in context--must be appreciated from the perspective of the land on which they stand.

This is the story of the Father of Human-Scale Development ...Charles Eliot. " Charles Eliot pioneered many of the fundamental principles of regional planning and laid the conceptual and political groundwork for land and historical conservancies across the world.!" (exclamation mark is mine)

I inherited a legacy of appreciation for architecture in context and a love of stewardship from my Grandfather whose hero was Charles Eliot. You see, Grandpa was a land man. . He loved natural beauty.  He was the salt-of-the-earth type, so you  might think that Charles Eliot would be an unlikely hero for such a man as Grandpa.  But not so! Grandpa outright admired him. Often when we picnicked at beautiful Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan where I grew up, Grandpa would remind me that Eliot had his hand in the design. In fact, as far back as 1890, Eliot  led the way protect scenic treasures and viewsheds.

 

Charles Eliot (1859-97) son of Harvard University president, worked with Frederick Olmsted. Although he was only 38 when he died, in his short lifetime Eliot's accomplishments were many. He designed the metropolitan park and open-space systems of Boston, and founded the first U.S. organization devoted to historic landscape preservation.  Photo of Charles Eliott From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A well known landscape architect around the turn of the 19th century, Eliot may be an unfamiliar figure to some today. Yet, he was a bright light in the field of human-scale development, pioneering many of the fundamental principles of regional planning eco-friendly developers use today.  Also to his credit is the conceptual groundwork for land and historical conservancies.

 

New Urbanist Pioneer.
Charles Eliot has to be the  original new urbanist.When I visit friends in Celebration , Florida, I can see his influence there. Here's a picture (again from Wikipedia) that illustrates my point.

Concerned with the quickening pace of development beyond metropolitan Boston, where he lived and worked,  Eliot proposed an unique park system in the form of a trust.

Land Trusts got their start that way. Grandpa would be pleased to see how Eliot's seeds have bloomed. Today land trusts have matured into "privately based, nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable corporations and partnerships whose primary focus is to conserve open space or purchase conservation easements." They are growing in popularity and size. You will find conservation-minded organizations in small towns, operating locally.You will find them operating regionally and statewide.  You will find them where families are thinking about sustainability and positive futures.

In fact, Charles Eliot's creative influence remains. His legacy touches selected communities who are receiving assistance in taking the principles Eliot first envisioned and putting them into practice.

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Rainer
463,595
Maureen Francis & Dmitry Koublitsky
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel - Bloomfield Hills, MI
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel
janeAnne, I hadn't heard of Charles Eliot until you wrote.  Thanks.
Dec 24, 2006 08:37 AM #1
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Yes...He is not that well known, but his influence is HUGE.
Dec 26, 2006 12:15 AM #2
Rainer
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Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC
ECO

Great history lesson! Do you know if Eliot and friends had any connection with the establishment of other organizations like the Nature Conservancy or Audubon?

Dec 26, 2006 01:11 AM #3
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Rainer
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Bill Westel
Eco-Steward Realty - Asheville, NC
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Well he did have quite a sphere of influence!
Dec 26, 2006 08:11 AM #5
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I find my clients love to know this kind of information. Many of them came here years ago , stayed at the Biltmore Estate, and are especially interested in the Biltmore Estate. So the fact that he designed the Biltmore Estate grounds, Asheville, North Carolina is of special interest to them.

Dec 27, 2006 02:11 AM #6
Anonymous
John Thomas
I would like to know if this guy did anything else around Asheville.
Jan 01, 2007 05:33 AM #7
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Hello. Yes, he did the grounds at the Biltmore Estate. This isone of the most beautiful places in our area! Check it out at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biltmore_Estate

 

Jan 02, 2007 11:53 AM #8
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Sharon...SO excited about your/our new group!  I spruced up an article I wrote around Thanksgiving last year....one of my favorites. Like Ines' article, it didn't get much notice at the time...maybe here one of my  architectural Heroes will get a nod or two.

 Thank you so much for creating this group! YAY!!!!

Mar 30, 2007 05:53 PM #9
Rainmaker
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Sharon Simms
Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International - Saint Petersburg, FL
St. Petersburg FL - CRS CIPS CLHMS RSPS

janeAnne - thanks for joining the group and for revising and adding your post. Hopefully this group will give better recognition to you and to Ines, who both posted before with less than hoped for results.

I checked out Henry Taylor, the architect of several Romanesque Revival buildings in St. Petersburg, in Wikipedia and was disappointed not to find anything on him there. Maybe in my "spare time" I'll add something.

Interesting that Charles Eliot's influence is also in Celebration, Florida.

Thanks again for joining the Buildings and Architecture group and helping to make it a success. 

Mar 31, 2007 06:19 AM #10
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Sharon! I am really excited about this group. I will try to get some ideas together and write something at least mildly intriguing in the near future.
Mar 31, 2007 08:09 AM #11
Rainmaker
577,873
Dena Stevens Coriz
Rocky Mountain Realty - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004
This country is so full of history and we so often drive right past it. Thanks for slowing us down and letting us in some hisorty. http://activerain.com/blogsview/67303/-Rippling-Green-Challenge
Mar 31, 2007 12:10 PM #12
Rainmaker
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Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services
Thanks for introducing me to Charles Eliot.  I found this so interesting. The pictures really added so much to bring his tory to life.
Mar 31, 2007 12:12 PM #13
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Dena~~ When you think about how young he was when he passed on (just 35 or 36!) and the contribution that Eliot made inhis short life, and it makes you wonder how much he could have impacted the way we look at architecture as it relates to the land if he had lived to be 100, eh?

 

 

Apr 01, 2007 08:26 AM #14
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Joan~You have a way that makes me smile. I really appreciate your comments. When I wrote, I try to do some research and try to write about things that intrigue me. I guess that comes across. Thanks, again!
Apr 01, 2007 08:28 AM #15
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