Elizabeth Barlow Rogers / FLS Legacy

Elizabeth Barlow Rogers Portrait

For over fifty years, Elizabeth Barlow Rogers has been engaged with cultural landscape studies as an advocate, administrator and scholar. Roger’s leadership at the New York’s Central Park Conservancy (1980-1996) brought together a diverse team of professionals engaged in research, publication, field work, construction and restoration that became a model for urban park management across the United States. Her scholarly accomplishments include ten books as well as establishment of the Foundation for Landscape Studies (FLS) that published Site/Lines, a landscape studies journal.

UVA’s School of Architecture Department of Landscape Architecture is fortunate to have a long-standing relationship with Rogers through our colleague Professor Emeritus Reuben Rainey. In Fall 2005, Rogers was invited to be the School of Architecture’s Benjamin Howland Memorial Lecturer. Her talk that focused on the long negotiations and eventual collaboration between artists Jeane-Claude and Christo and the Central Park Conservancy resulting in the memorable Gates project (February 2005). Since then, Rogers has visited the Charlottesville numerous times advising the Center for Cultural Landscapes on their digital humanities project, the Landscape Studies Initiative which was funded by the Mellon Foundation (2017-2020), speaking about her memoir Saving Central Park, and guest lecturing in Professor Elizabeth Meyer’s Central Park as Public Space class, a College of Arts and Sciences Pavilion seminar (2019). Rogers generously participated in a four-day field trip to Central Park joining the students on a walk through the park and introducing them to the Conversancy’s historians, landscape architects and woodlands gardeners.

Roger’s biography is impressive for the number of impactful programs she has created. A native of San Antonio, Texas, Rogers earned a B.A. degree from Wellesley College and an M.A. in city planning from Yale University. In 1979, she was appointed Central Park administrator. The following year, in order to bring citizen support to the restoration and management renewal of Central Park, she initiated the Central Park Conservancy, the nation’s first public-private park partnership. Rogers led the Conservancy as President until 1996, when she founded the Cityscape Institute. In 2002, she created the Garden History and Landscape Studies curriculum at the Bard Graduate Center, and in 2005 she established the Foundation for Landscape Studies, whose mission was to promote an active understanding of the meaning of place in human life through support of landscape-history scholarship, publication of the journal Site/Lines, and collaboration with other organizations and institutions on landscape-related projects. As the owner with her husband, Theodore C. Rogers, of the C. L. Browning Ranch in the Texas Hill Country, she oversees the enhancement of its natural beauty, ecological health, and educational value.

A writer on the history of landscape design and the cultural meaning of place, Rogers is the author of The Forests and Wetlands of New York City (1971), Frederick Law Olmsted’s New York (1972), Rebuilding Central Park: A Management and Restoration Plan (1987), Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History (2001), Romantic Gardens: Nature, Art, and Landscape Design (2010), Writing the Garden: A Literary Conservation Across Two Centuries (2011), Learning las Vegas: Portrait of a Northern New Mexican Place (2013), Green Metropolis: The Extraordinary Landscape of New York City as Nature, History, and Landscape Design (2016), Saving Central Park (2018), and Writing the City: Essays on New York (2022). In addition, she is the coauthor with Jason Epstein of East Hampton: A History and Guide (1975).

Rogers is a life trustee of the Central Park Conservancy and member of the boards of The Battery Conservancy and the Library of American Landscape History. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the advisory board of the National Association of Olmsted Parks and The Olana Partnership. She is an honorary member of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a recipient of the society’s 2005 LaGasse Medal. In 2010 she received the Green-Wood Historic Fund’s Dewitt Clinton Award in Arts, Literature, Preservation, and Historic Research and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medal for lifetime achievement. In 2012 she was honored with the Henry Hope Reed Award from the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, and in 2013 the Preservation League of New York State bestowed on her its Pillar of New York Award. In 2016 she received the New York Botanical Garden’s rarely conferred Gold Medal.

(Portrait by Wendy Young)

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