Documenting the American South

The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway

Oral History Interview with Carlton Abbott, March 7, 2004

Transcript (18 p.) PDF
Complete Audio File (MP3 format / ca. 113 MB, 01:02:01) MP3
Abstract In this interview by Philip "Ted" Coyle, Carlton Abbott discusses his life as a landscape architect in Williamsburg, VA; his father -- Stanley Abbott -- and his legacy; the Blue Ridge Parkway; and Carlton's thoughts on United States history and cultural preservation.

Abbot discusses his father's perspectives on preservation, describing the parkway itself as an "instrument for preservation and landscape." He also discusses his own philosophy regarding the intersection of preservation and landscape architecture when describing his work in on historical sites; and how Stanley Abbott's ideas and concepts manifest in his firm's work today. Carlton Abbott passionately describes his philosophy of America, his interest in how America was made, and how his philosophy guides his work as a landscape architect. Abbott also discusses his belief in the importance of educating people about history through historical sites.

Carlton Abbott devotes much of the interview to stories and reflections of his father's efforts in designing the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as the personality traits he possessed that helped further his success as an architect. Abbott describes Stanley Abbott's fascination with the common man's experience and discusses his father's respect for and relationship with mountain people and his workers. Stanley Abbott's background -- including his childhood, military service, Ivy League education, and marriage -- are are also represented. Coyle and Abbott discuss works by other architects and landscape architects (Fredrick Law Olmstead and Frank Lloyd Wright) and art movements (Bauhaus through Modernist periods) that influenced Stanley Abbott's design of the Blue Ridge Parkway and other structures.

Other architectural works of Stanley Abbott's design through Abbott Associates are also discussed, including his work on Virginia Tech, Roanoke College, Virginia Military Institute, and Mary Baldwin College campuses; and the Virginia Governor's Mansion. Carlton Abbott also describes the collaborative efforts of he and his father through Abbott Associates in projects such as Bell Island in Richmond, VA and the house Carlton Abbott lives in at the time of this interview.
Date March 7, 2004
Interviewee Abbott, Carlton
Interviewee occupation Landscape architect
Interviewee DOB November 27, 1939
Interviewer Coyle, Philip E.
Subject Landscape architects
Stanley Abbott