“Wealth and Beauty in Trees”: State Forestry and the Revitalization of Massachusetts’s Rural Cultural Landscape, 1904–1919
- Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum
- University of Minnesota Press
- Volume 27, Number 2, Fall 2020
- pp. 83-105
- Additional Information
Massachusetts’s first state foresters, Alfred Akerman and Franklin W. Rane, strove to revitalize the state’s rural cultural landscape by instituting a new regime of scientific forestry—a practice that aimed to rationalize forest growth to maximize timber production. From the 1904 establishment of the Office of State Forester until its 1919 reorganization, these professional foresters sought to improve forests’ profitability and aesthetics to support communities facing outmigration and farm abandonment. This occurred as states throughout the nation developed new ways to protect and cultivate woodlands. This study provides a nuanced understanding of how perceptions of cultural decline, nostalgia for “Old New England,” and apparent environmental degradation influenced early forestry programs and policies. Massachusetts state foresters educated landowners, suppressed forest fires and tree pests, and created model demonstration forests. In 1914, the State Forest Commission formed to purchase and reforest inexpensive lands in the hopes that these rationally managed timber plantations could galvanize widespread reform. By 1919, foresters managed approximately 15,000 acres of state forests, forming a nucleus of a public land system that today protects 311,000 acres. This story exemplifies how state forests throughout the United States emerged from and embody a particular matrix of institutional power, cultural processes, and natural conditions.