Fuller Center for Productive Landscapes

University of Oregon – Department of Landscape Architecture

Overlook Farm

In 1902, Edward and Helen Fuller hired the Olmsted Brothers to design a master plan for Overlook, transforming the property into a country home for their family. Over the years, dedicated stewards and natural processes have continued to shape Overlook.

Edward’s only child, Mortimer Fuller, inherited the estate in 1911. He expanded the property, structures and amenities and made it a year-round residence. After his death in 1931, his wife Kathryn lived in the “big house” surrounded by her three sons and their families all of whom lived in homes on the estate. The property was maintained intact during that time and was a self-sustaining farm during WWII. After Kathryn Fuller died in 1964, the property was divided among her sons and fell into disrepair.

Mortimer Fuller, Jr (1907-1989) spent his childhood exploring the property, where he developed a keen interest in wildlife, which evolved into a passion for hunting and fishing and a deep commitment to ecological conservation. Fuller’s efforts to restore the threatened nesting grounds of pink flamingos in the Netherlands Antilles were highly successful, and recognized worldwide. This legacy of conservation has continued to the next generation, with Overlook serving as a continuing source of inspiration. After Mortimer Jr’s death, his wife Frances began buying back portions of the property from relatives. Mortimer Fuller III and Sue Fuller, a 1971 University of Oregon graduate, have continued this legacy of stewardship by repurchasing property to reassemble the core of the estate. Along with Mort’s sisters, Pat and Fay, their family foundation established by their mother supports local conservation efforts.

Taking the same long view as Edward Fuller, the fourth-generation owners want to preserve the ecological function of the land in a way that is economically sustainable and resilient to changes, using a dynamic stewardship plan rather than a static master plan. Working with a team that includes landscape architects Nelson Byrd Woltz, conservation biologists, and agricultural consultants, they are transforming the property into a productive farm, an ecological reserve, and a laboratory for education and research.

Many estates of this size and caliber have been divided up and sold off. Overlook provides a unique setting for immersive, reflective study of the relationship between cultural, ecology, and land. The fields, woods, and lake, the Olmsted design framework, and the surrounding mountains, Appalachian Plateau, and glacial moraines weave a complex ecological, geological, and cultural tapestry. Together, these elements provide both text and canvas to scholars and artists.

Overlook is an ideal site to study the trajectories of landscapes—their historic development and stewardship of them into the future. Understanding these trajectories requires historical, ecological, and social analysis.

The Fuller Center is where this understanding begins.

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