Caroline Keller Loughlin (1940-2013)

Landscape Historian & Mount Auburn Trustee

Caroline Keller Loughlin was born in New Orleans in 1940, the daughter of Charles Keller Jr. and Rosa Freeman Keller. 

She graduated from Isidore Newman School in 1957, won a National Merit Scholarship award, then graduated from Cornell University in 1961 with a degree in mathematics. Upon her graduation from Cornell, she was hired by IBM and trained as a systems analyst and computer programmer. In 1962, she married Philip H. Loughlin III, a Cornell classmate. From 1962 to 1965, while her husband was in Florida serving in the U.S. Navy, Caroline was head of the division of planning and programming at the Florida Department of Public Welfare in Jacksonville.

In 1965, Caroline and her husband moved to St. Louis where she began a life of volunteer work. From 1970 to 1998, Caroline was a member of the Junior League of St. Louis, where she served as an officer and director. She was also active with the Women’s Society of Washington University, and served a term as president from 1993 to 1995. In addition, she was one of the organizers and an officer of the Butterfly House, established in 1995, that later became a division of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Also during her time in St. Louis, Caroline volunteered for almost thirty years on projects connected with Forest Park, the 1,371-acre urban park often called the crown jewel of St. Louis. This included twenty-eight years at one of the park’s most prominent institutions, the Saint Louis Zoo, where she was an archivist, historian, and book buyer. She also served as an officer and director of the support group, Zoo Friends. In addition, she served on two mayoral Forest Park master plan committees.

Caroline’s research on the history of the park with Catherine Anderson, another Junior League member, led to the book Forest Park. It was published in 1986 jointly by the Junior League of St. Louis and the University of Missouri. The book was a definitive history of the park and became the second-best seller of nonfiction in the St. Louis area at that time. It resulted in speaking invitations to the authors from more than 100 organizations. Also in 1986, Caroline was a founding member and later president of the support group Forest Park Forever. In 1992, she received the Hiram W. Leffingwell Award, given to persons or organizations that have substantially benefited Forest Park.

After the publication of Forest Park, Caroline became known to others interested in historic landscape preservation. In 1989, she was invited to join the board of trustees of the National Association for Olmsted Parks (NAOP) based in Washington, D.C., and dedicated to the preservation of the work of Frederick Law Olmsted and his firm. Caroline had seen and admired the influence of Olmsted in the design of Forest Park. Caroline accepted the invitation to join the NAOP board and spent time for the rest of her life working to preserve the Olmsted legacy.

As a trustee of NAOP, Caroline held several offices and served twice as co-chair. “Caroline was a passionate advocate for the legacy of the Olmsted firm who inspired many of NAOP’s trustees. Rarely have I witnessed such determination to see an organization succeed. How much we can learn from her example,” said Chris Bayley, NAOP’s board chair.

In recognition of her work at NAOP, in 2005 the board established The Caroline Loughlin Volunteer Service Award “in recognition of extraordinary dedication and commitment,” and presented the first award to Caroline.

After her move to the Boston area in 1999, Caroline broadened her efforts related to Olmsted. She began volunteering for Fairsted in Brookline, Massachusetts, the site of the former Olmsted firm and now the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site of the National Park Service. Among other roles, she served as a member of the Olmsted Archives Advisory Group at Fairsted.

Caroline also participated as a copyeditor of The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, a multi-volume publication of Olmsted’s most significant writings. She was copyediting the forthcoming volume 9 at the time of her death. The series editor, Charles E. Beveridge, said that in approaching her job as copyeditor, she read all the published volumes in the series “which gave her an appreciation of…the richness of Olmsted’s thoughts and writings. She is one of the very few people who have read all eight volumes we have published.”

Caroline worked on several collaborative efforts between the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site and NAOP. She was invited, as a representative of NAOP, to be part of the effort to found Friends of Fairsted, the private support group created to advance the mission of the National Historic Site. Caroline was a founding board member and was later elected president of the Friends group.

Additionally, Caroline was involved in the creation of the Olmsted Research Guide Online – an electronic database co-created by these two organizations that provides information about existing records relating to landscape design and planning work of the Olmsted firm.

Caroline also joined these two groups’ work to create The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm 1857 ~ 1979, published in 2008, that contains a complete list of Olmsted projects plus essays on the work of Olmsted and his firm. Caroline was both a contributor to and an editor of The Master List. In 2009, The Master List  received awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects, The Foundation for Landscape Studies and The Boston Society of Landscape Architects. The American Society of Landscape Architects presented Caroline a 2009 Honor Award in Communications.

“Caroline helped advance the [NAOP] in so many ways,” said Iris Gestram, NAOP’s executive director. “During her work with NAOP, Caroline helped create essential resources on the Olmsted firm that are the foundation of our work. Without her persistent efforts and deep knowledge, The Master ListOlmsted Research Guide Online and the recent volumes of the Olmsted Papers project simply might not be in existence. NAOP and many organizations across the country are indebted to Caroline for supporting these important works.”

In 2011, Caroline joined a further Olmsted cause with her election to the board of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy. The Conservancy works to restore and maintain the so-named chain of parks in Boston and Brookline designed by Olmsted. Julie Crockford, president of the Conservancy, said “Caroline acted on her values, giving generously of her time, talent and treasure to advance the mission of organizations like the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.”

Caroline’s interest in historic landscapes, and the suggestion of fellow NAOP board member and then-president of Mount Auburn Cemetery, William C. Clendaniel, led her to the historic Mount Auburn Cemetery as a volunteer in 2000. Caroline served in the Historical Collections Department for 13 years, was appointed trustee of the Friends of Mount Auburn in 2006, co-chaired the Cemetery’s 175th Anniversary Committee, and was appointed trustee of Mount Auburn Cemetery in 2010.

In 2012, twenty-three years after her first involvement with NAOP, Caroline was named by VIEW, the magazine of the Library of American Landscape History, as its 2012 Preservation Hero. VIEW cited her work at NAOP, Fairsted, and Mount Auburn Cemetery, and also described Caroline as “among the country’s most active stewards of the [Olmsted] firm’s landscape history.”

In addition to her other volunteer activities, Caroline served as a director and member of the Investment Committee of the RosaMary Foundation and a director and treasurer of the Keller Family Foundation, both in New Orleans.

Caroline died of lung cancer on October 7, 2013, at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was 72 years old. She is survived by her husband, Philip H. Loughlin III, two sons, Philip H. Loughlin IV (Ellie Mahoney Loughlin) and Thomas K. Loughlin, and two grandchildren, Christopher R. Loughlin and Katherine E. Loughlin. She also is survived by a sister, Mary K. Zervigon.

A granite rectangular monument in a cemetery.

Loughlin is memorialized on Indian Ridge Path