The Fuller Center for Productive Landscapes is a living laboratory for exploring the role of place in cultural sustainability. Guided by a team of scholars, students explore landscapes—agricultural, designed, and vernacular—through the arts and humanities, and investigate the ongoing stewardship of landscapes and culture.
Our goal is to deepen students’ understanding of the role landscape plays in sustaining culture—literally, through agriculture, and more broadly, through inspiring the arts and grounding cultural identities.
In 1902, Edward and Helen Fuller took the first step toward creating a unique summer estate in North Abington Township. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and others joined them in this worthy placemaking endeavor. Over the years, dedicated stewards—along with time, geology, and ecology—have continued to shape Overlook.
Edward’s only child, Mortimer B. Fuller, inherited the estate in 1911. He expanded the property, structures and amenities and made it a year-round residence. He died in 1931. From then until 1964 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 the property was divided among her sons and fell into disrepair.
Mortimer B Fuller, Jr. (1907-1989) spent his childhood exploring the property, where he developed a keen interest in wildlife. This evolved into a passion for hunting and fishing. It also led to a deep commitment to 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 boundless source of inspiration. After Mortimer Jr.’s death, his wife, Frances Acker Fuller, 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, Frances, supports local conservation efforts.
The Fuller Center brings students to Overlook to study the geology, ecology, history and use of the land, and to explore the productive potential of similar landscapes. And the Center brings international experts from the leading edge of landscape sustainability to Eugene for lectures and seminars.
Many estates of this size and caliber have been divided up and sold off. Overlook provides a unique setting for immersive, reflective study of cultural marks on the land, and the land’s mark on our psyche. The fields, woods, and lake are a part of this mark. So are the roads and rails. The surrounding mountains, Appalachian Plateau, and glacial moraines weave a complex geological 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.