"Olmsted 200: Parks for All People" unites 120+ organizations to advocate for American parks and open space, marking bicentennial of Frederick Law Olmsted's birth, www.Olmsted200.org
On John Charles Olmsted
1903 Olmsted Bros Report to the Park Board, https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2021/olmsted-plan-1903.pdf
1903 Olmsted Plan for Seattle Parks, http://520history.org/1851-1915/CommunityDevelopment/OlmstedPlan.htm
Legacy of the Olmsted Brothers in Portland traces city's appreciation for outdoor spaces, by William Hawkins III. A 200-page softcover with color photos and historic maps, the book traces the development of Portland's system of parks and parkways from the establishment in 1871 of what was then called City Park -- now Washington Park.
Imagining Uplands: John Olmsted's Masterpiece of Residential Design, by Larry McCann. Recounts the efforts of the American landscape architect John Charles Olmsted to create an ideal and enduring subdivision on the suburban frontier of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Imagining Uplands tells also of John Olmsted’s upbringing and training, and about other projects he initiated in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest before World War I. Among major themes woven into the narrative are the land dealings of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Images capture the intrinsic beauty of the Garry oak landscape, the artistry of John Olmsted’s design, and the domestic architecture of “Victoria’s celebrated residential park.” (from https://www.amazon.ca/Imagining-Uplands-Olmsteds-Masterpiece-Residential/dp/0995066302).
John Charles Olmsted and Victoria Park, Truro, Nova Scotia, by Larry McCann. Canada’s major regions, from the Maritimes to British Columbia, bear witness to John Charles Olmsted’s masterful skills. He undertook a variety of Canadian projects from the early-1890s to the outbreak of the First World War. The largest were located in western Canada, notably at Victoria, Calgary and Winnipeg. But three days after the onset of World War I, on July 31, 1914, John Olmsted was in Truro, Nova Scotia, a town of 6,000, to consult with trustees of Victoria Park about the future development of their “Victorian Pleasure Ground.” Besides creating plans for a 28-acre neighborhood park in Winnipeg and the triangular parks that grace the Uplands subdivision in Victoria, this was John Olmsted’s principal park consultation in Canada. Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. had earlier designed Mount Royal Park in Montreal. From National Association for Olmsted Parks, http://www.olmsted.org/storage/images/Newsletters/Artwork/2016_November/victoria%20park%20truro%20nova%20scotia.pdf
On Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.
Slavery and Abolition:
The Writing Life of Frederick Law Olmsted, by landscape architect and Harvard University professor Sara Zewde. On Olmsted she writes: “Frederick Law Olmsted’s “Southern Chronicles” and the lessons his writings about slavery teach us today. When Frederick Law Olmsted wrote Cotton Kingdom, he articulated “the most staunchly antislavery position he had taken.” She continues, “Wherever he was, and whatever he was doing, Olmsted focused on ways to elevate civil discourse and contribute to the betterment of society. He was a creative thinker and prolific writer.” National Association for Olmsted Parks, Olmsted200, https://olmsted200.org/radical-influence-for-abolition/
Frederick Law, Olmsted, Landscapes for the Public Good, National Association of Olmsted Parks, Olmsted200. Olmsted believed that the thoughtful design of parks and public spaces has positive social, environmental, economic, and health impacts on the people and communities around them. Witnessing rapid growth and urbanization in America, Olmsted understood that the future of the natural world would be threatened without more public-spirited intervention. Olmsted’s foresight is best illustrated by the landscapes he designed, which would not mature until decades later. Hundreds of projects and landscapes designed by Olmsted and the Olmsted firm can still be enjoyed today: from New York’s Central Park to the Palos Verdes community in California. Take a virtual tour today of Frederick Law Olmsted: Landscapes for the Public Good exhibit, https://olmsted200exhibit.com/
The Olmsteds and the Foundation of the National Park Service, by Lauren Meier, ASLA, Olmsted200. Frederick Law Olmsted and his successors are well known for their development of city parks and park systems, but they also made lasting contributions to the National Park Service (NPS). In this blog, Meier explores the Olmsteds and their connection to "America's best idea." Olmsted’s 1865 Preliminary Report upon the Yosemite and Big Tree Grove set a prophetic vision for parks and scenic reservations as a tangible illustration of the principles of equity and benevolence, and the fundamental role of government to provide access to the restorative value of natural scenery. It also made the case for harmonious public access that does not create an artificial character. In other words, landscape architecture could provide the means for thoughtful design for Americans to experience these national treasures. https://olmsted200.org/the-olmsteds-and-the-foundation-of-the-national-park-service/
The revolutionary idea behind America’s urban trails, National Geographic, July 30, 2021. Pioneered more than a century ago by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, greenways are nature-filled city hikes that point to the future. Urban greenways were the brainchild of Frederick Law Olmsted, the legendary landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park in 1858. A decade later, Olmsted designed the nation’s first greenway in Buffalo, New York, known today as the Buffalo Olmsted Parks system. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/heres-the-revolutionary-idea-behind-americas-urban-trails
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion:
Good For Whom: Olmsted, Parks, and the Public Good, an exhibit at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. An “informal digital companion to provide counterhegemonic context to the exhibit 'Frederick Law Olmsted: Landscapes for the Public Good.'" This guide examines the roles of systemic racism and settler colonialism in the creation of parks through land dispossession and forced removal of Black, Indigenous, and immigrant communities with special attention to Central Park and Yosemite National Park. Each section offers Critical Inquiry prompts, and below you'll see guiding questions to keep in mind as you navigate both Olmsted 200 and the Good for Whom? https://sites.google.com/view/contextualizing-olmsted200/home
Why Louisville's public parks are not equal and what this group is doing about it, by Brooke Perry Pardue and Dr. Brandy Kelly Pryor. Opinion contributors, Louisville Courier Journal. https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2021/08/10/louisville-public-parks-group-working-to-bring-equity/5513209001/
Amigos to de los Rios near Pasadena, inspired by the original Olmsted-Bartholomew plan for L.A., and refashioned for the 21st century by visualizing and enacting a new Emerald Necklace for the greater L.A. region. https://amigosdelosrios.org/the-emerald-necklace-vision-plan/
Central Park’s Designers Had A Favorite Park: And It Wasn’t Central Park, Daily Beast: https://www.thedailybeast.com/central-parks-designers-had-a-favorite-nyc-parkand-it-wasnt-central-park?source=articles&via=rss
Resources provided by Laurence Cotton
Annotated resource list about Frederick Law Olmsted and the Olmsted Legacy
Books by Frederick Law Olmsted:
Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England
The Cotton Kingdom (many editions are available. I recommend one with the intro by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.)
Frederick Law Olmsted: Writings on Landscape, Culture and Society (Library of America, 2015)
FLO.: A Biography of Frederick Law Olmsted, by Laura Wood Roper (older volume, and maybe a little hard to come by, but still excellent)
A Clearing in the Distance, by Witold Rybczynski
Genius of Place, by Justin Martin (the most recent)
On Olmsted Senior and his landscapes:
Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing the American Landscape, by Charles Beveridge and Paul Rocheleau. (Beveridge is the dean of Olmsted scholars. Seek out a library copy or pre-owned copy of this marvelous volume, available in both large format hardback and in paperback. A new edition was just published by Rizzoli. It is a coffee table book. But it doesn’t just feature beautiful pictures. It is loaded with wonderful content by the “Dean” of Olmsted scholars, Charlies Beveridge.
Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.:
Beauty, Efficiency, and Economy: A Life of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., Landscape Architect, Planner, and Conservationist, by Elizabeth Hope Cushing. The first ever full-length biography of Junior/Rick Olmsted, published fall 2021.
John Charles Olmsted:
Greenscapes: Olmsted’s Pacific Northwest, by Joan Hockaday. (Out of print, but used copies are out there.)
The Legacy of the Olmsted Brothers in Portland, Oregon, by William J. Hawkins, III. Buy from Powells Books or direct from the author.
The Power of Scenery: Frederick Law Olmsted and the Origin of National Parks, by Dennis Drabelle
Architects of an American Landscape: Henry Hobson Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted and the Reimagining of America’s Public and Private Spaces, by Hugh Howard
Two upcoming books to look forward to:
Olmsted and Yosemite: Civil War, Abolition, and the National Park Idea, by Rolf Diamant & Ethan Carr (due out in March)
Before Central Park, by Sara Cedar Miller will be published in May 2022. Sara’s thoroughly researched history will reveal much previously unpublished material covering 2.5 centuries of the land that became Central Park. Its residents and events include Indigenous peoples, the early Dutch and English families, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the African American settlement of Seneca Village, Irish and German immigrant farmers, and the Motherhouse of Catholic sisters and students. The book also narrates the two-decades-long struggle to realize Central Park from concept to creation and includes the beginnings of Frederick Law Olmsted’s long and celebrated career.
Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America, produced and directed by Lawrence Hott. Laurence Cotton originated this project, served as content provider and consulting producer. A production of Florentine Films/Hott Productions and WNED Buffalo/Toronto. On this special website (not the main PBS website), you can stream the original 60-minute PBS film, watch additional video material and select reading material from a list of essays about the Olmsted legacy: https://www.wned.org/television/wned-productions/wned-history-productions/frederick-law-olmsted-designing-america/
Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks, another fine film about the Olmsted parks, https://www.olmstedfilm.org
There are additional documentaries out there that focus in on the Olmsted park legacies in such places as Upstate New York (Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Rochester) and Louisville.
A (very) short list of recommended resources:
National Association for Olmsted Parks/NAOP: https://www.olmsted.org/
Olmsted Online: https://www.olmstedonline.org/
Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site/NPS: https://www.nps.gov/frla/index.htm
Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted/National Archives: https://www.archives.gov/nhprc/projects/catalog/frederick-olmsted
The Cultural Landscape Foundation: https://www.tclf.org
Plus, please keep in mind that many Olmsted park systems (Buffalo, Boston, Louisville) and individual parks (Central Park, Prospect Park) have well-resourced conservancies with beautiful, content-rich websites that often include information that is far broader than any one park or collection of parks. Plus, many smaller parks and clusters of parks have active “friends” groups (Lake Park, Milwaukee, Seattle, Cadwalader Park, N.J., just by way of a few examples. There are many such groups across the U.S. and in Montreal.)
All the friends groups have websites loaded with wonderful content. Always remember to check out those websites .. and if you are local, make contact. The personnel often include a mixture of professionals and active volunteers who love their park/portfolio of parks, and work to raise funds to maintain and restore those landscapes. Many are trained horticulturalists, landscape design practitioners and historians, and many actively volunteer time to maintain and restore these parks, and to give tours for these special places. You cannot go wrong by reaching out to these extraordinary park advocates across the nation.