Frederick Law Olmsted
Frederick Law Olmsted (April 26, 1822 – August 28, 1903) was an American landscape architect, journalist, social critic, and public administrator. He is popularly considered to be the father of American landscape architecture. Olmsted was famous for co-designing many well-known urban parks with his senior partner Calvert Vaux, including Central Park in New York City, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York and Cadwalader Park in Trenton. He headed the pre-eminent landscape architecture and planning consultancy of late nineteenth-century America, which was carried on and expanded by his sons, Frederick Jr and John C, under the name Olmsted Brothers.Other projects that Olmsted was involved in include the country’s first and oldest coordinated system of public parks and parkways in Buffalo, New York; the country’s oldest state park, the Niagara Reservation in Niagara Falls, New York; one of the first planned communities in the United States, Riverside, Illinois; Mount Royal Park in Montreal, Quebec; the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut; the Emerald Necklace in Boston, Massachusetts; Highland Park in Rochester, New York; Belle Isle Park, in the Detroit River for Detroit, Michigan; the Grand Necklace of Parks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Cherokee Park and entire parks and parkway system in Louisville, Kentucky; the 735-acre (297 ha) Forest Park in Springfield, Massachusetts, featuring America’s first public “wading pool”; the George Washington Vanderbilt II Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina; the master plans for the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Maine, and Stanford University near Palo Alto, California, as well as for The Lawrenceville School; and Montebello Park in St. Catharines, Ontario. In Chicago his projects include: Jackson Park; Washington Park; the Midway Plaisance for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition; the south portion of Chicago’s “emerald necklace” boulevard ring; and the University of Chicago campus. In Washington, D.C., he worked on the landscape surrounding the United States Capitol building.
The quality of Olmsted’s landscape architecture was recognized by his contemporaries, who showered him with prestigious commissions. Daniel Burnham said of him, “He paints with lakes and wooded slopes; with lawns and banks and forest-covered hills; with mountainsides and ocean views …”
His work, especially in Central Park in New York City, set a standard of excellence that continues to influence landscape architecture in the United States. He was an early and important activist in the conservation movement, including work at Niagara Falls; the Adirondack region of upstate New York; and the National Park system; and though little known, played a major role in organizing and providing medical services to the Union Army in the Civil War.