Frederic Law Olmsted

99 Warren St Brookline

National Park Service | Boston
Written By National Park Service | Boston

Since 1916, the National Park Service has been entrusted with the care of our national parks. Discover how one city could be the Cradle of Liberty, site of the first major battle of American Revolution, and home to many who espoused that freedom can be extended to all.

After a variety of careers, Frederick Law Olmsted, at mid-life, shifted his attention to landscape design and the importance of providing green spaces for urban areas. In this new endeavor, his work helped to establish the American profession of landscape architecture. He created a notable body of park, institutional, and private residential designs that influenced the essential shape of cities.

The senior Olmsted believed that landscape architects needed more than knowledge of plants and soil; they needed to understand the artistic nature of their work and how designed landscapes could influence human activity and social values. When he retired in 1897, he left a legacy of diverse and well-designed landscapes and a new generation of landscape professionals who understood his vision and could interpret it for the next century.

Olmsted instilled in his colleagues and apprentices the philosophy that thoughtful and purposeful landscape design, which respected natural site conditions, should provide restorative public experiences, necessary for a healthy society. To carry out his work, Olmsted developed a firm where he supervised the education, not only of his sons, John Charles, and Frederick Law, Jr., but of his many apprentices, such as Henry S. Codman and Charles Eliot, who he felt had the talent and temperament to advance the evolving landscape design profession.

Birth and Death: 1822-1903 Years at Firm & Position: Partner: 1857-1897 Notable Project Involvements while at the Firm: Central Park, New York, New York Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York Riverside, Illinois US Capitol Grounds, Washington, D.C. Park System, Boston and Brookline, Massachusetts World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Illinois Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

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Cover image: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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