Frederick Law Olmsted: Plans and Views of Public Parks

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F rederick  L aw  O Lmsted Plans and Views of Public Parks

EditEd by Ch a r lEs E. bEv Er idgE, l aur En MEiEr, a nd ir EnE Mill s


FREDERICK LAW OLMSTED Plans and Views of Public Parks

edited by Charles E. Beveridge, Lauren Meier, and Irene Mills Lavishly illustrated with over 470 images—129 of them in color—this book reveals Frederick Law Olmsted’s design concepts for more than seventy public park projects through a rich collection of sketches, studies, lithographs, paintings, historical photographs, and comprehensive descriptions. Bringing together Olmsted’s most significant parks, parkways, park systems, and scenic reservations, this gorgeous volume takes readers on a uniquely conceived tour of such notable landscapes as Central Park, Prospect Park, the Buffalo Park and Parkway System, Washington Park and Jackson Park in Chicago, Boston’s “Emerald Necklace,” and Mount Royal in Montreal, Quebec. No such guide to Olmsted’s parks has ever been published. Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903) planned many parks and park systems across the United States, leaving an enduring legacy of designed public space that is enjoyed and defended today. His public parks, the design of which he was most proud, have had a lasting effect on urban America.

Lake Erie from The Front, from Centennial Exhibition Exhibit,Watercolor ©Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, used by permission

Frederick Law Olmsted, c. 1890 Courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

A superb visual overview of the major public parks designed by the foremost landscape architect in American history


“Bird’s Eye View of the City of San Francisco and Surrounding Country,” 1868 Artist after George Henry Goddard, Printed by Britton & Rey, Published by Snow & Roos Toned lithograph with applied watercolor, 28 5 16 x 41 5 16 inches 1702.104 Courtesy of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art The diagonal street separating the two major street grids of the city is Market Street. The headland and line of hills to the left of the farther end of Market Street are in the vicinity of V   an Ness Avenue. The area to the left of the nearer end of Market Street is the approximate area proposed for the small park-feature of Olmsted’s plan.


PROSPECT PARK Plans Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, offers the most significant instance of choice of a park site by Olmsted and his partners. The City of Brooklyn had originally chosen a site that included the high land and reservoir on “Mount Prospect” on the east side of Flatbush Avenue, along with a large tract on the other side of the avenue. In 1861 a plan for this site was prepared by the topographical engineer Egbert Viele, the same man whose plan for Central Park in Manhattan of 1856 had been adopted by one park board only to be rejected by its successor and replaced by the Greensward plan of Olmsted and Vaux. While Olmsted was in California during 1863–65, Vaux convinced officials in Brooklyn to move the entire Prospect Park site to the west side of Flatbush Avenue and expand its area to include what became the Long Meadow and Prospect Lake. The oval area for the plaza at the northern entrance of the park was also included in this expansion. Then, in 1865, the Brooklyn park commissioners selected Vaux and Olmsted to prepare a plan for the 650-acre site. Olmsted directed construction of the park beginning in the summer of 1866. He and Vaux received strong and consistent support of their work from the president of the park board, James S. T. Stranahan. After several years of work, Olmsted was pleased to report to Stranahan that a large part of the park was “thoroughly delightful and I am prouder of it than of anything that I have had to do with.”1 1. Frederick Law Olmsted to James S. T. Stranahan, n.d. (c. 1882)

4.1. Olmsted, Vaux & Co., Plan for Prospect Park, 1871

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Brook ly n, n e w yor k


prospe ct pa r k

Courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

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CONTENTS Acknowledgments ix Introduction xiii

1. new york City, new york Central Park 2

Park System, 1870s 132

Tompkins Square 54

Parkways 135

Union Square 55

Niagara Square 139

Riverside Park 56

The Park (Delaware Park) 141

Morningside Park 61

The Front 146

2. San franCiSCo, California Pleasure Grounds System 66 3. yoSemite Valley and maripoSa Big tree groVe, California Reservation 71 4. Brooklyn, new york Prospect Park 74 Fort Greene Park 111 Tompkins Park 113 Brooklyn Parkways 115 5. Bridgeport, ConneCtiCut Seaside Park 120 Beardsley Park 121 6. newark, new JerSey Proposed Park 124 7. alBany, new york Proposed Park System 126 8. philadelphia, pennSylVania Fairmount Park 128 9. new Britain, ConneCtiCut Walnut Hill Park 130

“Washington Park, Chicago, view northwest across meadow,” Chicago History Museum

10. Buffalo, new york

The Parade 148 Later Extensions and Alterations 150 South Park, 1888 (Proposed) 152 Southside Park System, 1890s 160 11. fall riVer, maSSaChuSettS South Park 165 12. hartford, ConneCtiCut System of Public Grounds 169 13. ChiCago, illinoiS South Park — The Era of 1871–1893 172 The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 — The Lagoon and Wooded Island 178 Post-Exposition Redesign and Construction of Jackson Park 184 Washington Park, Post-1893 196 The Midway Plaisance 198 Boulevards 202 14. amherSt, maSSaChuSettS Town Common 205 15. Baltimore, maryland Mount Vernon Square 207 16. montreal, QueBeC Mount Royal 212


17. detroit, miChigan Belle Isle 221 18. north eaSton, maSSaChuSettS Memorial Cairn 227 19. BoSton, maSSaChuSettS The Park System 232 Commonwealth Avenue 234 The Back Bay Fens 238 Muddy River Sanitary Improvement, Brookline and Boston 246 Olmsted Park, Boston and Brookline 256 Jamaica Pond and Environs, Boston 261 The Arborway 264 The Arnold Arboretum 266 Franklin Park 268 Franklin Field 294 Parkways from Franklin Park to Marine Park 296 Marine Park 300 Boston Harbor Islands Proposal 303 Charlesbank 306 Wood Island Park 310 Charlestown Heights 312 Charlestown Playground 315 20. new london, ConneCtiCut Memorial Park 317 21. St. Catharine’S, ontario Montebello Park 321 22. niagara fallS, new york Niagara Reservation 323

23. pawtuCket, rhode iSland

List of Illustrations 403

Public Recreation Grounds

List of Repositories 423

(Proposed) 332

General Index 425

24. wilmington, delaware Kentmere Parkway 334 25. trenton, new JerSey Cadwalader Park 337 26. roCheSter, new york Park System 342 Genesee Valley Park 344 Highland Park 353 Seneca Park 356 27. louiSVille, kentuCky Park System 361 Cherokee Park 362 Iroquois Park 370 Shawnee Park 374 Louisville Parkways 376 Louisville Squares and Places 380 28. kanSaS City, miSSouri Eleventh Street Parkway and Park System (Proposed) 388 29. milwaukee, wiSConSin Park System 392 West Park 392 River Park 393 Lake Park 394 30. newBurgh, new york Downing Park 396 31. newport, rhode iSland Morton Park 400

“Washington Park with children,”  W.T. Barnum from Barnum & Barnum, vol.3, #523 Chicago History Museum


“Jackson Park, Planting Plan along portion of Stony Island Avenue,” Sept. 20, 1895 Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot Plan no. 1902-92 Courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

FREDERICK LAW OLMSTED:

Plans and Views of Public Parks

edited by Charles E. Beveridge, Lauren Meier, and Irene Mills

Charles E. Beveridge is the series editor of The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted. Lauren Meier is the associate editor and Irene Mills is the assistant editor for this volume. Publication date: April 2015 11 x 11, 480 pp., 129 color illustrations, 348 b&w illustrations 978-1-4214-1086-9

$74.95 / £48.50 hardcover

Praise for The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted “A major contribution to American letters, an important step in the documentation of this American genius.”—Smithsonian “Once again, the editors of the Olmsted Papers have collected a treasure ripe for looting.”—Journal of American History

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