Frederick Law Olmsted (April 26, 1822 – August 28, 1903) was an American journalist, social critic, public administrator, and landscape designer. He is popularly considered to be the father of American landscape architecture, although many scholars have bestowed that title upon Andrew Jackson Downing.
Frederick Law Olmsted thought cities could - and must - be changed. People need cities, he agreed, but cities nee parks. Fred designed parks of all kinds, transforming the way our cities and country look and feel.
Within a half century of his death in 1903, the name of Frederick Law Olmsted was indeed largely forgotten, lost in works that had already lapsed "toward ruin" (in the words of one biographer) or yielded to the "vicissitudes of neglect" and the "mischief and caprice of citizens and politicians" (in the words of another). Then, in the early 1970s, around the sesquicentennial of his birth, the name of Olmsted enjoyed a revival of sorts—a show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, an increased interest in his long-restricted papers at the Library of Congress, the first of several contemporary biographies, the convening of conservancies to restore his neglected parks.
Among the many tributes to this body of work, Olmsted might have remembered snatches of an editorial in Garden and Forest magazine hailing him, in the year of the Chicago exposition, as "the foremost artist which the New World has yet produced." Still, though "millions of people now unborn will find rest and refreshment in the contemplation of smiling landscapes which he has made," the "memory of his name and personality may be dimmed in the passage of years, for it is the fate of architects to be lost in their work."
Through several connections gained as a columnist with the New Yorker, Olmsted was able to gain the appointed as the Superintendent of Central Park, New York City, in 1857, early in the development of that park project. He soon met Calvert Vaux, who had been working on a design for the park with Andrew Jackson Downing. When Downing died, Vaux approached OImsted about collaborating on the project. Their plan, titled Greensward, was ultimately selected as the winning design.
Olmsted had a significant career in journalism. In 1850, he traveled to England to visit public gardens, where he was greatly impressed by Joseph Paxton's Birkenhead Park. He subsequently wrote and published Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England in 1852. This supported his getting additional work.
When Frederick came to Manhattan as an eighteen-year-old apprentice in 1840, it was still a rather compact place, containing more than a quarter of a million people. Olmsted worked at 53 Beaver Street, less than two blocks below Wall Street. The commercial structures of this neighborhood were not unlike those of Hartford, though the density was far greater. Moreover, Frederick lived across the East River in Brooklyn Heights, where he boarded at 120 Henry Street, and area of Brooklyn that was exceedingly open and sparsely settled in the early 1840s, rural in every aspect except for the magnificent vista it offered of lower Manhattan.
He was raised as a gentleman, and while he never fully attended college, he did become a very learned man. When he was 18, Olmsted moved to New York to begin a career as a scientific farmer. Soon after that career failed to take off, he toured Europe with his brother, served as a merchant seaman, and traveled throughout the southern United States as a newspaper correspondent, publishing several books as an outgrowth of that career.
Frederick Law Olmstead was born on April 25, 1822, in Hartford, Connecticut. He reported from the South for The New York Times on slavery from 1852 to 1855. In 1857, he began working on New York City’s Central Park project and in 1858 became the chief architect of the park. He went on to successfully design many U.S. public parks including Prospect Park and the Capitol Hill grounds.
Frederick Law Olmsted is famous as the designer of Central Park, New York, and as The Father of Landscape Architecture. He was born in Hartford, Connecticut and before taking up landscape architecture as a profession he worked as a farmer, a seaman, a journalist and a social reformer. Frederick Law Olmsted's winning design for the Central Park competition was done with Calvert Vaux, an English architect who had also been A J Downing's partner. Olmsted set up a prosperous firm which designed some 50 public parks and 550 other commissions, many of them gardens and residential projects. F L Olmsted's style drew from Downing, from natural scenery, from visits to European parks, and from reading landscape and garden theorists, including Gilpin, Price, Loudon and Repton. Uvedale Price and Humphry Repton were the most significant influences and Olmsted favoured the landscape style, with a transition from a regular terrace to a natural landscape.
Frederick Law Olmsted (April 26, 1822 – August 28, 1903) was an American journalist, social critic, public
administrator, and landscape designer. He is popularly considered to be the father of American landscape
architecture, although many scholars have bestowed that title upon Andrew Jackson Downing. Olmsted was famous
for co-designing many well-known urban parks with his senior partner Calvert Vaux, including Central Park and
Prospect Park in New York City.