The name Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. is nearly as well known as his most famous landscape — New York City’s Central Park, which he co-designed with Calvert Vaux. But Olmsted’s legacy and influence extend to include more than 300 North American landscapes that range from dozens of National Historic Landmarks to gardens and parks in 30 U.S. states and Canada.
“The impact of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., on the nation’s identity and the profession of landscape architecture is inestimable,” Charles A. Birnbaum, president and chief executive of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, said in a statement. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth Olmsted, widely considered the father of landscape architecture, the nonprofit education and advocacy association created a new illustrated digital guide, released on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.
“What’s Out There Olmsted provides easy access to a broad range of landscapes designed by Olmsted, Sr. and his successor firms and opportunities to discover the people associated with them,” Birnbaum added. For more than 100 years, they shaped cities, parks and park systems, scenic reservations, residential neighborhoods, cemeteries, and campuses for governmental, cultural, and academic institutions.
The Olmsted imprint, which helped create “an unrivaled design legacy,” the guide’s creators said, can be found coast to coast: in North Carolina at the great Biltmore Estate; Colorado’s Mountain Park System near Denver; the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.; California’s Stanford University and Yosemite National Park; and Montreal, Canada’s Mount Royal.
The guide includes a detailed introduction, an interactive map, a searchable database of North American landscapes, and 100 biographical entries about the Olmsted family and the firm’s employees, consultants, and collaborators.
Each “What’s Out There Olmsted” entry includes a 250-word description, images of the site, drop down menus with information about the type of site (public park, suburb), style (picturesque, Beaux- Arts/Neoclassical), who the designers were, related landscapes, and if a site is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places or as a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can search geographically by region, state, city, zip code, and up to 100 miles from a specific zip code. “Explore What’s Nearby,” a GPS-enabled feature, helps users locate landscapes within a given distance, customizable by mileage or walking time.
The guide also uncovers the stories of nearly 100 people who worked with, for, and following Olmsted Sr.’s career to create landscapes, like Warren Manning, who was employed by Olmsted, Sr. for eight years before opening his own practice. Manning worked on more than 1,700 projects, including estates, parks and park systems, city plans, campus plans, subdivisions, golf courses, and institutional grounds. Arthur Shurcliff, another Olmsted firm alum who specialized in the restoration of early American town commons, went on to become the landscape architect for Colonial Williamsburg, and Stella Obst, who spent some 40 years at the Olmsted Brothers firm working closely with Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.