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The Olmsted Legacy:

A Father and Son Tradition


Painting of Frederick Law Olmsted by John Singer Sargent (American Painter 1895). (10)


[Olmsted's] legacy consists of far more than places. He was a pragmatic visionary who, through a fusion of theory and practice, shaped the American landscape from city to wilderness.(11)



A Natural Built Environment:Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) was a prolific landscape architect of the 19th century. He left behind a legacy of parks such as Central Park , Niagara Falls , and Yosemite . Those who don't know of Olmsted and his work sometimes fail to recognize these environments as built landscapes because of his strict set of design principles. Olmsted's skill in concealing the built environment within the natural is so strong that many landmarks of his landscape architecture are assumed to be completely natural.

In building Yosemite , "Olmsted proposed paths and prospects to shape visitor's experience of Yosemite by directing their movement and gaze." (11) Olmsted felt that the landscape should occupy the mind "without purpose" and produce a moment that would be free from stresses and refresh the mind and body. (11) In a place like Yosemite that has many visitors, Olmsted valued the importance of managing the landscape to realize the value of both the scenery and access.

Like Father, Like Son: Olmsted utilized these same design principles when he suggested a general plan for Mount Holyoke College in the 1890's. At the time Mount Holyoke did most of it's building, Olmsted had retired and his work was carried out by his sons. On a planting order dated November 8, 1898 , the original letterhead said "F.L. & J.C. Olmsted, Landscape Architects" but it was crossed out and replaced with "Olmsted Brothers." (12)


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Shurcliff's Design for MHC 1904 Garden Gettell Amphitheater References



This page was created byShay Campbell 07 in History 283, Spring Semester 2006 -