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The Olmsted Legacy:

The General Plan for Mount Holyoke College


General Plan for Mount Holyoke Colleges as proposed by Frederick Law Olmsted. (15)



"No one has yet researched the exact contribution of Frederick Law Olmsted himself to the plan of the college, and it is difficult to determine at what point the fater left off and the son took over." (12)

J.C. Olmsted carefully follows his fathers design principles so it is very difficult to tell where Frederick Law Olmsted left off and his son John C. Olmsted took over.

In The 1880's, J.C. Olmsted traveled to Mount Holyoke College at the request of Treasurer Williston, presenting a general plan for Mount Holyoke's Campus. The plan, pictured above, was characteristic of an Olmsted design with its meandering paths and use of the design principles characteristic of Olmsted's work.

In the Mount Holyoke College Archives copies of some of the corespondance between the Olmsted Firm and Mount Holyoke can be viewed. These letters span nearly three decades. Among the objects disgusted in the letters is Goodnow Park. Speaking about Goodnow Park, J.C. Olmsted worried that the college was not following the exact plans.

Our plans for walks and grading have been followed more or less in places, but in some places entirely different ideas have prevailed and in other places nothing has been completed. (16)

A postcard of "A Drive in Goodnow Park" (1917) Image from Mount Holyoke College Archives (17)

In a letter dated March 30, 1910 J.C. Olmsted details a trip he took to Mount Holyoke. During the trip he discussed a gate with Mr. Williston. He stressed how the location of the gate was important to control the view when exiting the college as well as the importance of the gate being met by meandering paths.

"It seemed to me that the entrance drive might better be moved north to the space between the trees because in going out one would have a distant view across the street betwen the two buildings... I said there should be a curved walk swinging to the right of Mary Brigham Hall and another to left to Mary Lyon Hall." (16)

The Olmsted firm was the training ground for Arthur A. Shurcliff the founder of the firm Shurcliff, Merrill & Footit who worked with the college in the 1920s and again in the 1970's. However, it seemed that Arthur may have discarded some of the Olmsted design principles when he suggested his plan for Mount Holyoke. It was Sidney N. Shurcliff, Arthur's son, who ran the firm when they began work in the 1970's and who took the campus back to its Olmsted roots.



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Atlas Home Page The Olmsted Legacy Frederick Law Olmsted Olmsted's Design Principles Olmsted's Design for MHC
Shurcliff's Design for MHC 1904 Garden Gettell Amphitheater References



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