Here's how to celebrate Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.'s 200th birthday

200 Candles

Here's how to celebrate Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.'s 200th birthday

Brooklyn's Prospect Park, designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. (© Barrett Doherty/Courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation)

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) today released the 20th entry in its What’s Out There digital landscape guide series—and it’s a very special edition fit for a milestone Olmstedian birthday.

Deviating from the city- and region-based format of previous What’s Out There guides (last year’s D.C. Modernism was the first guide in the series to focus on a specific landscape style), this year’s thematic entry to the series zigzags across North America from Milwaukee to Montreal, Boston to Baltimore, Seattle to Staten Island, and hundreds of points in between in celebration of the 200th centennial of American landscape architect, journalist, and conservationist Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.

In total, more than 300 landscapes—parks and parkways, academic campuses, cemeteries, gardens, subdivisions, private estates, and more—designed by Olmsted, Sr. and his successor firms are included, pulling from What’s Out There’s exhaustive database of landscapes. Searchable by designation, landscape type, and style or by geographic location via map, each database entry includes a brief yet comprehensive description, media gallery, and other pertinent details that help to paint a complete picture of each respective site, whether they’re being explored in-person or from afar.

a graphic depicting Olmsted firms
The Family Tree of Olmsted Firms (Courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation)

Also included in the guide is a richly illustrated introductory essay to the “Olmsted Landscape Legacy” and nearly 100 biographical entries for Olmsted family members along with collaborators, firm employees, and other Olmsted-associated practitioners including, of course, Calvert Vaux, the London-born architect and landscape designer who partnered with Olmsted, Sr. on numerous major park and park system projects in New York City (Central Park, Prospect Park, Fort Greene Park, and Morningside Park) and further afield including in Buffalo, Chicago, and the Hudson Valley city of Newburgh. Other key (yet less widely known) Olmsted-related figures profiled include Warren Manning, Arthur Shurcliff, William Lyman Phillips, and Stella Obst.

Optimized for smartphone use, What’s Out There Olmsted also features the GPS-enabled What’s Nearby feature that pinpoints sites within a certain distance and provides mileage/walking time from a user’s current location.

“The impact of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., on the nation’s identity and the profession of landscape architecture is inestimable,” said TCLF President and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum. “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.”

cherry blossoms at the UW campus in seattle
The Olmsted Brothers-designed University of Washington campus in Seattle. (Steve Ginn/Courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation)

What’s Out There Olmsted was made possible by lead sponsor the National Endowment for the Arts and educational partners Olmsted 200 and the American Society of Landscape Architects. A 344-page print guide to 200 Olmsted sites, Experiencing Olmsted – The Enduring Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted’s North American Landscapes, will be published this fall by Timber Press. Birnbaum served as the guide’s co-author alongside Arleyn A. Levee and Dena Tasse-Winter.

Today’s release of What’s Out There Olmsted is just one of many tours, conferences, fêtes, launches, lectures, and affiliated goings-on tied to Olmsted 200, which is managed by Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit the National Association for Olmsted Parks. Although today is the big day, Olmsted 200-related celebrations are being held throughout the year—click here to find an event near you. AN will also further cover the centennial in the coming weeks and months with further stories on the formidable Olmsted legacy, including a look at under-threat landscapes later this year.