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From Sea to Shining Sea: Key Resources in U.S. Environmental History (March 2015): Olmsted, Frederick Law (1822-1903)

by Larry T. Spencer

Olmsted, Frederick Law (1822-1903)

People often do not fully appreciate the large public parks that grace many of our cities. Although many citizens participated in their formation, it was the nineteenth-century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted that many looked upon for advice and direction. He was responsible for many jewels such as Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace in Boston. In the publisher’s blurb for Witold Rybczynski’s A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century, Olmsted is described as a “major cultural figure at the epicenter of nineteenth-century American history.” Another work considering the life of Olmsted is Justin Martin’s Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted. Martin wrote this work based on personal experiences with Olmsted’s parks and other creations; the author was married in Central Park and first lived in a subdivision designed by Olmsted. His detailed biography is chronologically arranged and treats Olmsted as a real person and not a saint; as Martin says, “Yes, he created beauty, but he was capable of being a very hard man.”

Works Cited