Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Celebrating Frederick Law Olmsted’s Landscape Legacy

Central Park in New York City was Frederick Law Olmsted’s first commission which launched his career and became his most iconic work.

Born on this day, 200 years ago, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr, widely regarded as the father of American landscape architecture, is being celebrated in parks and landscapes around the country.

If you have ever spent time in a public park, you owe that experience to Olmsted who believed that everyone should have access to the healing powers of spending time in the natural world and giving workers a respite from the stress of urban life in healthy green surroundings. We have Olmsted to thank for hundreds of iconic public spaces, including New York’s Central Park, the project that launched Olmsted’s career.

In their comprehensive online guide to all things Olmsted, the Cultural Landscape Foundation wrote:

“Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. (1822-1903), came to the field, not yet a profession, of landscape planning in the 1850s from a diverse background of experiences. An astute observer of both the natural world and the social conditions around him and imbued with an abiding commitment to the values and responsibilities of the “American democratic experiment,” he utilized his skills throughout his life to advocate for the importance of community; for the intended advantages of a free society, including the abolition of slavery; and for public institutions, which would guarantee these advantages for all,”

Olmsted was deeply committed to parks with well-planned park systems as public entities on a grander scale—accessible to all. His diverse career included managing a gold mine in the Sierra Nevada from 1863 to 1865 which inspired to want to preserve majestic natural wonders like Yosemite and Niagara Falls.  Olmsted created estates, communities and institutions, like Stanford University in Palo Alto.

Southern California can claim three Olmsted projects developed by the Olmsted firm: A garden at Rancho Los Alamitos in Long Beach,  Palos Verdes Estates and Malaga Cove Plaza in Palos Verdes.

Olmsted’s firm inspired generations of landscape designers and architects to create projects that were sensitive to the environment and offer benefits to the community as well as considering the interests of the clients. Following his death in 1903, the firm he founded was continued by his nephew and his stepson.

“Although the Olmsted firm remained active until 1979 under the leadership of Artemas Partridge Richardson, II (1918-2015) and Joseph George Hudak (1927-), during the final decades the projects reflected the contemporary realities of diminishing available acreage for public parks, more demanding (and impactful) gregarious recreational needs, and the seizing of public parkland for highways and other less compatible uses,” according to the Culture Landscape Foundation’s website.

“In the post-war era, a lack of appreciation for the historic built legacy of the earlier century of practice led to neglect, subdivision, or at worst, erasure,” note the TCLF but fortunately, thanks to the TCLF and others much work has been done to document and appreciate Olmsted’s “pioneering approach to the art of landscape architecture – namely, planning, design, and stewardship – more visible and publicly accessible.”

We owe a great debt to Olmsted for our urban parks accessible to all. It seems fitting on his 200th birthday that we should go out and celebrate in our favorite parks. Or better yet, help support more parks in our city through the efforts of the Los Angeles Parks Foundation! We will be glad we did!


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Latest Articles

.printfriendly { padding: 0 0 60px 50px; }