Job Number Back to Top

All projects were assigned individual project numbers by the Olmsted firm, called "Job Numbers." For database purposes, all Job Numbers are five digits (so, Job #529 becomes 00529). Later projects of the Olmsted Associates era were numbered in the 10000s and related Job Files are found at FLONHS. The earliest projects went unnumbered by FLO and have since been retroactively assigned numbers in the 12000s. Typically every piece of documentation related to a project listed in the Job Books, whether correspondence, a drawing, planting list or map, can be searched for based on the Job Number. If the firm had been involved with a job in earlier years, the correspondence was filed in the chronological letterbooks making it a time-consuming process to extract the digital images associated with individual job numbers, A project level list of the documents is available through an ORGO archival search by job number. The other correspondence and document files from the Olmsted Associates records, Series C through Series H are also typically identified by job in ORGO.

Job Books

The Library Congress holds the three Job Books which lists the jobs as they were assigned numbers by the Firm.

  • Volume 1 has jobs from 1 - 3609
  • Volume 2 has jobs from 3610 - 8099
  • Volume 3 has jobs 8100-10369, which goes up to July 29, 1971. The balance of the book is blank even though job numbers were assigned by the Firm at least up to Job 10733.

Job Index Cards

There are seven digital files of the Olmsted Associate records (see the LOC Finding Aid) which provide the alphabetical, geographical, and subject card indexes to the Job Files. These indexes are helpful to the extent the Firm maintained them.

Research Instructions & Links Back to Top

PLEASE NOTE: When researching jobs involving Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. or the firm’s later jobs, be sure to check for other correspondence, which will need to be identified individually via the external tools and resources linked below.

Discover More: Use the following links to guide your research, or visit here for further guidance on using OlmstedOnline. Please note the documents listed under a job on OlmstedOnline Project Details Page are not inclusive of all the research resources available. For materials not featured on OlmstedOnline, it is helpful to follow the steps outlined below:

Step 1: Use The Olmsted Research Guide (ORGO) to determine the accessibility and location of Plans, Images, and Correspondence that had been held by the Olmsted firm. For more information on how to search ORGO click here.

Step 2: Once a search result on ORGO is selected, see the information listed under Location and Dates. The data under Location discloses where the archival material is stored. Please note: Olmsted Archives Collection at ONHS has job-related correspondence files in addition to those archived at the Library of Congress (LOC).

Library of Congress: For those located at the Library of Congress, the digitized records from the Olmsted Firm can be found in two major collections (via links to the primary repositories listed below):

  • Frederick Law Olmsted Papers (1777-1952)
  • Olmsted Associate Records (1863-1971):

  • Use the Location information from ORGO to open the appropriate collection. OlmstedOnline links relevant jobs to Olmsted Associate Records Series B Job Files and selected Subject File folders. Other correspondence is filed chronologically and must be searched by collection and date.

  • Use the Date and/or box number listed on ORGO to open the correct content folder. Scroll through the image sequence until the corresponding document is found. For detailed information on what Olmsted records are included in the LOC Manuscript Division click here.

Olmsted Archives: For correspondence records located in the Olmsted Archives Collection at ONHS that have not yet been digitized, check out the collection’s guides and finding aids and contact the archives directly for detailed access information. The Finding Aid for The Olmsted Brothers California Office Correspondence and Western Office Correspondence 1872; 1907-1958 (Bulk Dates: 1928-1951) provides information on the job related correspondence files held at the Olmsted Archives.

Research Resources within Olmsted Online

Olmsted Archives at FLONHS Back to Top

The Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (FLONHS) was established by Congress in 1979 to preserve and interpret the home and office of Frederick Law Olmsted, his sons and successor firm in Brookline, MA. The federal purchase of the site included the acquisition of a vast collection of archival materials, now referred to as the Olmsted Archives.

The Olmsted Archives preserves the original documents related to nearly 6,000 landscape design projects undertaken by the Olmsted firm from the 1850s to 1979. It contains approximately 139,000 landscape architectural drawings and plans, 30,000 photographic negatives, 60,000 photographic prints, 70,000 planting lists, lithographs, financial records, job correspondence, reports, and models. The National Park Service, having cataloged and conserved close to 1,000,000 documents, is in the process now of digitizing a portion of the archival material to facilitate research of this vast collection.


  • Olmsted Research Guide Online - a comprehensive database of the materials of the Olmsted firm.
  • Olmsted Archives Finding Aids - a list of finding aids for the Olmsted Archives diverse collections.
  • Olmsted Archives on Flickr – a publicly accessible website displaying digital scans, as available, from the Olmsted Archives collection (If on Flickr the Albums page does not show up, click on the Photostream tab and then back to the Albums tab). The albums are also organized as collections by Job Number - Olmsted Archives Collections on Flickr
    • Note: By going to a Project Details Page on and selecting the link to the Olmsted Archives (when available) one can enter the Flickr site at the project-related collection level for that particular project or job number.
  • Lithograph Collection on Flickr - scans of the lithographs prepared for key jobs and typically represent the public display plans for the projects. Thus this collection is a good introduction to a variety of Olmsted projects across the extent of the Olmsted firm work.
  • Introduction to Flickr – a overview of what type of materials can be found on the Flickr site.
  • Finding Plans and Photographs – FAQ on
  • Olmsted Network Summary – an overview on the Olmsted Network website of Olmsted Archives with list of collections.
  • Places – an introduction to Olmsted Project Types with links to selected landscapes designed by the Olmsted firm, courtesy of NPS-FLONHS (also see Places links below under Project Types).

In addition to providing digital scans, the Olmsted Archives is available for use by researchers with assistance from the FLONHS Museum Services archives staff. Limited research visits may be arranged by advance appointment.

Olmsted Archives Contact Information

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
99 Warren Street
Brookline, Massachusetts 02445
phone: (617) 566-1689
fax: (617) 232-3964

To expedite service, please include the following information:

Name and affiliation
Mailing address, e-mail address
Scope and purpose of research
Olmsted Job Number(s), if known
Client name at the time of firm’s activity
City and State of Olmsted job

The Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (FLONHS or ONHS) is also open at selected times for visitors to tour the historic home of Frederick Law Olmsted and the office of the Olmsted firm.

ORGO Back to Top

The Olmsted Research Guide Online (ORGO) was developed starting in 2000 by Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, National Park Service and the Olmsted Network with initial funding from NCPTT and is managed by the Olmsted Archives. The database reflects historical records and information related to Olmsted projects. Original source documents are held at Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site and the Library of Congress.

Other Digital Archives Back to Top provides links to other digital collections which have Olmsted-related resources available online. These links, if directly related to a particular job, are found on the Project Details Page. For uploaded images the link will connect to the archive’s item if possible. Below is a list of some local digital archives related to current efforts to populate Please send information about other local digital archives to, for addition to the list in the future.


Library of Congress - has digitized the Manuscripts/Mixed Material of the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers Collection and the Letterbooks and Job Files of the Olmsted Associates Records Collection.

  • Frederick Law Olmsted Papers - The papers of farmer, writer, reformer, landscape architect, urban and suburban planner, and conservationist Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) consist of approximately 24,000 items (roughly 47,300 images), most of which were digitized from 60 reels of previously produced microfilm. The collection, spanning from 1777 to 1952, with the bulk dating 1838-1903, contains materials on both Olmsted's private and professional life. Items, including family journals, family… (more)
  • Olmsted Associate Records Collection, 1863-1971 - The digitized portion of the Olmsted Associates Records consist of approximately 149,000 items (366,518 images), scanned from 532 reels of microfilm reproducing the two largest series in the collection, the Letterbooks, 1884-1899, and Job Files, 1863-1971, which document the work of the Brookline, Massachusetts, landscape architectural firm and its widespread projects and commissions undertaken for private and public clients in the United States and Canada. The Olmsted Associates Records overlap with, and continue beyond, materials in the closely related Frederick Law Olmsted Papers in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress. They include materials from the last major projects in the career of Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), but mostly focus on the next generation and a new century, as Olmsted's two sons entered the landscape architecture profession under their father's tutelage, and then carried on the management and highly successful expansion of the Olmsted Brothers firm in the first half of the twentieth century… (more)

    The Job Files, Series B, contains correspondence, memoranda, and other material related to projects undertaken by the firm. The file also serves as an administrative file containing personnel and other records as well as a limited amount of personal papers, such as biographical articles relating to the Olmsted family. Many files in this series contain correspondence predating 1900 interfiled after the initiation of a later filing system.

    The digital files for job numbers can be found through the LOC Finding Aid: Job Files, including job numbers unrelated to Olmsted firm design projects. The digital files for project-related job numbers can also be found through, on the Documents list on the Project Details Page or by searching under Advanced Search - Documents. For certain projects the link may be to an extract of the LOC Finding Aid, so as to show the file structure for complex projects or to show related projects.

Smithsonian Institution - Archives of American Gardens (SI-AAG) - collects, preserves, and provides access to resources that document the history of gardens in America. The Archives of American Gardens includes photographic and written documentation on over 10,000 historic and contemporary gardens. For a searchable list of the collections see the Smithsonian Gardens Finding Aid. More than fifty AAG collections document the work of landscape architects, garden designers, and garden photographers as well as a handful of seed companies. SI-AAG includes three collections particularly relevant to Olmsted research as well as the stereograph collection with its period images:

  • The Garden Club of America Collection (GCA) - The collection includes documentation for thousands of gardens across the United States amassed by members of the Garden Club of America dating back to the early twentieth century. Established in 1913, the GCA’s purpose is to promote a greater understanding of the interdependence of horticulture, environmental protection, and community improvement. The earliest garden images in the GCA Collection include glass lantern slides from the 1920s and 1930s that were used by GCA clubs for lectures about garden history and design. Select slides document the work of the Olmsted firm as well as other design pioneers including Marian Coffin, Beatrix Farrand, Jens Jensen, Warren Manning, Charles Platt, Ellen Biddle Shipman, and Fletcher Steele.

    J. Horace McFarland Company Collection (MCF) - The collection includes over 3,000 images of gardens throughout the United States dating from 1899 to 1963 generated and used by the J. Horace McFarland Company of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to illustrate trade catalogs and journal and newspaper articles. McFarland’s publishing firm specialized in horticultural publications and seed and nursery trade catalogs. J. Horace McFarland (1859-1948) was an influential civic leader, author, publisher, horticulturist, and authority on roses. He served as the first president of the American Civic Association from 1904-1924 and led several local and national campaigns to protect communities and scenic areas from urban blight and overdevelopment. Along with Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., McFarland worked to establish the National Park Service in 1916.

    Thomas Warren Sears Photograph Collection (SRS) - The collection includes over 4,800 images dated circa 1899 to 1930 showing examples of the design work of Thomas Sears (1880-1966), a landscape architect and amateur photographer from Brookline, Massachusetts who started out his professional career working for the Olmsted Brothers firm. Early pictures of Boston’s Emerald Necklace in the collection were likely taken while Sears worked for the Olmsted firm. Sears, who was based for most of his career in Philadelphia, designed hundreds of gardens and landscapes ranging from private residences, schools, and playgrounds to parks, cemeteries, and urban housing developments located primarily in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York. Images in the collection also document Sears' domestic and foreign travels, design inspirations, and family.

    Historic Gardens Stereograph Collection (STR) - The collection includes stereographs of landscapes between 1869-1925. The 807 stereographs depict various public gardens, parks, and tourist attractions throughout the United States, with an emphasis on features related to horticulture and landscape design, including plants, garden furniture, and topiaries. Many include a brief caption; some include a lengthy description on the verso.

State & Local


Palos Verdes Library District (PVLD) - Local History Center Collection - houses historic archives for the Palos Verdes area. The Palos Verdes Homes Association Collection is particularly useful in illustrating the Palos Verdes development. Credit ownership as Palos Verdes Library District, Local History Center, Palos Verdes Homes Association Photo Collection (or other appropriate collection title from the Palos Verdes Library District Digital Repository).

  • - the digital collection
  • - a discovery site for many California archives where selecting a PVLD image will then link to website of the Palos Verdes Library District (PVLD).


Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (CT-DECD) - State Office of Historic Preservation - commissioned the Olmsted in Connecticut Landscape Documentation Project Report - a Statewide Context and Survey Report of Olmsted projects in Connecticut. The report appendix also contains a detailed collection of biographical sketches of Olmsted Firm employees/affiliates, community leaders, clients, key family and friends and other persons of interest to Olmsted in Connecticut context.

To locate the Surveys by Job Number enter the 5-digit job number in CT-DECD keyword search or in OO Documents Advanced Search. For a complete list of CT surveys on enter CT-DECD as the keyword in the Document Advanced Search.


Massachusetts Archives - a growing digital collection with photographs from Massachusetts Metropolitan District Commission, Massachusetts Metropolitan Park Commission and Massachusetts Metropolitan Water Works: Currently the digital collection includes Massachusetts Metropolitan Park Commission, Founders and Commissioners, Photographic Portraits, ca.1892 to ca.1907 and for projects 02070-02075 see Massachusetts Metropolitan Water Works (MWW) Photograph Collection, 1876-1930.

Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) - provides links to Terra Firma publications including:

as well as the Minutes of the Legacy Agencies of Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, 1892--2003.

In addition DCR is anticipating scanning three volumes of 154 photographs (1894-1897) keyed to reservation maps, covering 5 reservations: Beaver Brook (01502), Blue Hills (01504), Hemlock Gorge (01517), Middlesex Fells (01513, 12031), and Stony Brook (01541). Fifty-one of these photographs were published in Charles Eliot's 1897 report on behalf of Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot, available through HathiTrust: Vegetation and Scenery of the Metropolitan Reservations of Boston.

Washington State

Seattle Municipal Archives (SMA) - Olmsted Digital Collection - presents the Olmsted Brothers records held by the City of Seattle.

Washington State Digital Archives - Olmsted Project Records - a collection currently populated with information for park-related jobs in Seattle, WA, from the Olmsted Associates correspondence files from the Library of Congress and the University of Washington Libraries’ Special Collections. Related Plan Index Cards from the Olmsted Archives and some plant lists will be added soon. The documents have been indexed by the Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks.

Plan Number Back to Top

Plan documents were typically given sequential numbers by the firm in addition to the Job Number. In addition to a number often additional information was added to distinguish the documents. It might reflect whether the plan is a print (pt) of the original plan, another sheet (sh), tracing cloth (tc), tracing paper (tp), etc., or is in a series (A, B, C, etc). Procedures changed over time at the Olmsted firm so the numbering varies.

During the process of documenting the work of the Olmsted Firm, after it closed and the office became the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, missing plan numbers were assigned to each sheet for record keeping purposes. Where there was no plan number, typically a z1, etc, was assigned to the plan by the staff of the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.

Although you can search for just a plan number on the website, giving you every plan that has that number, it is best to first enter the Job Number and then the Plan Number so you get the exact plan you want to see. As a test leading zeros were added to certain single digit plan numbers in Washington State in order that they would sort in a more chronological order in, but this lead to duplication of the listing, so the majority of the plan data does not have the leading zero, and thus the plans are not sorted in numerical order.

Plans, which are originals from the Olmsted office sent to clients and which now reside in other archives, are numbered based on the plan legend. The Source field will indicate where the plan is archived. Plans from other archives will have ‘_XXXX’ at the end to indicate the archive.

Project Types Back to Top

The range of Olmsted projects have been divided into fourteen thematic categories representing a broad range of project types. These were determined by the editors of the Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted and expanded based on Olmsted Brothers and Olmsted Associate records. Below are descriptions of the project types prepared for The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm, 1857-1979, edited by Lucy Lawliss, Caroline Loughlin, Lauren Meier. A digital copy of the full book is available and searchable through HathiTrust Digital Library and Google Books or a hard copy can be purchased from the Olmsted Network.

Parks, Parkways, Recreation Areas and Scenic Reservations
Charles E. Beveridge "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

From the beginning of his career, Frederick Law Olmsted had a clear concept of what constituted a "park," and he devoted much time and energy to explaining the difference between a park and other types of public recreation grounds. The purpose of a park was to provide city dwellers with an experience of extended space that would counteract the enclosure of the city by providing "a sense of enlarged freedom." An expanse of meadow with gracefully contoured terrain, gently curving paths and an indefinite boundary of trees was the central element of the park. Every city, he was convinced, needed such a freely accessible public space. It would provide the most effective antidote to the debilitating artificiality of the built city and the stress of urban life. The park made possible what he termed "unconscious" recreation, whereby the visitor achieved a musing state, immersed in the charm of naturalistic scenery that acted on the deepest elements of the psyche. There the visitor could experience an "unbending" of the faculties that would restore mental and physical energies, renewing strength for the daily exchange of services that sustained the community of the city. This public space would serve a variety of different activities for groups of visitors, with no group or activity monopolizing any part of it. To achieve this, all design details were rigorously subordinated to promote the psychological effect of the park space, by a means that Olmsted called "the art to conceal art."

Olmsted believed that in a park, in addition to restorative landscape, "the largest provision is required for the human presence." He planned extensive systems of walks and drives for visitors, and designed sections of his parks for the gathering and entertainment of crowds. There were places for civic gatherings, for music concerts and for promenades. There were refectories for providing food and beverages and facilities for children’s play and gymnastics. Through the years, as team sports became more popular, there was provision for them as well, in separate areas that avoided an "incongruous mixture" of uses and left the landscape experience undisturbed. The separation of interior ways—drives, paths and bridle paths—from each other, and of cross-park city traffic from the park’s circulation system, also strengthened the landscape experience.

A corollary design principle was the provision for active sports and crowd activities in separate spaces at a distance from the principal park of the city. The purpose was to supply a number of all-city uses, not a series of merely local recreation grounds. Such a system of parks and recreation grounds, first clearly accomplished in Buffalo, New York, created a structure of green spaces in advance of the concentrated settlement of residential areas. Completing this system were ribbons of public space in the form of parkways that facilitated movement through the city and served as neighborhood outdoor resting places. Usually two hundred feet wide, the parkways separated the commercial traffic of carts and wagons from private carriages, and provided separate ways for pedestrians and equestrians. Olmsted also advocated creation of linear greenways along urban stream valleys. The classic example is the valley of the Muddy River between the Charles River and Jamaica Pond in Boston and Brookline, Massachusetts.

Olmsted also urged public ownership of areas of special scenic beauty and the creation of scenic reservations where the principal role of the landscape architect was to construct a circulation system that would facilitate enjoyment of the scenery with least intrusion on it. During the twenty-five years between the retirement of Frederick Law Olmsted and the death of John Charles Olmsted, the firm designed extensive park systems for many cities. After the 1920s, the Olmsted firm created few parks of the size created by the earlier firm, and with more emphasis on utilizing urban stream valleys. In its later years, the firm also placed much greater emphasis on local parks that provided active facilities, including the fieldhouses that marked the Progressive Era, and facilities for team sports. In several instances this involved planning areas for recreational athletic fields adjacent to older city parks. The decades of the 1920s and 1930s saw Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and other firm members carry out extensive and innovative work in county, state and national park planning and scenic preservation.

City and Regional Planning and Improvement Projects Back to "Project Types"
Ethan Carr "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

No aspect of the Olmsted firm’s work is more important — and more often overlooked — than its contribution to the history of city and regional planning in the United States. Landscape architecture, as Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux first defined the term, was itself a new form of American urbanism. As Lewis Mumford wrote in 1931, "By 1870, less than twenty years after the notion of a public landscape park had been introduced in this country, Olmsted had imaginatively grasped and defined all the related elements in a full park programme and a comprehensive city development." By the 1880s, as the Boston park system was taking shape, the apprentice Charles Eliot was already responding to Olmsted’s suggestions of how park planning could extend to the regional scale. Regional planning in the United States subsequently developed from its roots in regional park plans (such as Eliot’s metropolitan Boston parks) just as city planning had origins in municipal park design.

City and regional planning demanded legal expertise, statistical analysis and other skills unfamiliar to traditional landscape designers. By the early twentieth century landscape architects were expected to collaborate with engineers, architects, lawyers and others to devise a range of regulatory and design solutions to the problems of urban growth. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago was an influential example of multidisciplinary collaboration, as was the 1901 effort to replan Washington, D.C., for which Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. assumed his father’s role. Between 1907 and 1917, a new profession was born as more than one hundred American towns and cities established comprehensive city plans. A full partner in the firm since 1897, Olmsted Jr. was a leading practitioner and, as historian Susan L. Klaus notes, the "chief spokesman of the planning movement during its formative years." In 1910, for example, he was working with the architect Cass Gilbert on a plan for the city of New Haven that utilized extensive data on demographics, tax rolls and industrial trends. The next year he published similar surveys of Pittsburgh and Rochester that also assembled unprecedented statistical information for those cities. In 1909 the Harvard School of Landscape Architecture (begun under Olmsted Jr. in 1900) offered the country’s first professional instruction in "City Planning," and in 1917 Olmsted Jr. and the lawyer Flavel Shurtleff founded what became the American Institute of Planners.

By the 1920s city planning necessarily expanded to address entire metropolitan regions, a development presaged by the Olmsted firm’s work not only in Boston, but also for clients such as Essex County, New Jersey, beginning in 1898. The first county park system in the country, this regional park plan integrated municipal and county parks and parkways. Olmsted associates of the period, especially Warren Manning, continued and expanded the regional planning ideas of the Olmsted firm, and so the full significance of the firm’s city and regional practice is not to be found in this Master List alone. Many of the regional and even national park planning projects of the New Deal of the 1930s, for example, were the fruition of ideas that traced their origins back to the Olmsted firm office in Brookline, Massachusetts. It was especially appropriate, then, that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s National Resources Planning Board, which oversaw federal park and resource planning, had as its executive the landscape architect Charles W. Eliot II, Charles Eliot’s nephew.

  • Places (Courtesy of NPS-FLONHS)
Subdivisions and Suburban Communities Back to "Project Types"
Susan L. Klaus "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

"No great town can long exist without great suburbs," wrote Frederick Law Olmsted in 1868. At the time Olmsted and his then partner Calvert Vaux were designing Riverside, a 1600-acre suburb of Chicago. The suburban and town planning work of Olmsted and his sons clearly demonstrates the full range of social, economic and environmental concerns that their designs addressed. More than 475 proposals for or inquiries about subdivisions and suburban communities had a job number assigned to them by the Olmsted firm. These projects varied greatly in the degree of the firm’s involvement, with many showing no activity beyond initial correspondence. It is estimated that one or more plans were prepared for only 370 of these projects. The undertakings in this category also varied greatly in scale, from the modest estate of a single landowner seeking to subdivide his holdings, to a twenty-five square mile area on the Palos Verdes peninsula near Los Angeles.

While much of the subdivision work took place in the northeast, the firm was active across the country and in Canada, particularly in cities in which it would have been familiar to clients through its work on urban parks and regional or state park systems. The 1890s and the first decade of the twentieth century were a time of growing activity in this field for the firm. By the 1920s, when suburban America was growing at twice the rate of its central cities, the design of residential communities represented a significant portion of the firm’s overall business. After World War II, the number of such projects dwindled.

Frederick Law Olmsted’s suburban work reflected his romanticized nineteenth century view that a suburb, if well planned, would combine the charm of the country with the convenience of the city. It would provide "the most soundly wholesome forms of domestic life," and demonstrate "the best application of the arts of civilization to which mankind has yet attained." The planning work of his sons reflected an early twentieth century confidence that technology and the expertise of planners, administrators and design professionals could be harnessed to shape well-ordered, functional communities. Suburbs, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. held, required the kind of professional planning heretofore only seen in urban design and large-scale landscapes like Central Park. It was crucial to apply the emerging science of city planning to these suburban additions.

As with their park plans and other landscape designs, there is no formulaic "Olmsted style" that can be associated with residential communities: each plan is sensitive to its locale and topography. The articulation of boundaries; differentiation of street width according to type of traffic; provision of common spaces and other amenities that enhance the character of a place and encourage social interaction; and use of deed restrictions to enforce maintenance and preserve architectural and other community standards are hallmarks of the firm’s suburban work that continue to influence suburban design today. The Olmsteds believed the residential suburb was deserving of the best efforts of planning and design professionals. In this complex cooperative enterprise, it is the comprehensive master plan, as Olmsted Jr. stated, that is key to creating "harmonious, beautiful and convenient residential communities."

  • Places (Courtesy of NPS-FLONHS)
College and School Campuses Back to "Project Types"
Francis R. Kowsky "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

The large number of entries in the category of school campuses, which encompasses locations in many places in the United States and Canada, testifies to the importance of educational clients to the success of the Olmsted firm. It also reflects the ever increasing importance that education came to occupy in American life after the Civil War. Frederick Law Olmsted was of a generation of social thinkers who gave credence to the notion that the physical environment of learning—buildings and grounds—played a significant role in the success of education. Olmsted had planned campuses for new universities, notably Cornell University and Stanford University; his successors carried on and expanded this sphere of landscape architecture. The names of many well-known colleges and universities, such as Wellesley College, Johns Hopkins University and Princeton University, highlight the list of commissions from institutions of higher education. Together with many private and public universities, the Master List includes public elementary schools and secondary schools, religious and private schools, private preparatory schools, normal schools, liberal arts colleges, women’s colleges and agricultural colleges. The bulk of the projects in this category date from the first three decades of the twentieth century, the time during which John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. guided the firm.

As is the case in other thematic project categories, many of the school campus projects have a job number but this Master List shows no associated plans. This does not necessarily mean that the firm did not take on design work for these clients. For example, Gallaudet College (the present Gallaudet University) in Washington, D.C., was an important Olmsted project. Researchers are also advised to consult the thematic category Grounds of Residential Institutions, which includes some educational clients.

  • Places (Courtesy of NPS-FLONHS)
Grounds of Residential Institutions Back to "Project Types"
Francis R. Kowsky "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

This thematic category includes a wide variety of building types, some of which might not be readily identified with residential institutions. The types of structures for which landscape plans were considered or prepared include public mental institutions (e.g., the New York State Insane Asylum at Poughkeepsie), hospitals of various types (e.g., the Contagious Disease Hospital in Holyoke, Massachusetts), homes for the elderly (e.g. the Keep Home in Watertown, New York), tuberculosis sanatoriums (e.g., the Dayton Tuberculosis Hospital in Dayton, Ohio), military housing (e.g., South Portland Housing in South Portland, Maine), orphan asylums (e.g., the Polish Orphanage in New Britain, Connecticut) and religious institutions (e.g., the Blessed Gabriel Monastery in Brighton, Massachusetts).

Residential institution projects range in date from the years of Olmsted’s partnership with Calvert Vaux (1865-1872) to the later years of the Olmsted firm in the 1970s. Some undertakings, such as the New York State Asylum at Poughkeepsie, were done in collaboration with Vaux. After Frederick Law Olmsted ceased active practice in 1895, the firm’s residential institution projects were guided by John Charles Olmsted, Charles Eliot and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. The residential institutions for which Frederick Law Olmsted and the successor firm provided landscape plans, most of which date from the twentieth century, were designed by a variety of architects, some well-known and some not so well known.

The Master List indicates that many residential institution projects have a job number but no associated plans, but this does not necessarily mean that the firm did not undertake design work for these clients. For example, the campus of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf (the present Gallaudet University) in Washington, D.C., was laid out by Olmsted and Vaux in the 1860s. Likewise, Olmsted’s association with the Bloomingdale Asylum in New York City played a significant role in his thinking about therapeutic landscapes. The categories Subdivisions and Suburban Communities and Grounds of Public Buildings also contain a few similar residential institution projects such as the United States War Department housing, which appears in the latter category.

  • Places (Courtesy of NPS-FLONHS)
Grounds of Public Buildings Back to "Project Types"
Arleyn A. Levee "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

The Olmsted firm’s landscape work for public buildings spans about 100 years. The nineteenth century planning for public buildings by Frederick Law Olmsted was characterized by its curvilinear grace, stately proportions and fitting enhancement for the structure to be served. In the City Beautiful period, the firm designed grounds of public buildings with more axial formality, to serve as decorative anchors for the municipalities. Later, in the 1920s and 1930s, civic enrichments were often memorial projects (such as the Newton City Hall and War Memorial in Newton, Massachusetts, or the Robbins Memorial Town Hall in Arlington, Massachusetts). Regardless of style, the Olmsted firm maintained a notable design aesthetic, which gave dignity of setting to projects large and small. The work for public buildings from the Olmsted Associates era (1962-1979) was less extensive, consisting of consultations on earlier projects with some new library work (such as the West End Branch Library in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Rice Library in Kittery, Maine).

The practice of the Olmsted firm included about 150 listings for the grounds of public buildings of all types, of which approximately 100 generated at least one plan. The largest group in this category is the group of libraries (about 34 listings), followed by projects for municipal buildings such as city and town halls (15 listings), civic centers (11 listings), court houses (3 listings) and utilitarian structures such as incinerators (3 listings). Museums and various art-related institutes account for another twelve listings, many of which were projects that generated a considerable amount of work over several decades, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Cleveland Art Museum.

However, the most prominent sub-type within this thematic category is the work done for capitol buildings (11 listings), the oldest and most notable being the iconic design for the United States Capitol begun by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1874, a project that actively continued to the first decade of the twentieth century. Also beginning in the 1870s, the firm planned the New York State Capitol, a design collaboration of Frederick Law Olmsted and architects H. H. Richardson and Leopold Eidlitz; as well as Bushnell Park abutting the Connecticut State House in Hartford. The successor firm of Olmsted Brothers continued to work on state capitols, its most prominent commissions being those for the grounds of the Washington Capitol at Olympia, the Kentucky Capitol at Frankfort and the Alabama Capitol at Montgomery. Smaller projects included more limited work for the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City, the Maine Capitol in Augusta, the North Carolina Capitol at Raleigh and the Pennsylvania Capitol at Harrisburg, as well as other states where the firm was consulted about capitol work.

There are various miscellaneous but important public building projects included in this thematic category, such as planning for the White House in Washington, D.C., or for the Maine Governor’s Mansion in Augusta; and for military establishments such as the Armory in Ansonia, Connecticut, the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or the Jeffersonville Depot in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where Frederick Law Olmsted again worked with Montgomery Meigs, who had directed some of the United States Capitol construction. The emergency wartime planning that engaged much of the time of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. during 1917-1918, and in which many of the firm’s apprentices were involved, was for the United States War Department to plan military cantonments and bases for the armed forces rapidly deployed as the United States entered World War I. There are several caveats that should be understood in the consideration of entries in this and other thematic categories. For example, there are numerous cross-overs in the references for projects such as the White House. While this project seems to indicate only three plans, all from 1903, many other plans and documents were prepared in the 1930s as a component of the extensive multiple-project planning for the Fine Arts Commission in Washington, D.C., labeled for "the Executive Mansion," and found in the category Miscellaneous Projects. Additionally, some of the public building work came about as an element in more extensive and varied planning within a community, sometimes sponsored by a particular patron, such as Mary Curtis Bok for the Rockport Library Park in Rockport, Maine, and Camden-Rockport Information Bureau in Camden, Maine. Therefore, the researcher must consider creative linkages when exploring these various categories and look for references for any project under other project listings in a location or under a sponsor.

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Private Estates and Homesteads Back to "Project Types"
Arleyn A. Levee "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

The design of residential grounds constituted the largest category of projects for the Olmsted firm over the entirety of its practice, with more than 3,000 listings, of which about 2,000 generated at least one plan. Although parks and park systems were initially the major area of endeavor for Frederick Law Olmsted and his partners, domestic design increasingly became an important component of the practice as transportation improvements extended suburban enclaves beyond city boundaries. From the last decade of the nineteenth century through the first three decades of the twentieth century, commissions for private home grounds steadily increased so that, for the 1910-1930 decades alone, they numbered more than 1,000 projects.

For Frederick Law Olmsted, the concern was to create tasteful domestic settings, artistically coherent, appropriate in scale and unblemished by extravagant materialistic displays. He sought to enhance natural site features to create a series of separate spaces, giving the home its distinctive character, much as he did in his own domestic landscape at Fairsted in Brookline, Massachusetts, making the two acres seem more expansive. These same design criteria influenced planning for larger estate properties, though for these he often included a greater utilitarian purpose, such as forestry (J. C. Phillips/Moraine Farm in North Beverly, Massachusetts), scientific farming (W. S. Webb/Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont, which is listed in Burlington, Vermont) or horticultural education with forestry at a uniquely monumental scale of thousands of acres (G. W. Vanderbilt/Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina).

While essentially retaining these criteria in their residential work, the Olmsted Brothers firm was frequently called upon to include more decorative and formal elements—pergolas, pools, tea houses, etc. —in their estate practice, which flourished in the post World War I years. The client list reads like the Who’s Who of American society, national civic and business leaders as well as prominent individuals from cities across the country. The nexus of grand estates on Long Island for many of these wealthy clients (e.g., Otto Kahn in Cold Spring Harbor, New York; William R. Coe’s Planting Fields in Oyster Bay, New York; and J. E. Aldred in Glen Cove, New York) reflected similar work, some begun by the earlier firm, for clients in Newport, Rhode Island, (e.g., estates for Ogden Goelet, Arthur Curtiss James and John Nicholas Brown, as well as F. W. Vanderbilt’s Rough Point). The firm designed domestic landscapes for multiple generations within families (e.g., Anson P. Stokes in Newport, Rhode Island, and I. N. Phelps Stokes in Greenwich, Connecticut). The firm designed grounds for clients’ city homes and for their country places (e.g., Misses Norton in Louisville, Kentucky, and Hendersonville, North Carolina).

The firm’s extensive planning for residential subdivisions and resort communities across the country led to numerous private commissions within these enclaves. In Seattle, work for The Highlands/Seattle Golf & Country Club generated eleven other residential commissions within this gated community; for the Palos Verdes Syndicate in California the firm worked on nineteen individual projects; for Yeamans Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, on another seven homes while for the Mountain Lake Corporation in Mountain Lake (Lake Wales), Florida, the client roster grew to more than eighty individual listings.

As the economy changed, the Olmsted Brothers firm was called back by several of these substantial clients to plan for subdividing what had once been grand estates. In particular, the original work done in the first decade of the twentieth century for the reconstructed Tudor mansion for I. N. Phelps Stokes in Greenwich, Connecticut, became a multiplot high-end residential community, Khakum Woods. This subdivision, begun in the 1920s, was carefully crafted to retain the original landscape character. Likewise, Fernwood, the original Brookline, Massachusetts, estate for Alfred Douglas, was divided into smaller units. In both of these examples the documents for both the single property and the subdivision are found under the same job number.

However, the Olmsted firm also designed residential grounds on small lots for worker housing within Subdivisions and Suburban Communities, as in the multiple projects for National Cash Register in Dayton, Ohio, or for the Beacon Falls Rubber Shoe Company in Beacon Falls, Connecticut, among other such commercial projects. This residential work is incorporated within the documents under the job number for the larger project. Therefore, as extensive as this thematic category is, there is still more related research to be done to extract the full range of the Olmsted firm’s domestic work from the archival records.

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Cemeteries, Burial Lots, Memorials and Monuments Back to "Project Types"
Arleyn A. Levee "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

While the Olmsted firm provided designs for the settings of monuments of all types — in parks, public squares and other locations — the majority of the 275 projects (approximately 200 with at least one plan) in this thematic category relate to cemeteries and to individual burial lots, with the latter predominating. Most of these commissions took place in the 1920s. Designing landscaped grounds for the final resting places for many clients was an appropriate extension of the Olmsted firm’s work, as the home grounds, businesses and philanthropic endeavors of many of these individuals or families had been similarly graced by the Olmsted landscape aesthetic. Likewise, many of the monument and memorial projects not involving cemeteries were the result of work done on other commissions. In particular, the prominence of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. in the emerging discipline of city planning and his work for the Fine Arts Commission in Washington, D.C., especially after World War I, brought clients to the firm seeking tasteful solutions or redesigns for civic memorials.

The Olmsted firm designed very few cemeteries as complete, separate new projects. Frederick Law Olmsted set forth his concerns about cemeteries in his 1865 Preface to the Plan for Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, CA. For him there was an inherent conflict in creating a place of suitable expression of "those feelings, sentiments and aspirations which religion and civilization make common to all in the presence of the dead" and achieving his ideal of landscape beauty where the ground was of necessity "cut up" into small divisions. As he later wrote to English landscape gardener William Robinson, "[I]f art should do anything in a place of rest for our dead it should produce an impression of restfulness…. I do not think I could lay out a burial place without making conditions about monuments such as I fear few but Quakers would be willing to accept."

Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California, was the major project of this sort that Olmsted undertook, beginning in 1864, with subsequent design work by the Olmsted Brothers in the 1940s. Among the examples of Olmsted Brothers cemetery projects were Hillside Cemetery in Torrington, Connecticut, and North Purchase Cemetery in Attleboro, Massachusetts. After World War II, the firm designed the American Military Cemetery in Cambridge, England. The later firm of Olmsted Associates designed Puritan Lawn Memorial Park, in West Peabody, Massachusetts, a project that had started during the Depression but was fully developed in the late 1950s-1960s.

However, most of the Olmsted firm’s work involved improvements or additions to existing landscapes, some of these being nineteenth century rural cemeteries, which required expansion or accommodation to meet twentieth century needs, such as automobiles. The firm made extensive additions to the Memorial Cemetery of Saint John’s Church (listed as Saint John’s Memorial Cemetery) in Cold Spring Harbor and to Locust Valley Cemetery, both on Long Island, New York; to Pittsfield Cemetery in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; to Kingsport Cemetery in Kingsport, Tennessee; and to the Charles Evans Cemetery in Reading, Pennsylvania. The firm also designed private cemetery grounds or tombs for several of their prominent clients such as the Kohler family in Kohler, Wisconsin; the Vanderbilt family in New Dorp on Staten Island, New York; and the Rockefeller family at Pocantico, New York, (listed as Tarrytown). In some cases, these projects are incorporated under the residential estate job number, rather than being listed as a separate project. Likewise, there are cemetery grounds incorporated into some of the Olmsted Brothers’ campus planning, such as that for Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and for Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

As John Charles Olmsted wrote in a series of articles in Garden & Forest published in 1888, cemeteries should be spaces set apart for the prime purpose of memorializing the dead in a respectful, contemplative setting. The Olmsted design credo of integrated whole compositions subordinating component elements, such as structures, within the landscape’s comprehensive aesthetic was particularly challenged to create an artistic unity over all the heterogeneous individual units inevitable in a cemetery. Using plant groupings and working within topographic irregularities wherever possible, firm employees shaped burial lots into individual family "rooms" for dignified privacy, best exemplified by the lots for prominent clients such as the De Forests, the Coes, J. P. Morgan and others in the Long Island cemeteries, including those at Cold Spring, Cold Spring Harbor and Locust Valley.

In a similar fashion, the Olmsted work for civic monuments and memorials involved the integration of the various structures into appropriate settings, either as individual focal units or within a park landscape. Some of this work involved statuary settings, such as the War Memorials at Capron Park in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and the Francis Scott Key Monument in Baltimore, Maryland. Other projects concerned the surrounds of prominent structures as in the Masonic Memorial to George Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Moreover, not all memorial projects are listed in this thematic category (e.g., Memorial Hall in North Easton, Massachusetts, which is listed in the category Grounds of Public Buildings), so research inevitably involves making creative links to associated categories and projects.

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Grounds of Commercial and Industrial Buildings Back to "Project Types"
Lauren Meier "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

As the nation’s economy expanded in the final decades of the nineteenth century, the Olmsted firm gradually added both commercial and industrial landscape projects to its portfolio, although such jobs constituted a late addition and focus to the firm’s design work. This aspect of the firm’s work is particularly diverse in scope, ranging from early civic improvements focused on transportation systems and utility projects to a broad sector of commercial enterprises such as banks, nurseries, laboratories, life insurance companies, corporate headquarters, shopping centers and manufacturing facilities. There are more than 175 projects included in this category, of which approximately 70% advanced into design plans, with the vast majority completed after Frederick Law Olmsted’s retirement in 1897.

A notable early exception is the substantial project for the Boston and Albany Railroad, which consisted of some ninety-five plans between 1880 and 1884 and was later completed by Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot. This project represents an important evolution in the urban fabric of Boston, for it provided a new public transportation system that connected the growing suburbs to the city. Although listed only as Boston, this single job represents distinct design elements for multiple stations, primarily in Wellesley, Newton and the Allston/Brighton section of Boston, Massachusetts, that address site grading, track layout, platform location, bridge design and planting. At the same time, the Olmsted firm’s work on behalf of the Ames family in North Easton, Massachusetts, included plans completed in 1883 for the North Easton Train Station designed by H. H. Richardson, which coincided with a distinctive body of work nearby. This category also includes a significant design project for Rockaway Point on Jamaica Bay in Queens, New York, (listed as New York City), completed in 1879 to create a summer resort in association with the new rail service.

During the first decades of the twentieth century, the Olmsted firm’s commercial projects increased substantially. The list includes a significant number of projects completed for the growing utility and communication industries (e.g., Western Electric Company in Chicago, Illinois, and Baltimore, Maryland; the Wyman and Androscoggin Dams for the Central Maine Power Company; Bell Telephone Labs facilities in Deal, Holmdel, Mendham, Summit and Whippany, New Jersey; and sewage treatment plants in Fitchburg and North Adams, Massachusetts). This period of affluence prior to the Depression also generated demand for landscaped grounds associated with commercial buildings, especially financial institutions and insurance companies, evidenced by several projects undertaken by the firm (e.g., Aetna Fire Insurance Company in Hartford, Connecticut; the First Brunswick Federal Savings and Loan Association in Brunswick, Maine; the Maryland Casualty Company in Baltimore, Maryland; and the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company in Springfield, Massachusetts).

Several jobs included in this section relate directly to more extensive work referenced in other thematic categories, or which came about because of the Olmsted firm’s involvement nearby. For example, on Mount Desert Island, Maine, the work of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. with John D. Rockefeller Jr. in the development of the motor road system for Acadia National Park may have led to the firm’s involvement from 1942 to 1950 in the Jackson Laboratories, located in Bar Harbor, adjacent to the park. Following World War II through the later years of the Olmsted Associates, the firm experienced a surge in commercial and industrial projects that included continued work for insurance companies (e.g., John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company in Boston and Brookline, Massachusetts; State Mutual Life Assurance Company in Worcester, Massachusetts; and the Berkshire Life Insurance Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts) as well as corporate offices, retail centers and manufacturing complexes (e.g., Crane and Company in Dalton, Massachusetts; Sears, Roebuck and Company in Saugus, Massachusetts; General Motors Frigidaire Division in Dayton, Ohio; and the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee). This period also includes noteworthy projects related to hospitals and medical research centers such as Ledgemont Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, and the Sloan-Kettering Foundation in Rye, New York. Finally, an interesting aspect of the firm’s later commercial and industrial work includes design plans for nurseries and garden centers, such as Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. These businesses may have provided plant material for the firm’s other projects.

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Country Clubs, Resorts, Hotels and Clubs Back to "Project Types"
Lucy Lawliss "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

In the 1880s Frederick Law Olmsted may have been part of designing another first: in this case, America’s first true country club. According to James M. Mayo’s The American Country Club, The Country Club at Clyde Park in Brookline, Massachusetts — the same town in which Olmsted’s home and office was located — was an important step in the evolution from the elitist nineteenth century city club to the popular twentieth century institution known as the country club. Prior to the formation of the first country club, the Olmsted firm had been involved in other fashionable nineteenth century health and recreation developments. The firm worked at some of the best known resorts of the day, including Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Saratoga, New York. These jobs are listed in other thematic categories.

Another first according to Mayo is the Olmsted firm’s work at Roland Park, a project listed in the category of Subdivisions and Suburban Communities. Developed in the late 1890s at the northern limits of Baltimore, Roland Park — one of five planned communities by the Olmsted firm in the area — is noted by Mayo (without crediting the Olmsted firm) as the first incorporation of a golf course with a planned community. The success of this project spawned a series of golf club communities with the surge in golf’s popularity through the first decades of the twentieth century. Golf became the sport inextricably linked with the American country club, and the Olmsted firm was involved in many of the outstanding clubs of the period. Additional research needs to be done to learn how many of the Olmsted firm subdivisions and planned communities that post-date the Roland Park development include golf courses and country clubs. For example, it is likely that the project listed as the Druid Hill Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, is related to the Druid Hills Country Club that occupies the same location on the subdivision plans developed by the Olmsted firm for the Kirkwood Land Company.

Of the approximately 150 projects in this category, the golf club is an important subcategory. This uniquely American adaptation is probably best represented by the Augusta National Golf Club — arguably the country’s most prestigious golf club — a development that the Olmsted firm was involved with for more than a decade. It is important to note that the Olmsted firm worked with the great golf course architect, Dr. Alister Mackenzie, at Pasatiempo Country Club and Estates at Santa Cruz, California, before both were invited to Augusta by Bobby Jones to work on Jones’s visionary course.

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Grounds of Churches Back to "Project Types"
Lucy Lawliss "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

The list of projects associated with church grounds is not long, which is not surprising because the focus in this type of development is on the structure, not the landscape. However, there are a few notable exceptions. During the career of Frederick Law Olmsted it would appear that there was only one commission of note that he designed: Brookline’s First Parish Church, which is very close to Fairsted, Olmsted’s home and office in Brookline, Massachusetts. In addition to the proximity and setting of the church, this congregation founded in 1717 notes in its history that it survived the schism of Congregationalists and Unitarians in the early nineteenth century and the two communities continued to worship together and dedicate this notable structure and setting in 1893, a decade after Olmsted’s move to Brookline. It is likely that the age and tolerance of this community would have appealed to Olmsted, who was a seventh-generation New Englander and not known to have had any strong connection to a particular church or denomination.

Another significant commission for the Olmsted firm in this thematic category includes the long association of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. with the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The Cathedral’s All Hallows Guild, a volunteer organization, was founded in 1916 to work with Olmsted Jr. to oversee the beautification and maintenance of the Cathedral gardens and grounds. On the Guild’s seventy-fifth anniversary, Olmsted historian Susan L. Klaus (see Subdivisions and Suburban Communities) noted that the relationship with the Cathedral grew out of the role of Olmsted Jr. with the McMillan Commission, the three-person team organized by Congress in 1900 to extend the L’Enfant plan for Washington, D.C., and the Capitol area. In the true Olmsted tradition, Olmsted Jr. was involved at the National Cathedral as early as 1907 to help select a site "most rare in picturesqueness and beauty" and was still consulting in the mid-1920s to oversee the completion of three phases of planning and construction that included a campus of buildings, gardens and woodland.

A thorough study of this category should include a review of Subdivisions and Suburban Communities as well as College and School Campuses for church grounds that may have been developed as part of larger community plans.

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Arboreta and Gardens Back to "Project Types"
Lauren Meier "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

Arboreta and gardens constitute a relatively minor category for the Olmsted firm, with about twenty projects, about fifteen of which produced design plans. It represents, however, a project type associated with a handful of major arboreta completed in association with park systems in Boston, Louisville and Seattle, as well as important arboreta/botanic gardens in cities such as Brooklyn, New York. The earliest of these projects and the one most closely associated with Frederick Law Olmsted is the Arnold Arboretum (1879-1897). It is located in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston between Franklin Park and Jamaica Pond along the Arborway, and forms a significant piece of the Emerald Necklace park system. Created as one of the first successful American arboreta open to the public, the Arnold Arboretum serves as a prototype, with dual functions as a scientific study collection of hardy trees and as a scenic pleasure ground that provides shelter and respite from the city. While the Arboretum’s first director, Charles Sprague Sargent, sought to create a museum for the display of living specimens, Olmsted brought his park experience, noting his design intent:

We want a ground to which people may easily go after their day’s work is done, and where they may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing, and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets, where they shall, in effect, find the city put far away from them…. What we want most is a simple, broad, open space of clean greensward, with sufficient play of surface and a sufficient number of trees about it to supply a variety of light and shade…. We want depth of wood enough about it not only for comfort in hot weather, but to completely shut out the city from our landscapes.

After several years of negotiations between Harvard University and the City of Boston and a long series of design studies, Olmsted and Sargent created a plan for the Arnold Arboretum in which trees were grouped by family and genus following their phylogenetic order, with a curvilinear road system that negotiated the site’s undulating topography so that visitors would experience the tree collection in a strictly logical order. This dual function of scientific museum and aesthetic pleasure ground is still intact more than a century after the Arnold Arboretum’s creation.

The firm was consulted as early as 1893 on the future of the Missouri Botanical Garden, which was in a period of transition following the death of its founder, Henry Shaw, in 1889. Shaw had been instrumental in founding both the botanic garden and later a School of Botany at Washington University in Saint Louis, and was involved in negotiations regarding the role the university would play in the care and upkeep of the botanic garden. Unlike the Arnold Arboretum, the Missouri Botanic Garden was established as a not for profit institution rather than a direct affiliate or extension of the university. The Board of Trustees asked the Olmsted firm to submit a plan to both evaluate the current condition of Shaw’s garden and make plans for its future. Although the Olmsted master plan was adopted by the Trustees, only a portion was implemented. Listed in the Master List in both the parks and arboreta categories, the Missouri Botanical Garden is, like the Arnold Arboretum, a scientific botanical garden that is open to the public and serves as a pleasure ground.

Much of the Olmsted firm’s arboreta/botanic garden work occurred in the mid-1930s, with several projects completed concurrently with work by the WPA. The Olmsted firm created plans for the Seattle Arboretum (1884, 1903-1906, 1934-1939), Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia (1909-1933), listed as Chestnut Hill, Bernheim Arboretum in Louisville, Kentucky, (1929-1957) and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (1907-1919). Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and James Frederick Dawson are largely credited with the implementation of the plans for the Seattle Arboretum at Washington Park, which opened in 1934, and with the Olmsted firm’s plans for the Bernheim Arboretum, implemented the following year. While the Master List indicates sixteen plans prepared for the Hartford Arboretum between 1934 and 1936, it is difficult to ascertain the full extent of the firm’s design work there. In addition to the large public arboreta, between 1933 and 1935 the Olmsted Brothers completed more than fifty design plans for the interior courtyard, fountain and front planting at the Frick Museum (Collection) in New York City. The Master List includes other lesser-known botanic gardens that progressed into design in Birmingham and Kellyton, Alabama, and Sebring, Florida.

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Exhibitions and Fairs Back to "Project Types"
Julia S. Bachrach "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

Frederick Law Olmsted and the Olmsted Brothers played a significant role in planning and designing some of the nation’s most influential exhibitions and fairs. In 1890, when Chicago won the honor of hosting the World’s Columbian Exposition, Frederick Law Olmsted was asked to help select the site for the fair. While groups throughout the city lobbied for their own neighborhoods, Olmsted envisioned a site that would provide dramatic views of Lake Michigan as the backdrop for the fairgrounds. Two decades earlier, Olmsted and Vaux had laid out the 1055-acre South Park, which included Eastern and Western Divisions and a wide swath to connect them, the Midway Plaisance. The Western Division, renamed Washington Park, was largely implemented by the time the fair was being planned. In contrast, the Eastern Division, which had become Jackson Park, had only a small area of finished landscape. Because of Jackson Park’s lakefront setting and its incomplete state, Olmsted advocated for it as the site of the World’s Columbian Exposition.

Olmsted and Henry Codman articulated a guiding theme similar to that of the original South Park Plan—a series of navigable waters that would be linked to Lake Michigan. In a meeting with consulting architects Daniel H. Burnham and John Welborn Root, the planners sketched the scheme at a large scale on brown paper. The plan featured a great architectural court with a formal canal leading to a series of lagoons. In the middle of the lagoon system, Olmsted suggested carving a natural sandy peninsula into a large secluded wooded island meant to remain free of buildings or structures. Although he had pressure to build various exhibits on the island, Olmsted argued to protect its sylvan character, and only the Japanese pavilion and a garden that coincided with the Horticultural Building were allowed. The island would stand in stark contrast to the magnificent campus of white neoclassical buildings that would be accessed by boat and train.

After the death of John Welborn Root in 1891, Burnham continued as Director of Works for the World’s Columbian Exposition, and Olmsted’s role as consulting landscape architect remained pivotal. When the fair opened on May 1, 1893, visitors were dazzled by the gleaming "White City." Six months later, after the fair closed, many of its plaster buildings were destroyed by fire, and almost all of the rest were razed. The South Park Commissioners retained Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot to transform the site back to parkland. The firm’s 1895 plan featured the lake, lagoons and playfields in a manner similar to that of Olmsted and Vaux’s original plan. The later plan did, however, retain the Fine Arts Palace as the Field Columbian Museum (now Museum of Science and Industry) as a vestige of the fair.

After Frederick Law Olmsted’s death, the Olmsted Brothers continued the legacy by designing a number of other fairs and expositions. The Olmsted Brothers developed numerous plans for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego’s Balboa Park. These plans were not fully realized, however, because local authorities insisted on altering the location of the fair, and the Olmsted Brothers withdrew from the project. The firm had better success in planning other fairs, including the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon, and the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle (also listed in Parks, Parkways, Recreation Areas and Scenic Reservations), now the Rainier Vista in the heart of the University of Washington campus. The firm also designed exhibition sites within important American fairs, such the National Cash Register Exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

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Miscellaneous Projects Back to "Project Types"
Anthony Reed "The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm", 2nd edition, 2007

The vast majority of Olmsted projects can be grouped by type and are therefore included in the previous sections of the Master List. However, a few outstanding projects remain (numbered as such by the Olmsted firm) that defy any sort of thematic categorization. Given the diversity of the work that the firm and individual members of the firm engaged in, it is not surprising to find project files that do not relate to specific physical landscape design jobs, but rather to more conceptual and less clearly defined work. For example, committee work or membership organizations associated with individual firm members were given project numbers, such as the Save the Redwoods League in Berkeley, California, and the New England Committee on Dutch Elm Disease in Boston. Additionally, project numbers were also assigned to administrative files as a means of tracking correspondence, as in the case of Carpenter Shop, Olmsted Brothers, (location not specified) and Financial Records/Olmsted Brothers in Brookline, Massachusetts. Or a Miscellaneous designation may be assigned because a determination has not been made as to the nature of the firm’s work for a given project, as with Wilkinson and Wilkinson, of Knoxville, Tennessee, or because the project confounds simple categorization, such as Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The job number for the Fine Arts Commission, Washington, D.C., includes work for a wide variety of projects of different types in a number of locations. For this reason, it, too, has been included in the Miscellaneous category. As with many true project-related job numbers, sometimes no records exist for a particular Miscellaneous project, beyond a notation in one of the firm’s numerous project lists, making the contents of a particular project all the more inscrutable. Fortunately, these projects are fairly few and are presented here so that the Master List is inclusive and illustrative of the firm’s archival record.

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For additional information about Canada, see The Olmsted firm in Canada: a correction of the record, by Nancy D. Pollock-Ellwand. Taylor & Francis Group in the UK holds permission rights for this 2006 paper by Nancy D. Pollock-Ellwand concerning the Olmsted firm work in Canada. It refines the information contained in the Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm, 1857–1950.
Citation: Nancy D. Pollock‐Ellwand (2006) The Olmsted firm in Canada: a correction of the record, Planning Perspectives, 21:3, 277-310, DOI: 10.1080/02665430600731203
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    See OLMSTED.ORG/flo about The Frederick Law Olmsted Papers Project. Volumes not yet on HathiTrust include Volumes 8 and 9 and Supplemental Series - SS2: Plans and Views of Public Parks and SS3: Plans and Views of Communities and Private Estates.

The papers of Frederick Law Olmsted Volumes Back to Top

Publication of The papers of Frederick Law Olmsted series spanned from 1977 to 2020 and includes twelve volumes. The final two supplemental volumes are large format books with color illustrations and plans.

HathiTrust Digital Library has eight volumes, which can be found through this collection link, available as Full View and searchable. The Introductions to each volume provide an excellent summary, see links below:

  • Vol 1 - The Formative Years 1822 to 1852 - FLO His Life and Work - pages 3-55

    Published 1977    ISBN 978-0-8018-1798-4
    The volume begins with a short biography of Olmsted and a biographical directory of the friends and relatives who played leading roles in his early life. His letters show the skill in observation that made his later travel books so effective, and provide a vivid picture of coming of age in New England in the 1840s. Included are fascinating letters written during a voyage in the China Trade in 1842–43, and accounts of the trip to the British Isles in 1850 that he later described in his first book, Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England.

  • Vol 2 - Slavery and the South 1852-1857 - Introduction - pages 1-39

    Published 1981    ISBN 978-0-8018-2242-1
    During these years Olmsted traveled in the South and wrote his classic descriptions of southern society. The volume contains the personal letters and newspaper accounts that he did not include in his four books on the South. It also contains letters concerning his work in the "literary republic" of New York as a publisherand the managing editor of Putnam’s Monthly Magazine, which published the work of promising American writers, including Melville and Thoreau. During this period Olmsted was also active in promoting free labor colonization in Kansas and Texas, in an effort to halt the spread of slavery.

  • Vol 3 - Creating Central Park 1857-1861 - Introduction - pages 1-48

    Published 1983    ISBN 978-0-8018-2751-8
    This volume contains the most significant documents in Olmsted’s papers concerning the design and construction of Central Park and his other city-planning activities in New York before the Civil War. It publishes for the first time the complete original "Greensward" report and plan submitted by Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the design competition of l858, accompanied by the “before and after” views they provided the park commissioners. Other documents tell how the design for the park changed during the early stages of construction, and how Olmsted supervised that massive operation. A concluding Pictorial Essay The Frederick Law Olmsted Papers Project includes a “tour” of Central Park in the early 1860s by means of sixty-five photographs and stereographs taken in 1863 or earlier.

  • Vol 4 - Defending the Union - The Civil War and the U.S. Sanitary Commission 1861-1863 - Introduction - pages 1-69

    Published 1986    ISBN 978-0-8018-3067-9
    For the first two years of the Civil War, Olmsted served as general secretary of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a civilian organization that had responsibility for the health of the volunteer soldiers in the Union Army—the sanitary condition of camps, care of wounded, and the distribution of food, clothing and bandages that flowed in from the Commission’s branches all over the North. Olmsted’s letters tell of political intrigue in Washington and give a vivid description of events in the field—including the rout of volunteer soldiers at the battle of First Bull Run, the suffering of the wounded during the Peninsula campaign, and the aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg. Other documents portray his role in helping to define the purposes of Reconstruction—including his efforts in early l862 to expedite the “Port Royal Experiment” in dealing with freed slaves on the South Carolina Sea Islands. Olmsted’s journal of a trip through the Mississippi River valley in early l863 displays the skills of travel-writing that marked his earlier volumes on the South.

  • Vol 5 - The California Frontier 1863-1865 - Introduction - pages 1-40

    Published 1990    ISBN 0978--8018-3885-9
    As general manager of the Mariposa Estate, Olmsted undertook to run the largest gold-mining operation in the country at the time. While there, he carefully observed frontier society and the stages of its development. His letters contain many vignettes of frontier life, as do two previously unpublished works—a series of chapters, some incomplete, dealing with the influence of emigration and the frontier on American society, and a study of the Mariposa Estate as "a frontier community of the present day" (published in Volume 5 as “The Pioneer Condition and the Drift of Civilization in America”). Olmsted’s letters and journals describe summer camping trips to Yosemite Valley and his work as head of the first commission for managing the public reservation there. The volume also contains the four reports that Olmsted wrote for major design projects in California: the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Tree Grove reservation, a park system for San Francisco, Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, and the campus of the College of California in Berkeley.

  • Vol 6 - The Years of Olmsted, Vaux & Company 1865-1874 - Introduction - pages 1-52

    Published 1992    ISBN 978-0-8018-4198-9
    The volume contains letters and a dozen reports on parks, park systems, and city planning written during the partnership of Olmsted and Vaux (from 1865 through September 1872)—including reports for Newark, New Britain, Hartford, Albany, Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, Fort Greene and Tompkins parks in Brooklyn, and Union Square in Manhattan, and correspondence relating to such other projects of the Olmsted-Vaux partnership as Prospect Park and adjoining parkways in Brooklyn, the Buffalo park system, the Chicago South Park, and work on Central, Riverside and Morningside parks in the period 1865–74. Also included are reports for the suburban communities at Riverside, Illinois, and Irvington and Tarrytown on the Hudson bove New York City, for the campus of Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., and the report concerning the planning of national agricultural colleges that Olmsted & Vaux presented with their plans for the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Maine. The volume also contains letters concerning Reconstruction policies and politics that Olmsted wrote to Charles Eliot Norton and Samuel Bowles.

  • Vol 7 - Parks, Politics, and Patronage, 1874-1882 - Introduction - pages 1-23

    Published 2007    ISBN 978-0-8018-8336-1
    The volume presents documents relating to Olmsted’s work while he was living in New York following his partnership with Vaux, his dismissal from the New York City parks department in 1878, and his gradual move to Boston during the early 1880s. There are reports for the design of Riverside Park and Tompkins Square in Manhattan, and the street and rapid transit systems for Riverdale and other sections of the 23rd and 24th wards (the Bronx), correspondence relating to Olmsted’s designing of the U.S. Capitol grounds and Mount Royal in Montreal, and his collaboration with the architects Leopold Eidlitz and Henry Hobson Richardson in the redesign of the New York State capitol. Several documents describe Olmsted’s leading role in the early campaign to create a scenic reservation at Niagara Falls. Other letters and reports document his early role in creation of the Boston park system, and his planning of the Back Bay Fens, Arnold Arboretum, and Muddy River sections of the "Emerald Necklace." Also included is the first publication of an annotated version of his pamphlet "The Spoils of the Park with a Few Leaves from the Deep-Laden Note-Books of ‘A Wholly Unpractical Man’," which marked the end of his career with the New York City department of parks. Concerning events of the time, the volume provides examples of his intense reaction to questions of Reconstruction policy and the election of 1876.

  • SS 1 - Writings on Public Parks, Parkways, and Park Systems - Introduction - pages 1-65

    Published 1997    ISBN: 978-1-4214-1086-9
    The volume contains Olmsted’s most significant articles, lectures and reports concerning public parks and recreation grounds. It contains several general discussions of the subject, including Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns (1870) and A Consideration of the Justifying Value of a Public Park (1881). Also included are his remarkable reports on individual parks and park systems that combine general observations with specific proposals, including reports on New York’s Central Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Mount Royal in Montreal, Belle Isle in Detroit, Franklin Park in Boston, the Niagara Reservation, and a park system for Buffalo.

JHUP - John Hopkins University Press is the publisher of the series. The volumes not yet digitally available on HathiTrust can be accessed digitally as follows:

Volume digitally available through John Hopkins University Press:

  • Vol 8 - The Early Boston Years 1882-1890 - Introduction - pages 1-40

    Publication in 2013    ISBN: 978-1-4214-0926-9
    The final chronologically arranged volume in the series, it presents the last stage of Olmsted’s career, with a firm that included his former students Henry Sargent Codman and Charles Eliot as new partners. During this time Olmsted concentrated his energies on his two last great commissions: one was the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 on the site of the Chicago South Park that he and Vaux had designed in 1871, with the subsequent redesigning of Jackson Park and the Midway; the other was the extensive Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. The volume also includes correspondence concerning the development of the park systems of Louisville, Kentucky, and proposals for park systems in Milwaukee and Kansas City. The volume presents some of the remarkable retrospective letters he wrote to Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer and his son, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. It concludes with several undated and unfinished writings on the history and principles of landscape design.

Other volumes not yet digitally available are:

  • Vol 9 - The Last Great Projects 1890-1895 - Table of Contents

    Publication in 2015    ISBN: 978-1-4214-1603-8
    The final chronologically arranged volume in the series, it will present the last stage of Olmsted’s career, with a firm that included his former students Henry Sargent Codman and Charles Eliot as new partners. During this time Olmsted concentrated his energies on his two last great commissions: one was the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 on the site of the Chicago South Park that he and Vaux had designed in 1871, with the subsequent redesigning of Jackson Park and the Midway; the other was the extensive Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. There is also correspondence concerning the development of the park systems of Louisville, Kentucky, and proposals for park systems in Milwaukee and Kansas City. The volume presents some of the remarkable retrospective letters he wrote to Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer and his son, Frederick.

  • SS 2 - Plans and Views of Public Parks - JHUP Preview

    Publication in 2015    ISBN: 978-1-4214-1086-9
    The coffee-table-size format has been selected so that the details of the plans will be clear and adequate for reference purposes and to present visually the distinctive aspects of the Olmsted design idiom. The volume contains sketches, preliminary and final plans, and historic photographs of the seventy most significant of Olmsted’s public park projects. They show the original site, construction, and appearance of the projects at various stages of development and are accompanied by explanatory text and captions for individual images.

  • SS 3 - Plans and Views of Communities and Private Estates - JHUP Brochure

    Publication in 2020    ISBN: 978-1-4214-3867-2
    This last volume in the series contains visual material relating to seventy of Olmsted’s most significant projects in other categories than that of public parks and recreation grounds. Special emphasis is given to the U.S. Capitol grounds and terraces, the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and the Biltmore Estate, due to their significance and the richness of their pictorial documentation. Other projects that are especially well documented are the Arnold Arboretum in Boston; the street system of the Borough of the Bronx in New York City; the campuses of Lawrenceville School and Stanford University; Riverside, Illinois; Druid Hills in Atlanta; Parkside subdivision in Buffalo; the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.; the estate "Moraine Farm" in Beverly, Massachusetts; Olmsted’s home and office, "Fairsted," in Brookline and several estates in Newport, Rhode Island.

The Cultural Landscape Foundation: What’s Out There Back to Top

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) connects people to places. TCLF educates and engages the public to make our shared landscape heritage more visible, identify its value, and empower its stewards.

TCLF’s What’s Out There is searchable database that raises public awareness of the rich diversity and interconnectedness of our shared landscape heritage. Spanning more than two centuries of American landscapes, the database is searchable by landscape name, locale, designer, type, and style.

What’s Out There includes a number of places connected to the work of the Olmsted firm. is including links to the TCLF Olmsted-referenced sites at the individual job level to augment information related to those jobs and provide a broader context for understanding their significance. The link, when available, is found in the sidebar on the Job Details Page.

TCLF has launched their “OLMSTED What’s Out There Cultural Landscape Guide” / “What’s Out There Olmsted” guide, which provides information about 320 cultural landscapes tied to the Olmsted firm.

In addition, TCLF’s website includes Landslide alerts when notable landscapes are threatened and offers Garden Dialogues and tours of contemporary and historic landscapes.

American Society of Landscape Architects: Landscape Architect Guides Back to Top

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is the professional association for landscape architects in the United States. ASLA’s Landscape Architect’s Guide webpages provide written and visual information about select landscapes in various cities and neighborhoods throughout the United States.