Park Place

The little-known cradle of American landscape design

Olmsted (Interior)

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rederick Law Olmsted changed the landscape of America. He designed New York’s Central Park, the U.S. Capitol and White House grounds, the layout of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and the Emerald Necklace of linked green space leading from Boston Common to Franklin Park. (Olmsted contributed the part beginning in the Fens.) He also helped to push for the protection of the Yosemite Valley as a park. Olmsted’s home and office, the world’s first full-scale professional practice of landscape architecture, are hidden behind a spruce pole archway entrance to the estate he called Fairsted, where he moved in 1883 and worked until his retirement in 1895. The grounds were landscaped to illustrate what he saw as the ideal suburban lifestyle, including a tiny grotto in a sunken garden; the grounds are open daily, and there are free tours of the Olmsted firm’s design office.

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The biggest reason Boston got behind its “Emerald Necklace” of interconnected parks was that rival New York had built Central Park, which really made the Brahmins’ blue blood boil. “While other cities are expending fabulous amounts in the improvements of parks, squares, gardens, and promenades, what should we do?” wrote a citizens’ committee. “To be behind in these matters would not only be discreditable to our city, but positively injurious to our commercial property.”

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