About Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.
Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (July 24, 1870 – December 25, 1957) was an American landscape architect best known for his wildlife conservation efforts. He had a lifetime commitment to national parks, and worked on projects in Acadia, the Everglades and Yosemite National Park. Olmsted Point in Yosemite and Olmsted Island at Great Falls of the Potomac River in Maryland are named after him. He and his brother John C. Olmsted created Olmsted Brothers as a successor firm to their father's.
Olmsted was born on Staten Island, New York, the son of Frederick Law Olmsted and Mary Cleveland Perkins, and half brother of John Charles Olmsted.
After graduating from the Roxbury Latin School in 1890, he began his career as his famous father's apprentice. He worked early on two significant projects: the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the largest privately owned home in the United States—the George Vanderbilt estate in North Carolina, famously called the Biltmore Estate.
In 1894 he earned his bachelor's degree at Harvard University and became a partner in his father's Brookline, Massachusetts landscape architecture firm in 1895. Shortly thereafter, his father retired. Olmsted and his half brother quickly took over leadership of the firm. For the next half-century, the Olmsted brothers' firm completed thousands of landscape projects nationwide.
In 1900 Olmsted returned to Harvard to teach, and he also established the school's first formal training program in landscape architecture.
In 1901, he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as a member of the Senate Park Improvement Commission for the District of Columbia, commonly known as the McMillan Commission. He joined other notable personalities such as Daniel H. Burnham, Charles F. McKim and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, with a charge to "restore and develop the century-old plans of Major L’Enfant for Washington and to fit them to the conditions of today."
In 1910, he was approached by the American Civic Association for advice on the creation of a new bureau of national parks. This initiated six years of correspondence, including this letter to the president of the Appalachian Mountain Club, January 19, 1912:
"The present situation in regard to the national parks is very bad. They have been created one at a time by acts of Congress which have not defined at all clearly the purposes for which the lands were to be set apart, nor provided any orderly or efficient means of safeguarding the parks . . . I have made at different times two suggestions, one of which was . . . a definition of the purposes for which the national parks and monuments are to be administered by the Bureau."
His best contribution was of a few simple words that would guide conservation in America for generations to come and were preserved in the National Park Service Organic Act (1916):
"To conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
Olmsted and his wife, Sarah Hall Sharples, whom he married on March 30, 1911, had one child.
By 1920, his better-known projects included plans for metropolitan park systems and greenways across the country. In 1928, while working for the California State Park Commission (now part of the California Department of Parks and Recreation), Olmsted completed a statewide survey of potential park lands that defined basic long-range goals and provided guidance for the acquisition and development of state parks. and was a founding member and later president of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Under the leadership of John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the Olmsted Brothers firm employed nearly 60 staff at its peak in the early 1930s. As the last surviving family member in the firm, Olmsted, Jr. retired in 1949.
A partial listing of Olmsted, Jr. design projects in the nation's capital reads like a guide to National Park Service-managed sites: the National Mall, Jefferson Memorial, White House grounds, and Rock Creek Park.
In his later years, Olmsted, Jr., worked for the protection of California's coastal redwoods. Redwood National Park's Olmsted Grove was dedicated to him in 1953, the same year in which he received the Pugsley Gold Medal.
He was responsible for the original terrace-style 'master plan' layout of Cornell University, that is responsible for the large Arts Quad and Libe Slope. He also worked on the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida and Forest Hills Gardens in New York.
Olmsted, Jr. died while visiting friends in Malibu, California and is buried at Old North Cemetery in Hartford, Connecticut.
Landscape design at Waveny Park, New Canaan, Connecticut, 1912.
Shelter at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, 1932
St. Francis Wood residential neighborhood located in southwestern San Francisco, California, ci 1914
Frederick Olmsted, Jr.'s Timeline
July 24, 1870
Staten Island, Ric, New York, United States
New York (Manhattan), New York City-Greater, New York, United States
March 30, 1911
December 25, 1957
Malibu, Los Angeles, California, United States