Frederick Law Olmsted was born April 26, 1822 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Olmsted became an American journalist, social critic, public administrator, and landscape designer. He is popularly considered to be the father of American landscape architecture.
Olmsted was famous for co-designing many well-known urban parks with his partner Calvert Vaux, including Central Park and Prospect Park in New York City.
Other projects that Olmsted was involved in include the country’s first and oldest coordinated system of public parks and parkways in Buffalo, New York; the country’s oldest state park, the Niagara Reservation in Niagara Falls, New York; one of the first planned communities in the United States, Riverside, Illinois.
He worked on the master plans for the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University near Palo Alto, California.
In Washington, D.C., he worked on the landscape surrounding the United States Capitol building.
The quality of Olmsted’s landscape architecture was recognized by his contemporaries, who showered him with prestigious commissions.
His work, especially in Central Park in New York City, set the standard of excellence that continues to influence landscape architecture in the United States.
Olmsted was also involved in conservation, including work at Niagara Falls, the Adirondack region of upstate New York, and the National Park system.
During the Civil War, Olmsted resigned his post as Central Park superintendent to accept the post of Secretary General of the United States Sanitary Commission. In that capacity, he helped facilitate the Commission’s work, which involved the distribution of tons of food and medical supplies to wounded soldiers and war refugees, evacuating wounded from battle areas, inspecting and maintaining standards in military hospitals, stocking and supplying hospital kitchens, and recruiting and maintaining thousands of nurses. The work he and the many workers under him saved thousands of soldiers’ lives. He headed the Commission until 1863, when the exertions of his service caused him ill health, and he was forced to resign.
Despite all his architectural accomplishments, Olmsted considered his Sanitary Commission position work the most important work of his life.
In 1895, senility forced Olmsted to retire.
In 1898, he moved to Belmont, Massachusetts, and took up residence as a patient at McLean Hospital, whose grounds he had designed several years before.
Frederick Law Olmsted remained there until his death August 28, 1903.
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