Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903)

Frederick Law Olmsted

Frederick Law Olmsted was America's outstanding landscape architect of the 19th century.

A native of Hartford, Connecticut, Olmsted left Yale College after only a year because of problems with his eyes. However, he traveled widely in America, the Orient, and England, and he gained practical knowledge by working for progressive farmers.

In 1847 he started his own experimental farm and nursery and soon began a career planning parks and other green spaces for America's growing cities.

Olmsted's designs were characterized by the re-creation of natural features and the use of wandering paths and roads. Olmsted was an apt choice for The Retreat (the former name of The Institute of Living), since he himself believed deeply in the restorative power of landscapes that recalled the beauties of Nature.

Among Olmsted's many other notable works are New York City's Central Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, N.Y., the Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C., and the system of parks and boulevards in Boston known as the Emerald Necklance.

Olmsted was also active in the antislavery movement, publishing A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States in 1856.

Click to download a larger imageOlmsted's home in Brookline, Massachusetts, is a National Historic Site.


On May 12, 2005, a sculpture by Bruno Lucchesi of Frederick Law Olmsted was dedicated. It can be found on the Institute of Living Grounds, near the entrance on Retreat Avenue.

(click to download a larger image)


For further information:

Beveridge, Charles E. Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing the American Landscape. New York: Rizzoli, 1995.

Roper, Laura Wood. FLO, a Biography of Frederick Law Olmsted. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.

Stevenson, Elizabeth. Park Maker: a Life of Frederick Law Olmsted. New York: Collier Macmillan, 1977.

Weidenmann, Jacob. Beautifying Country Homes: a Handbook of Landscape Gardening. New York: O. Judd, 1870.
Weidermann was Olmsted's longtime associate and worked on the Retreat project.