Frederick Law Olmsted

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Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) was a landscape designer most famous for designing New York City's Central Park, among many others. He is considered the father of American landscape architecture.

Olmsted was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1822. Between 1837 and 1857, Olmsted performed a variety of jobs: he was a clerk, a sailor in the China trade, and a farmer, as well as many other professions. He moved to New York in 1848 and in 1857, without having ever had any college education, Olmsted became the superintendent of New York's Central Park.

As the superintendent of the park he served as the administrator and then architect-in-chief of Central Park's construction. Next, he served as the administrative head of the US Sanitary Commission, which was the forerunner of the American Red Cross. Finally his last job, before forming his own firm, was that of the manager of the vast Mariposa gold mining estate in California.

In addition to designing for urban life, Olmsted was anxious to preserve areas of natural beauty for future public enjoyment. He served as the first head of the commission in charge of preserving Yosemite Valley and was a leader in establishing the Niagara Reservation, which he planned with Calvert Vaux, in 1887. Between 1872 and 1895, when he retired, Olmsted's firm carried out 550 projects. These projects included college campuses, the grounds to the US Capitol, and residential communities. In late 1895 he suffered a mental breakdown and spent his remaining years resting in an Asylum in Waverly Massachusetts. In August 1903 he died.