Here’s how to celebrate the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) today released the 20th entry in its What’s there series of digital landscape guides – and this is a very special edition worthy of a milestone Olmstedian anniversary.

Departing from the city and region based format of the previous What’s there guides (last year DC Modernism was the first series guide to focus on a specific landscape style), this year’s themed entry to the series zigzags across North America from Milwaukee to Montreal, Boston to Baltimore, Seattle to Staten Island, and hundreds of points in between to celebrate the 200th anniversary of American landscape architect, journalist and conservationist Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.

In total, more than 300 landscapes (parks and boardwalks, college campuses, cemeteries, gardens, housing estates, private estates, etc.) designed by Olmsted, Sr. and his successor companies are included, drawing inspiration from What’s there‘s comprehensive landscape database. Searchable by designation, landscape type and style or by geographic location via a map, each database entry includes a brief but comprehensive description, media gallery and other relevant details that help paint a complete picture of each respective site, whether explored in person or remotely.

The Olmsted business family tree (courtesy of the Cultural Landscape Foundation)

The guide also includes a richly illustrated introductory essay on “Olmsted Landscape Legacy” and nearly 100 biographical entries for members of the Olmsted family as well as collaborators, company employees and other practitioners. associated with Olmsted, including, of course, Calvert Vaux, the London-born architect and landscape designer who partnered with Olmsted, Sr. on many major park and park system projects in New York (Central Park, Prospect Park, Fort Greene Park and Morningside Park) and further afield, including Buffalo, Chicago and the Hudson Valley town of Newburgh. Other key (but lesser known) figures linked to Olmsted include Warren Manning, Arthur Shurcliff, William Lyman Phillips and Stella Obst.

Optimized for smartphone use, What’s there Olmsted also includes GPS-enabled What’s Near feature which locates sites within a certain distance and provides mileage/walking time from a user’s current location.

“Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.’s impact on national identity and the profession of landscape architecture is invaluable,” said TCLF President and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum. “What’s there Olmsted provides easy access to a wide range of landscapes designed by Olmsted, Sr. and his successor companies and opportunities to learn about the people associated with them.

cherry blossoms on the UW campus in Seattle
The University of Washington campus designed by the Olmsted Brothers in Seattle. (Steve Ginn/Courtesy of the Cultural Landscape Foundation)

What’s there Olmsted was made possible by presenting sponsor the National Endowment for the Arts and educational partners Olmsted 200 and the American Society of Landscape Architects. A 344-page printed guide to 200 Olmsted sites, Discover Olmsted – The Enduring Legacy of North American Landscapes by Frederick Law Olmsted, will be published this fall by Timber Press. Birnbaum co-authored the guide alongside Arleyn A. Levee and Dena Tasse-Winter.

Today’s release of What’s there Olmsted is just one of many tours, talks, parties, launches, conferences and affiliate events related to Olmsted 200, which is run by the Olmsted National Parks Association, based in Washington, DC. Although today is the big day, Olmsted 200 celebrations take place throughout the year—click here to find an event near you. A will also cover the centenary in the coming weeks and months with further stories about Olmsted’s formidable legacy, including a look at landscapes under threat later this year.

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