America’s first landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) believed that parks and landscapes were an essential part of democratic society. His designs created some of the most beloved public landscapes in the United States – Central Park in New York City; the first park system in Buffalo, New York; the Emerald Necklace in Boston; the Capital grounds in Washington, D.C.; the World’s Columbian Exposition park system in Chicago; the preservation of Yosemite and the Niagara Falls Reservation.
Olmsted’s stepson John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920) and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (1870-1957) became leaders in the emergence of landscape architecture and city planning as professions. Upon Frederick Law Olmsted Sr.’s retirement in 1895, the firm continued as the Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects through the 1950s. The Olmsted Brothers addressed the advent of the automobile with comprehensive planning of cities and the integration of active recreation facilities into older parks and park systems.
Maryland’s Olmsted Legacy
Beginning in the 1870s, Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. and later Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects profoundly reshaped the urban Maryland landscape. Olmsted Sr. designed the early suburb of Sudbrook Park, the four Mount Vernon Place parks, and consulted on other Baltimore parks during the 1870s to the early 1890s.
Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects was responsible for the majority of the 130 Olmsted projects planned in Maryland, both public and private commissions. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. was usually the active partner for Baltimore projects. These projects included sites in Annapolis, Chevy Chase, Cumberland and Port Deposit. Their private commissions included planned residential developments: Roland Park, Guilford, Homeland, Dundalk, Gibson Island and Northwood. The Olmsted vision also touched country estates, such as the grounds for Clifton Mansion, Greenmount Cemetery, church grounds and the campus of Johns Hopkins University.
At the behest of the Municipal Art Society, Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects (OBLA) issued the 1904 Report Upon the Development of Public Grounds for Greater Baltimore, conceptualizing a park system for the Baltimore region. The Olmsted vision for Baltimore’s park system was second only to Boston’s in size and scope. An extensive report by the Olmsted Brothers in 1926 confirmed the 1904 recommendations to link the Gwynns Falls, Jones Falls, and Herring Run stream valleys with a wide variety of parks, parkways, and playgrounds. In many cases, the Olmsted firm transformed private estate grounds into public parks, such as Carroll, Clifton, Leakin, and Wyman Park. Smaller Olmsted designed neighborhood parks include Latrobe and Riverside. OBLA added major recreation and circulation improvements to Baltimore’s earliest major parks, Druid Hill and Patterson. In addition, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. was instrumental in planning the reconstruction of Downtown Baltimore after the 1904 Great Fire and creating the City’s planning department.
Visit our Publications page to download selected articles from The Olmstedian on the role of the Olmsteds in Baltimore parks and residential communities.