Celebrating and honoring Frederick Law Olmsted

April 14, 2022

April 26, 2022 marks Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th birthday. Olmsted, who is regarded as the founder of American landscape architecture and the country’s most prominent park maker, is known for designing the grounds of New York City’s Central Park, the landscape surrounding the US Capitol, the Biltmore Estates in North Carolina, and more. After his death in 1903, his sons continued their father’s 38-year career as the Olmsted Brothers.

The landscape architects at BETA have been fortunate to work on updates to several parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, including Walnut Hill Park in New Britain, Connecticut. The team was recently challenged with introducing accessible parking and access to the landscape at the John Brown House Museum in Providence, which was originally designed by the Olmsted Brothers in the early 1900s. The site remains home to incredible elms, London planetrees, and oaks that are scattered throughout the property.

BETA’s design team worked through several different options with the Rhode Island Historic Society before landing on an approved design which incorporates materials, site furnishings, and lighting selections that enrich and complement the history of the site.  A proposed meandering path will revive part of the original Olmsted Plan, allowing visitors to take a leisurely, shaded stroll beneath the massive trees. The path will also frame an open lawn space, known as the Great Lawn and described as “a jewel in a magnificent setting” by the Rhode Island Historical Society. The Great Lawn is home to ‘Concerts Under the Elms’ – a popular summer concert series for Providence locals and visitors. As part of the project, several trees are proposed to be installed to succeed the towering trees on the site.

The team’s design (shown above) strikes a careful balance of providing enhanced accessibility while also maintaining and respecting the rich history of the site and the legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted. Construction is scheduled to be completed in Fall 2022.

The Rhode Island Historical Society will host public historian and filmmaker Laurence Cotton on Sunday, May 15, at 3 p.m., for its annual Goff Lecture highlighting the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted. The program will be hosted at the historic Corlis-Carrington House across the street from the John Brown House Museum. Click here for more info.