Film Review: “Frederick Law Olmstead: Designing America.” (2014)

Master Gardeners Held their March meeting at The Loft in Cobourg. They enjoyed an airing of the film “Fredrick Law Olmstead: Dsigning America”

Northumberland Master Gardeners gathered at The Loft Cinema on March 13 to view a film about the life and work of Frederick Law Olmstead. Olmtead was born in 1822 in Hartford, CT and until the age of 30 held positions such as an apprentice seaman, merchant, journalist for the New York Times, and tried his hand at “Scientific Farming.” Olmstead is remembered and revered today, however, as a Conservationist and the Father of Landscape Architecture. Olmstead and Vaux created the professional title “Landscape Architect” in 1863.
In 1852, Olmstead and English Architect Calvert Vaux entered and won a design competition for Central Park in Manhattan, NY which spawned a 20 year work partnership between the two men. Central Park was opened to the public in 1856 but the work continued and Olmstead gave the park his attention on and off for the next 20 years.
Before the work of Olmstead and Vaux, the notion of the Public Park simply did not exist. Olmstead realized the need for people to be able to connect with nature while living in urban towns and cities. Regardless if a person was rich or poor Olmstead believed every person should have access to and benefit from tranquil spaces for their general health and wellbeing.
Every one of Olmstead’s parks are manmade. They were created from wasteland, dumping grounds, sludge areas, etc. The work was rough going as the workers had to use pick axes, gun powder, and horse and cart. Olmstead’s designs included giant rocks, trees, water, grasses, manmade hills, winding pathways, open spaces, and on occasion small islands.
Some of Olmstead’s notable parks include: Prospect Park, Brooklyn NY (1868); the grounds of the Capitol, Washington, DC (1873); Back Bay Fens & Emerald Necklace, Boston, MA (1885); and the Columbian Exposition and Jackson Park, Chicago, IL (1893). Olmstead designed hundreds of public parks across America for people for many generations to come. His sons Frederick (Rick) and John Olmstead took over the business and created hundreds more from 1894 until 1950.
To learn more, the film can be streamed at

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