Frederick Law Olmsted Site, plus Brookline Reservoir – 10-31-15

Frederick Law Olmsted, who practically invented the field of landscape architecture, moved to Brookline, MA at age 61 and expanded the farmhouse to become the world’s first full-scale professional office for the practice of landscape design. It’s now a free National Parks historic site, with ranger-led tours of the interior, with its drafting tables, storage of photos, project designs, and blueprint-copying system – solar-based! The 2-acre grounds are a microcosm of Olmsted’s design principles, with “picturesque” rocky, textured, verdant tree/shrub shrouded areas opening onto “pastoral” wide open expanses of rolling meadows.

Olmsted was one of the leading proponents of conservation, writing his 1865 Yosemite Report, “one of the first systematic expositions in the history of the Western world of the importance of contact with wilderness for human well-being, the effect of beautiful scenery on human perception, and the moral responsibility of democratic governments to preserve regions of extraordinary natural beauty for the benefit of the whole people,” explains the Library of Congress.

Olmsted’s designs created natural beauty, “for human well-being,” in crowded cities so that rich and poor alike would have access to nature, green space, and recreation. Imagine New York without Central Park, or Montreal without Mount Royal, or Boston without the Emerald Necklace – Jamaica Pond, Franklin Park, the Arboretum, the Fenway. His projects span the continent – Niagara Falls Park, the grounds of the U.S. Capital, college campuses, Biltmore in NC. And his sons took over the firm, which continued to operate until 1980! He died in 1903, in McLean Hospital. This National Park site preserves the plans for his designs, which are still used today by the custodians of the parks he designed to repair, refresh, and maintain the landscapes as Olmsted intended.

Before Olmsted, the Fenway’s Muddy River, a stinking, stagnant open sewer would have been simply buried and paved over. He architected it so that it would be cleansed naturally and become an asset to the city. Brilliant!

The Olmsted site is just 1 1/2 blocks from the Brookline Reservoir. When the Reservoir’s water-distribution purpose was made obsolete by the much larger Chestnut Hill Reservoir, the Olmsted family was one of the neighbors who contributed funds to preserve the Brookline Reservoir as a public park.

Thank you, Frederick Law Olmsted et fil, for so much beauty and joy.

long view to boston

long view to boston

zoomed in

zoomed in









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