The Garden Club of America— one of Olmsted 200’s 10 national partners— has engaged Olmsted 200 with unmatched vigor and creativity. Clubs from coast to coast have embraced Frederick Law Olmsted’s work and values in various ways, and we are tremendously proud to showcase just a few of their endeavors.
Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park, Baltimore (Job No. 02406)
On October 21, 2021, members of the Green Spring Valley Garden Club gathered to help rejuvenate Baltimore’s Leakin Park. Working with the Friends of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park, they planted a garden of trees, shrubs, and perennials to create a glorious new park entrance.
Leakin Park is part of a larger park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. It is part of a stream valley along Gwynns Falls protected from development at the Olmsted Firm’s recommendation. The Baltimore Park System was one of the firm’s many urban projects designed to protect the beauty of local watersheds from overdevelopment.
According to the firm, the Leakin Park property had “the character of a wooded gorge, [where] the scenery is remarkably beautiful, of a picturesque and sylvan sort seldom possible to retain so near a city.” Today, this property touches twenty separate neighborhoods in the Baltimore community and comprises over 1000 acres.
Seaside Park, Bridgeport, CT (Job. No. 02021)
In May 2022, the Fairfield Garden Club, with the support of the Woman’s Seamen’s Friend Society of Connecticut, planted 17 trees near the Perry Memorial Arch at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, CT, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s only marine park. These trees were largely native, pollinator-friendly, and wind, salt, and water tolerant. The club and others are finding ways to help renew this historic park.
Caumsett Historic State Park, Long Island, NY (Job. No. 07359)
Caumsett Historic State Park Preserve was originally the working estate of American entrepreneur Marshall Field, established on the Long Island Sound in the 1920s. The Olmsted Brothers were primarily responsible for designing the terrace gardens and the forecourt of the main house, along with the plantings around the Indoor Tennis Court, under the supervision of John Russell Pope. Today, the park receives 1 million visitors annually and preserves 1200 acres of forests, pathways, riding trails, and gardens along the sound.
The Field estate was created in the image of an English country manor. The historic landscape included expansive lawns planted with trees (specimen trees), woodland, fenced pasture land, and, within proximity to the main house, ornamental flower gardens. Views were carefully placed and configured, and the process of moving through the landscape was intended to be one of continual discovery.
In November 2021, Three Harbors Garden Club planted 150 native flowering plants in the BullPen grassland field at Caumsett Historic State Park Preserve. The goal of the project (currently in year two) is to improve the biodiversity of the grassland fields. Caumsett has the only known breeding colony of the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly on Long Island, and the plan is to increase the mix of the flora in the field to 50% with native plants.
The existing pattern of open field and forest is very similar to what existed when the property was owned and managed by Marshall Field. Some notable changes include expansion of the southern end of the open field, commonly known as the 50-acre field, some limited clearing within previously forested areas within the vicinity of the pheasant houses, and successional forest development within a scenic corridor extending northwest from the main house to the shore. Decisions regarding management of the open fields need to seek a balance between their ecological value as a habitat for wildlife and native species and their importance as part of the Field estate’s historic designed landscape.
Oakwood Cemetery, Syracuse; Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay, WI (Job No. 03079)
Two projects with Olmsted ties are bringing back the American chestnut tree. The chestnut, often included in Olmsted planting plans, was nearly wiped out by a pathogenic blight in the early half of the 20th century. For almost 30 years, scientists and students at SUNY- College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse have worked to restore the chestnut by developing a process for growing blight-tolerant trees. The Syracuse Garden Club is funding and supporting these efforts.
As part of their research, the faculty and students have planted a few blight-tolerant trees in Oakwood Cemetery, a peaceful oasis in Syracuse established in 1859. The Cemetery was designed by Howard Daniels, a member of the American Parks Movement and a contemporary of Frederick Law Olmsted. Like Olmsted, Daniels hoped to design Central Park, and he was one of 33 to submit a proposal to the New York City Parks Commission. As we all know, Daniels’ work was not selected— it came in fourth— but he went on to design other loved landscapes, including Druid Hill Park in Baltimore and Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.
Chestnuts are also a focus of the Lake Geneva Garden Club as they work to restore the landscape surrounding the Yerkes Observatory, designed by John Charles Olmsted (Job No. 03079). The original landscape designs called for chestnut trees. Working with the American Chestnut Society, LGGC has reintroduced chestnuts to the landscape in keeping with the original design. The club’s multi-faceted project has included clean-up days; an inventory of the 48 acres, measuring and tagging trees; creation of an Olmsted room in the Observatory introducing visitors to the Olmsted landscape heritage; reintroduction of 20 new Dutch elm disease-resistant varieties, working with the Morton Arboretum, and continuing adherence to the original 1906 Olmsted plan in restoration efforts.
Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Great River, NY, Long Island (Job No. 01047)
Bayard Cutting Arboretum was the beneficiary of a birthday gift from The South Side Garden Club of Long Island. The Arboretum received a dwarf Japanese Maple. It is a new member of the Arboretum’s collection and is sited in the Pinetum section. In 1886, William Bayard Cutting used plans conceived by Frederick Law Olmsted to transform his Long Island estate. The Arboretum was donated to the Long Island state park system in 1936.
Lake Park, Milwaukee, WI (Job No. 01653)
In Milwaukee, WI, the Kettle Moraine Garden Club dedicated the full year to a commemoration of Frederick Law Olmsted, starting with a lecture by award-winning journalist and local Olmsted expert Virginia Small on “ Frederick Law Olmsted: Lasting Landscape Legacies in Milwaukee and Beyond.” Other activities included a Flower Show dedicated to Olmsted, a birthday celebration with cake, and a tour and lecture at Lake Park. Kettle Moraine donated $10,000 to Lake Park to replace trees decimated by the Emerald Ash Borer. Kettle Moraine also donated $2000 to support the Villa Terrace Olmsted exhibit.
Milwaukee’s Green Tree Garden Club showed an Olmsted documentary at the Fox Point Lutheran Church, toured Lake Park, and heard from curator Annemarie Sawkins about the bicentennial exhibit, In the Park with Olmsted: A Vision for Milwaukee.
FDR Park, Philadelphia (Job No. 03822)
The Garden Club of Philadelphia has adopted FDR Park to honor FLO. In 2022, they planted a colorful array of perennials at the Gazebo on the lakeside in time to welcome the Philadelphia Flower Show, held for the second consecutive year at the Park. In the future, the Club plans to remove invasives and replant native plants in an area at the lakeside.
The Glenview Garden Club– working in partnership with the Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy— showcased three decades of the Olmsted firm’s work in Louisville for three nights. All proceeds were dedicated to creating The Butterfly and Bee Pollinator Garden at Olmsted’s Chickasaw Park in honor of Mohammed Ali.
Olmsted Shakespeare Garden in New Jersey (Job No. 07174 )
Designed by the Olmsted firm, the Garden has been the project of the Plainfield Garden Club since 1927. The garden features two 100-foot long borders and seventeen flower beds, faithfully adhering to the original Olmsted design. Recently, the garden club has strengthened its relationship with the Union County Park Commission, which contributed funds and resources for a deer spray service, topsoil, mulch, and new plant materials. The club is now raising funds to create a sustainable long-term plan to ensure the garden’s future.
Downing Park, Newburgh, NY (Job No. 01428)
The last great work of Olmsted and Vaux, Downing Park, is the beneficiary of the vision and hard work of The Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess Counties. In 2021, the club received a GCA Restoration grant to prune and replace damaged and diseased trees in this park, dedicated to Vaux and Olmsted mentor and famed landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing. In April 2022, the club sponsored a community-wide birthday party in the park, featuring the Olmsted 200 exhibit, Mayor Torrance Harvey, and students who sang a special “Happy Birthday to FLO.” Ongoing efforts include regular clean-ups, the planting of hundreds of daffodil bulbs, and continued collaboration with community groups to reinvest in the long-term renewal of this historic park.
Hot Springs and the U.S. Capitol Grounds
Frederick Law Olmsted was front and center in Arkansas, thanks to the work of the Little Rock Garden Club. The Club celebrated Olmsted’s 200th birthday by offering all Arkansans opportunities to learn and show appreciation for Olmsted’s professional accomplishments throughout the bicentennial. Thanks to their efforts, a House Resolution was introduced honoring Frederick Law Olmsted by U.S. Rep. French Hill, who is also spearheading the planting of a tree in honor of Olmsted on the U.S. Capitol Grounds (Job No. 02820). Governor Asa Hutchison issued a statewide proclamation declaring April 26, 2022, Frederick Law Olmsted Day in Arkansas. The club also contributed to improvements at Little Rock Big Dam Bridge Park; partnered with the Central Arkansas Library System on programming; and supported Hot Springs National Park (Job No. 01244) with a tour and a lecture by the curator.
We thank the GCA clubs for the information included in this article.