Ohio State University (Job #03084) in Columbus Ohio. Image Credit: Jo McCulty, The Ohio State University.

The Olmsted legacy in the Midwest is rich but underappreciated. That is why the Olmsted Network is working hard in Wisconsin and Ohio to draw attention to this extraordinary heritage of parks and places.  In mid-October, after our national conference in Milwaukee, board chair Philip Schultz testified before the Milwaukee County Historical Society in support of designating Olmsted’s Washington Park a Milwaukee County Historic Landmark.

Just a few weeks before, we traveled to the Buckeye State to headline the quarterly gathering of the Columbus, OH, Crichton Club. This lecture club, founded in 1920 on the belief that “ideas, information and perspectives are critically important to understanding the world around us,” has invited hundreds of thought leaders, innovators, disruptors and rising stars over the last century. And the latest speaker was none other than our own Olmsted Network President & CEO Anne “Dede” Petri on Frederick Law Olmsted.  

As all speakers do, Dede provided her autograph for the club records to be added to those of Robert Frost, Frank Lloyd Wright, Henrietta Tree, Reinhold Neibuhr, Henry Steele Commager, David Halberstam and Henry Kissinger. You can read more about this fascinating organization here: www.crichtonclub.org.   

It was a most important discussion since Ohio has the sixth largest collection (279) of Olmsted landscapes in the United States— behind only Massachusetts (2,162), New York (773), Pennsylvania (356), DC (320) and Connecticut (298)— with projects in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Perrysburg and Toledo.    

Project files show that a wide array of firm members were working on projects: particularly, John Charles Olmsted, Edward Whiting, P.R. Jones and Percival Gallagher. And yet, this extraordinary array of parks and landscapes is little known in the state.     

Screenshot of Ohio projects on OlmstedOnline.org

So, it was that Dede threw down the gauntlet, urging club members to help persuade Olmsted-designed universities in the state to provide courses, to feature the Olmsted heritage through state and local tourism bureaus and to support a statewide survey of Olmsted properties, following the example of Connecticut.

“Some of you will remember Congressman John Seiberling, whose Akron estate Stan Hywet has a great landscape pedigree of its own. Seiberling loved the Olmsteds. And over 40 years ago, it was Congressman Seiberling who tried to pass a bill that would have required a nationwide inventory of Olmsted properties. It didn’t pass but it did motivate many states – including Ohio – to undertake some research…The Buckeye State has an immense Olmsted legacy – why keep it a secret?”

Dede Petri

If you go to Boston or New York, they will proudly proclaim their Olmsted connections. Why not the same in Ohio? It’s time to commit to protecting, preserving and promoting this heritage for future generations.   

The Olmsted Network looks forward to partnering with our Midwestern friends. If Wisconsin and Ohio readers would like to help us in our Midwest initiative, please contact us at info@olmsted.org