Riverside, IL, has long been recognized as one of the most significant residential developments of the nineteenth century. The suburb was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970, and Olmsted’s influential report describing the plan can be found in Volume 6 of the Olmsted Papers, “The Years of Olmsted, Vaux & Company” (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).
Perhaps less known today are the continued contributions of the Olmsted Brothers firm to town and city planning in the United States. By the early twentieth century, John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920) and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (1870-1957) were laying out major residential subdivisions all over the country. The work of their firm helped standardize procedures for the design of new suburbs and towns, as well as policies for the expansion and improvement of existing cities. When founded in 1917, the American Institute of Planners elected Olmsted Jr. as its first president.
The following excerpts, suggested by scholars Arleyn A. Levee and Susan L. Klaus, are just two examples from the Olmsted Brothers extensive body of planning work.
The 1916 report for Anchorage, KY, was written by John Charles Olmsted toward the end of his career. He had been active in the area since 1891 when he began planning the Louisville park and parkway system with his stepfather. Anchorage was a suburb of Louisville, and the report was paid for by I.W. Bernheim, a successful businessman and philanthropist who owned property in Anchorage and hoped to see the town prosper through sound planning.
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. described the planning of Palos Verdes Hills in 1929, seven years after he began working on the project. John Charles had been the first member of the firm involved, but World War I delayed the development and his younger half brother subsequently took over.
Olmsted Jr. undertook other important work in California during the 1920s. He traveled the state extensively to prepare the California state park plan, published in 1929, and he served on the Yosemite Board of Expert Advisors beginning in 1928. The following excerpts give just a small inkling of the planning expertise the Olmsted Brothers firm, including associates Percival Gallagher, James F. Dawson, and Edward C. Whiting, developed during this time. Scores of projects like these are part of the legacy of Riverside and its influence on professional planning in the United States.