Historic image of pavilion before its demolition in 1963

The Highland Park Conservancy celebrated Olmsted 200 with the successful conclusion of its campaign to reconstruct the Children’s Pavilion, a signature element of Frederick Law Olmsted’s design for Highland Park (Project No. 01104). Dedicated in 1890, the three-story, open-air structure was located at the high point of the park and served as a landmark on the skyline until its demolition in 1963.

On April 28, 2022, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello announced that the Parks Department would reconstruct the pavilion in its original location and style— but with an elevator for universal access. In addition to funding from Monroe County and the State of New York, the Highland Park Conservancy will contribute over one million dollars from private donations. The project is now underway, and construction will start in Fall 2023, with an expected completion date of 2024.

The Children’s Pavilion announcement was just the first event in a weekend of observances of Olmsted’s birthday. On April 28, 2022, Justin Martin, the author of Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted, spoke at the Memorial Art Gallery Auditorium. The packed event was followed by a book signing and reception in the ballroom. To complete the weekend, the Olmsted Design Walking Tour— offered again in September— provided a first-hand experience of Highland Park’s genius of place. 

Highland Park Conservancy continued to celebrate Olmsted 200 with a full array of special summer programs, which were free and open to everyone. 

On August 7, 2022, the American Wild Ensemble performed Lungs of the City: Olmsted’s Parks in Music, a program of contemporary classical music inspired by Olmsted’s parks and philosophy. 

On August 9, historian and filmmaker Laurence Cotton presented The Olmsted Legacy at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, providing a wealth of new insights on Rochester’s rich Olmsted heritage

On August 11, the Conservancy and the Monroe County Parks Department screened the PBS documentary Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America outdoors at the Highland Bowl Performing Arts Stage. 

The Olmsted bicentennial has been a wonderful occasion for the community to celebrate their Olmsted heritage by rebuilding the Children’s Pavilion and educating the area on Rochester’s Olmsted Parks, thus ensuring their preservation for future generations.

Joann Beck is a board member of Highland Park Conservancy, a landscape architect, and an advocate for Rochester’s parks.