Olmsted parks and landscapes have lost a great champion— Joan Kaplan Davidson who died on August 11. Her support for the Olmsted Sesquicentennial helped put Frederick Law Olmsted on the map. In so many ways, Davidson — and the J.M. Kaplan Fund— were key figures in the movement to protect and preserve Olmsted parks and Olmsted’s enduring legacy. According to Olmsted scholar and curator Jane Loeffler, Davidson saw the importance of celebrating the sesquicentennial in 1971 and went on to have a “pivotal role in funding the rescue and restoration of Central Park and other Olmsted landscapes over decades.” Loeffler’s full exploration of the Sesquicentennial is available here.
Ms. Davidson and the Kaplan Fund were early supporters of the National Association for Olmsted Parks, realizing the importance of fostering friends groups and conservancies to save Olmsted parks and places. She was the first foundation leader to invest in the Prospect Park Alliance and among the first foundation donors to invest in the Central Park Conservancy. Her enlightened philanthropy also ensured the publication of significant books about landscape design.
Fifty years after her first support of FLO, Ms. Davidson and the Kaplan Fund celebrated FLO once again— this time as sponsors of his 200th birthday party in Central Park. We are in her debt.
Read her obituary in the New York Times here.