In his park reports for individual cities, including his 1903 report for Portland, Oregon, John Charles Olmsted produced powerful statements on the value of public parks in general. He delivered the address, excerpted here, in 1897, at the first meeting of the American Park and Outdoor Art Association. This unique organization brought together a diverse group of park advocates, village improvement societies, landscape architects, women’s clubs, and many others all dedicated to the “conservation of natural scenery, the acquirement and improvement of land for public parks and reservations, and the advancement of all outdoor art having to do with the designing and fitting of grounds for public and private use and enjoyment.”
They convened in Louisville, where John Charles and his more famous stepfather and partner, Frederick Law Olmsted, had been developing an outstanding municipal park system for more than a decade. In this keynote speech to what was a historic and unprecedented assembly of park advocates and landscape architects, John Charles took the opportunity to make a thorough statement of some of the essential values of the practice he had helped to found.