Plein air painting at Lilly Pond.

Olmsted City of Greater Utica is wrapping up an extremely active season on three fronts: 1) raising public awareness of the Olmsted legacy, 2) celebrating Olmsted 200, and 3) advancing the restoration of Utica’s Frederick T. Proctor Park.

As a part of the organization’s public awareness goals, media tools such as Facebook, Instagram, local television, radio, and newspaper were utilized. Perhaps the most exciting media success was a 6-part series of short YouTube videos, Utica: An Olmsted City, which premiered in July 2022 at the Oneida County History Center. 

Utica also contributed to Olmsted 200 in other ways. On September 10, families gathered in F.T. Proctor Park (Job No. 03185) for Proctor-Olmsted Day to enjoy a day of free fun. In addition, Utica’s notable 15k foot race— named the Boilermaker— dedicated its annual walk to Olmsted 200. 

The organization is most proud, however, of the extensive restorations and enhancements at F.T. Proctor Park and its ambitious fundraising campaign for the project. 

Last winter, teams of volunteers braved the snow to eliminate spongy moth egg masses from trees in the park. An infestation damaged the park’s tree canopy in 2021, but thanks to hard-working volunteers, the eradication efforts were successful. 

During this spring and summer, Olmsted City planted 2,000 trees, shrubs, perennial grasses, flowers, and groundcovers in the park. Most of this planting was done to create The Peace Garden, a new dedication in the park. The project included the recreation of a carriage circle that was part of Olmsted’s blueprint for the park.

Olmsted City also installed five new benches and commissioned a stone mason to repair the long-damaged base of a stone staircase originally built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the late 1930s. This was done not only to restore dignity to this historic piece of the park’s fabric but to eliminate flooding at the base of the staircase that occurs much of the year. 

A visual of what Lily Pound will look like after the restoration.

Finally, the centerpiece of this busy year has been the ongoing campaign to raise funds for the once-in-a-century restoration of Lily Pond, a cement reflecting pool designed by Olmsted, Jr. in 1913, and to create a landscaped winding pathway to connect it to several other historic features and paths. Olmsted City hopes to raise enough to commission the project for 2023.

The organization is particularly proud of what it has accomplished, given that it is a volunteer-driven program with no paid staff and only about 7% of funds going to overhead. 

Olmsted City is a program of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit founded in 1974 and dedicated to historic preservation. Our address is PO Box 8597, Utica, NY 13505.

Phil Bean is the chair of Olmsted City of Greater Utica.