Rochester is one of only four cities with a park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., joining Buffalo, Boston and Louisville.
About Rochester Parks System
Rochester is one of only four cities with a park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., joining Buffalo, Boston and Louisville. All three Olmsteds (Sr., Jr. and JCO) were involved in the planning and design process.
Commissioned in 1888 to design the first park for the city, Olmsted recommended the addition of lands along the Genesee River. This suggestion resulted in the creation of a system of three major parks – Highland Park, Genesee Valley Park and Seneca Park. Collectively, these parks, which range from 20 to 800 acres, capture some of the region’s major distinctive landscape characteristics and scenery.
Olmsted’s design showcased the natural beauty of each park, creating three unique landscapes. Highland Park was developed as a shrub arboretum with a world-class collection of lilacs and panoramic views; Genesee Valley Park was designed as a broad, rolling, pastoral landscape along the Genesee River plain; and Seneca Park highlights the native forest located on both sides of the dramatic Genesee River gorge.
While Olmsted’s design ended here, the Olmsted influence continued in the early 1900s with the addition of four major parks, two small parks, two street malls and dozens of playgrounds designed by Olmsted Brothers
In 1911, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. recommended additional neighborhood parks, reservations, parkways and a system of outlying parks. The firm continued to consult on the system’s development until 1915.
In 2003, the park system was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, Rochester’s parks honor their Olmsted legacy by continuing to offer active and passive forms of recreation, from organized sports and playgrounds to scenic overlooks and trails.
Genesee River Gorge in Seneca Park
Children's Pavilion in Highland Park
Bow Bridge over the Erie Canal
Shared SpacesSpotlight on… The Rochester Park System
Olmsted & the Olmsted Firm
Frederick Law Olmsted– Designing RochesterOlmsted judged the Genesee River to be Rochester’s fairest asset with natural settings that should be preserved. He recommended the...
Highland Park Conservancy Celebrates Approval of Important Project in Bicentennial YearHighland Park Conservancy in Rochester, NY is celebrating Monroe County’s March 8 approval of the Children’s Pavilion Reconstruction Project. This...
Highland Park Conservancy successful in campaign to reconstruct Children’s PavilionThe Highland Park Conservancy celebrated Olmsted 200 with the successful conclusion of its campaign to reconstruct the Children’s Pavilion, a...
Shelburne Farms is an education nonprofit on a mission to inspire and cultivate learning for a sustainable future through its programs, place and products.
Mountain View Cemetery
Mountain View Cemetery was Frederick Law Olmsted’s first solo commission and the only cemetery he designed.