Central Park in Manhattan is arguably the most famous public park in the world. Designed by America’s most prominent landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted Sr.. Central Park showcases Olmsted’s vision for creating thoughtful green space to soften the city’s hardscape. Olmsted knew how precious nature is to the human psyche long before it became fashionable. Many think his genius and that of his sons are only found above 59th Street. It may surprise readers that the family’s influence extends to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, where “The West” begins. Spencer Penrose, the founder of The Broadmoor, built in 1918, knew their work and wanted to bring that genius to his guests. Mr. Penrose asked the Olmsted Brothers— John Charles and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.— to design the grounds as artistic, memorable, and unique as the resort.
After Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.’s retirement, Olmsted’s sons, John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., continued the work, doing business as the Olmsted Brothers. They had an impressive portfolio of projects, including numerous commissions from the National Parks Service and American universities, such as Harvard and The University of Chicago as well as Mr. Penrose’s private estate El Pomar.
At The Broadmoor, lead designers John Charles Olmsted, Edward Clark Whiting, and James Frederick Dawson started with a blank slate. Using primarily native grasses, flowers and trees, they designed elaborate gardens and walkways that beautified and unified The Broadmoor and its surroundings. No expense was spared. The fountains and the architectural arabesques used in the gardens and terraces were acquired from Francis Howard & Company of New York. The Olmsted Brothers also designed certain architectural features, including the filigreed metal lamp posts and cast terra-cotta vases still featured along the lake near the terrace.
The Broadmoor has records of planting lists, which topped 800 plants in the front garden alone. The most planted flowers across the property were pansies, 828 plants across 21 beds, followed by lobelias – blue Crystal Compacta, 680 plants across 20 beds, with varieties of geraniums, verbenas, petunias, lilacs, and more. The most exceptional garden then and now is the Sunken Garden in front of Main. The hardscape of fountains, balustrades, and walkways is softened by Japanese lily, shasta daisies, Madonna lily, phlox, and tufted pansy.
To this day, we have a team of dedicated groundskeepers who work tirelessly to keep the gardens and landscape beautiful. It’s a testament to the hotel and its owners and the trust that Mr. Penrose placed in the hands of the lauded Olmsteds to create unforgettable gardens for the most unique resort in the world.