It’s easy to take the beauty of natural landscapes for granted, especially during the summer months when flowers are in full bloom, streams run cool and clear and exemplary weather begets beautiful vistas across the country. Many of us owe the grandest of American landscapes to one man who was determined to bring the calm of the outdoors to concrete jungles throughout the nation.
Frederick Law Olmsted invented the career title of landscape architect, sowing the literal seeds that beautified North America from sea to shining sea until his passing in the early 1900’s. The artist spent much of his career either enhancing mother nature’s impeccable work or completely transforming cityscapes into lush gardens, meandering streams and whimsical waterfalls.
Check out these breath-taking sites the icon blessed with his immaculate eye below. Something tells us you’ll definitely be adding them to your botanical bucket list.
Central Park – New York City
Let’s just get the obvious out of the way: The most famous public park in the country — arguably the world — was co-designed by a young Olmsted alongside collaborator Calvert Vaux. With this commissioned project, Olmsted developed his signature style in landscape design, including winding pathways, scenic views and pockets of natural beauty meant to give urbanites a break from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan living. Today, the park remains a must-see for tourists and residents alike, who have Olmsted to thank for its famous Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Terrace and what has come to be known as the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.
Mt. Royal Park – Montreal
Smack dab in the middle of Montreal lies Mount Royal Park, a popular destination for locals looking to hike, skate and escape into nature without the three-hour trek to comparatively rural Quebec City. Olmsted laid the groundwork for the park, using the strategic placement of vines, low shrubs and hidden walkways to make the mountainous terrain appear even more staggering. Those willing to make their way to the landmark’s 764 ft. peak will be rewarded with an expansive view of the city skyline, ultimately achieving the architect’s dream of providing city dwellers with a natural oasis within their own backyard.
The Biltmore Estate – Asheville, North Carolina
Olmsted became so well-recognized for his work in the public sector that he was soon the go-to landscape architect for a number of wealthy Americans, including George Vanderbilt. One of Olmsted’s most famous private commissions is Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina, which is still considered the largest privately-owned property in America. Visitors will get their first taste of Olmsted’s green thumb along the three-mile Approach Road that winds from Biltmore Village up to the home. From there, the icon’s signature designs can be spotted all over the property, and continues to guide the aesthetic choices of the property’s landscaping team today.
Niagara Reservation – Niagara Falls
While working on the Buffalo, New York parks and parkway system, Olmsted took a disheartening visit to Niagara Falls, where local industrialists had all but eliminated public access to the natural wonder. Joined by famous and influential figures such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Darwin and the Governor General of Canada, Lord Dufferin, Olmstead and his partner, Vaux, spearheaded the “Free Niagara” movement, resulting in the landmark being established as the country’s first official national park in 1885, joined on the Ontario side by Queen Victoria Park in 1888.
The Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site – Brookline, Massachusetts
The father of American landscape architecture was a proud New Englander who officially set up shop in his Brookline, MA home in 1883. There, he established the world’s first full-scale professional office for the practice of landscape design. In addition to developing several techniques that went on to become standards of his industry, the artist also used the property to showcase his artistic vision, giving potential clients a taste of what his miraculous green-thumb could do. The site is also cared for by the National Park Foundation, which was chartered by Congress in 1967 to further the conservation of natural, scenic, historic, scientific, educational, inspirational, or recreational resources for future generations of Americans.