Frederick Law Olmsted

Historical Biographies

Frederick Law Olmsted

Portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted, 1893. James Notman, Boston. Image restoration by Wikimedia Commons user Crisco 1492.

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903)

Olmsted is widely known as the father of landscape architecture, a profession that he was instrumental in defining. He was born in 1822 in Hartford, Connecticut.

Sargent met Olmsted in the summer of 1878 while Olmsted was working on his first studies for his Boston commission for the Park Department. The Arboretum was intended to function as a pleasure ground for the citizens of Boston and as an encyclopedic tree museum for scientists.

The arrangement and design of the Arboretum’s living collections was collaboration between Frederick Law Olmsted and Charles Sprague Sargent. In their design, Sargent and Olmsted were in agreement that they had both scientific and aesthetic goals. Together they created a design based on a botanical sequence devised by George Bentham and Joseph Hooker displayed in a naturalistic fashion. The Arnold Arboretum is the only extant arboretum designed by Olmsted.

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

Library of Congress. Frederick Law Olmsted papers, 1777-1952 [link].

The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted and other works [pdf].

Records of the Original Design of the Arnold Arboretum Living Collections. Archive of the Arnold Arboretum.
(Please contact Library for assistance.)

Ashton, Peter S. “The Genesis of the Arboretum’s Restoration and Verification.” Arnoldia 49(1), 1989 [pdf].

Roper, Laura Wood. FLO : A Biography of Frederick Law Olmsted. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973 [link].

Rybczynski, Witold. A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Scribner, 1999 [link].

Olderr, Steven and Heuel, Patricia. Toward a Comprehensive Bibliography of the Landscaping and Architectural Work of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Riverside, IL: Riverside Public Library, 1982 [link].

Zaitzevsky, Cynthia. Fairsted: A Cultural Landscape Report for the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site. Brookline, MA: Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation, National Park Service; Boston: Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, 1997- [link].

Zaitzevsky, Cynthia. Frederick Law Olmsted and the Boston Park System. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1982 [link].