Frederick Law Olmsted

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Landscape architecture has been around since the beginning of time, but it was not until Frederick Law Olmsted came along that the idea of integrating design into the landscape with plants, water, and structures that it turned into a thriving profession. To many, Olmsted is considered “a pioneer in the profession of landscape architecture, an urban planner, and a social philosopher, one of the first theoreticians and activists behind the national park and conservation movements” (Kalfus 1). Growing up, he did not ever graduate from formal schooling and just sat in on a few classes while at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. Instead, he acquired his education from being out in the world through traveling and reading. He had a hard childhood. His mother died when he was just four years old and on his journeys around the world to Europe and China, he became sickly with seasickness, paralysis of the arm, typhoid fever, apoplexy, sumac poisoning, and at times suffered from depression. For many years he went on a journey within himself to find out whom he really was and what he wanted to do with his life, career wise. Frederick had one brother, John Hull, who died in 1857. This left Olmsted feeling empty and at loss of what to do. That was when Calvert Vaux came and filled the space in Olmsted’s life that his brother left. Vaux convinced Olmsted to enter the Central Park Commissioner’s design competition with their design entitled the “Greensward Plan.” With the success in that project, Olmsted figured out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, which was to become a landscape architect. Olmsted practiced from the years of 1857 up until he retired in 1895. Olmsted’s two boys, adopted son John Charles and biological son Frederick La...

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