Formative: Frederick Law Olmsted in Connecticut

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April 22, 2022- August 28, 2022

Formative: Frederick Law Olmsted in Connecticut

This April marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Although his most well-known projects are elsewhere, such as Central Park in New York City, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and Yosemite Valley in California, Olmsted was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut. This anniversary provides an opportunity to reflect on Olmsted’s legacy and explore the impact of his early years in Connecticut on his career.

Formative: Frederick Law Olmsted in Connecticut considers how the people and scenery of early 19th century Connecticut influenced Olmsted’s philosophies and career choice. In Hartford’s libraries, Olmsted discovered the works of landscape gardeners, theorists, and others examining the relationship between people and nature. Social reformers in Olmsted’s neighborhood, such as Reverend Horace Bushnell and the Beecher family, exposed Olmsted to new ways of thinking about his community. And on family vacations, Olmsted explored the Connecticut landscape, from its small farms to its coastline, observing both its form and function. Olmsted’s eventual career in landscape architecture was undoubtedly shaped by these early experiences in Connecticut.

Today, Olmsted’s Connecticut legacy lives on through the public spaces he designed. Walnut Hill Park in New Britain, Seaside and Beardsley Parks in Bridgeport, and the grounds of the Institute of Living in Hartford are examples of not just his aesthetic, but how he pictured the natural environment contributing to the betterment of society. Connecticut is home to nearly 300 other commissions carried out by the Olmsted firm, which operated until 1979.

 

*Please note: this is a small display in the hallway between two main areas of the museum, not a large-scale exhibition.

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