Frederick Law Olmsted

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Frederick Law Olmsted was a landscape architect most notably known for creating Central Park in New York City. Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1822, Olmsted started at a young age, "gaining experience through his journeys as a journalist and a superintendent of an ill-starred gold mine in the Sierra Nevada range of California" [1] Olmsted was involved with creating numerous amount of public parks throughout the United States. The focus of this page will be on his contributions to the parks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


"In 1850 he and two friends took a six-month walking tour of Europe and the British Isles, during which he saw numerous parks and private estates, as well as scenic countryside".[2] This is the point where Olmsted started to get into how parks were designed and eventually constructed. Upon his return to the United States, Olmsted began working on books on his trips and then later began working on the creation of multiple parks throughout his life. Olmsted pioneered the lawn in its suburban incarnation. "In the 1860's, Olmsted designed a suburban community outside of Chicago, with houses set back enough from the street to allow homeowners to plant a nice swath of grass." [3]

Grand Necklace of Parks

"Upon the creation of Milwaukee’s first Park Commission in 1889, among the first projects undertaken were the construction of Lake Park, River Park (today known as Riverside Park) and Newberry Boulevard, which served as a connection between the two". [4] There are seven parks along the lake shore in Milwaukee, not to mention the numerous others scattered throughout the city. "Long ago when Milwaukee was first being planned, there were some noteworthy forefathers who felt it necessary to have public green spaces or parks where people of all income levels could come for relaxation and recreation. Around 1892, they asked Frederick Law Olmsted, who was already known for his park designs, to do some work for our city". [5]

Lake Park

One of the more popular parks of the Grand Necklace of parks in Milwaukee, Lake Park was one of the first to be finished in the late 1800's. A bit different looking than what it original looked like when created, Lake Park is right alongside of Lake Michigan on the East side of Milwaukee. Lake Park has multiple attractions such as the walking trails, tennis courts, ice skating rink in the winter, picnic areas, a lighthouse, musical concerts, playgrounds, as well as an 18-hole golf course. "A prehistoric Indian Mound reminds today’s park visitors of the original inhabitants of the area. Although it is not known who built this mound, it is believed to have been peoples of the Mid-Woodland Culture." [6]

Postcard of Lake Park

Other Parks in Milwaukee

Besides Lake Park, Olmsted also had a hand in the creation Riverside Park and Washington Park in Milwaukee. Riverside Park is just a few blocks west of Lake Park along the Milwaukee River hence the name. While not as big as Lake Park it still has some attractions like its trails, picnic areas, scenery of the river and trees, and the Center of Urban Ecology. Washington Park is in the northwestern part of Milwaukee. It has a few more trails than Riverside and a nice sized pond. Like Riverside Park, there is also a Center of Urban Ecology in Washington Park.

Grand Staircase in Lake Park


  1. [1] "Jewels of Olmsted's Unspoiled Midwest," The New York Times, accessed May 1, 2018, article.
  2. [2] "Frederick Law Olmsted Sr." National Association for Olmsted Parks, 2000
  3. Ted Steinberg, Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 220, accessed May 1, 2018, Paperback Book.
  4. "Lake Park to Riverside: Olmsted's Vision Re-imagined," Urban Ecology Center, July 2013.
  5. [3] "Milwaukee Area Parks", The Olmsted Parks, accessed May 2, 2018
  6. [4] "History of Lake Park", Lake Park Friends, accessed May 2, 2018

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