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TCLF Honors the Olmsted Bicentennial with a New Digital Guide to More Than 300 North American Landscapes

Central Park, New York, NY, 2015. Photo by Barrett Doherty, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation

As part of the nationwide recognition of the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has created What’s Out There Olmsted, a digital guide to more than 300 North American landscapes designed by Olmsted, Sr., and his successor firms.

Olmsted, Sr. is well known as the co-designer of New York City’s iconic Central Park, but his legacy and that of his successor firms is vast. What’s Out There Olmsted includes a detailed and illustrated introduction (with a 2:37-minute video preview of the content), a searchable database of North American landscapes, and 100 biographical entries about the Olmsted family and the firm’s many employees, consultants, and collaborators.

This is TCLF’s twentieth digital What’s Out There City and Regional Guide, (including six guides produced in partnership with the National Park Service). What’s Out There Olmsted is optimized for iPhones and similar handheld devices, and includes What’s Nearby, a GPS-enabled feature that locates all landscapes within a given distance, customizable by mileage or walking time.

For more than 100 years, Olmsted, Sr., and his successor firms shaped cities, parks and park systems, scenic reservations, residential neighborhoods, cemeteries, and governmental, cultural, and academic campuses and more. Their work helped create a national identity and an unrivaled design legacy. The sites in What’s Out There Olmsted range from more than 30 National Historic Landmarks to lesser-known gardens, parks, and comprehensive plans. The Olmsted imprint can be found coast to coast: in North Carolina at the great Biltmore Estate; Colorado’s Mountain Park System near Denver; the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.; California’s Stanford University and Yosemite National Park; and Montreal, Canada’s Mount Royal.

Each What’s Out There Olmsted entry includes a concise, 250-word site description, drop down menus with information about the site’s typology (e.g., public park, suburb, etc.), style (e.g., picturesque, Beaux-Arts/Neoclassical, etc.), designers, and related landscapes. It also indicates if a site has recognized significance (e.g., National Register of Historic Places, National Historic Landmark). Each entry has a media gallery with four to ten images, and where applicable, a complementary video or link to an external website. The drop-down menu under Places includes an Advanced Search function that enables users to search geographically by region, state, city, zip code, and up to 100 miles from a specific zip code. Here’s a link to a state-by-state list of all the sites in the guide.

In addition to revealing these landscapes, the What’s Out There Olmsted guide uncovers the fascinating stories of those that worked with, for, and after Olmsted to create these memorable landscapes. Notable among them is Warren Manning, who worked for Olmsted, Sr. for eight years before opening his own practice. During his career, he worked on more than 1,700 projects, including estates, parks and park systems, city plans, campus plans, subdivisions, golf courses, and institutional grounds. Another Olmsted firm alum, Arthur Shurcliff, who specialized in the restoration of early American town commons, went on to become the landscape architect for Colonial Williamsburg. Massachusetts native William Lyman Phillips ultimately settled in Florida and collaborated with the Olmsted Brothers for decades. Finally, Stella Obst, about whom more is being learned, spent some 40 years at the Olmsted Brothers firm working closely with Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

What’s Out There Olmstedis made possible by Lead Sponsor the National Endowment for the Arts and Educational Partners Olmsted 200 and the American Society of Landscape Architects. Finally, coming Fall 2022 from Timber Press is “Experiencing Olmsted - The Enduring Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted's North American Landscapes,” a richly illustrated 344-page guidebook to 200 sites, authored by TCLF President and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA, Arleyn A. Levee, and Dena Tasse-Winter.

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