CELEBRATING A RENAISSANCE MAN: Morven Museum and Garden marks the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted, creator of Central Park and numerous other urban green spaces, with a lecture by scholar Lawrence Cotton on January 27.
By Anne Levin
Frederick Law Olmsted is widely known as the designer of New York’s Central Park, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, Boston’s Emerald Necklace, and to locals, Trenton’s Cadwalader Park and the campus of The Lawrenceville School.
But Olmsted was more than a landscape architect. He was a dedicated conservationist, abolitionist, author, and public servant. Across the country, the 200th anniversary of his birth is being celebrated this year with lectures, public programs, exhibits, and restoration projects. Among them is “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America,” a virtual lecture sponsored by Morven Museum and Garden on Thursday, January 27 at 6:30 p.m.
Lawrence Cotton, a historian and authority on Olmsted and his legacy, will present a “mini-travelogue” of select Olmsted landscapes across North America. Cotton was the originator, principal researcher, and consulting producer of the 2014 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America. He sees Olmsted, whose firm is credited with 700 parks and 6,000 commissions, as a true Renaissance man.
“One could say that he saw his parks as a place to enact democracy for all races, religions, and classes to come together in one place for free recreations, for solace, fresh air, and health,” Cotton said in a phone interview this week. “He foresaw all of that. And it was part of his design intent from the very start.”
There were two Frederick Law Olmsteds — father and son — in addition to a second son, John Charles Olmsted, in the Olmsted firm. “Many people confuse who did what when,” Cotton said. “I’ll be covering all of that in my presentation.” more