Louisville Celebrates FLO’s two hundredth Birthday and Feels the Love

Louisville Celebrates FLO’s 200th Birthday and Feels the Love


There have been FLO parties in Buffalo, New York Metropolis, Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, and extra the previous few weeks. My hometown joined the enjoyable. Louisville celebrated Frederick Legislation Olmsted’s (FLO) bicentennial on April 26th. Olmsted, in 1891, visited a rolling pasture and woodland, bisected by Beargrass Creek, that turned the 337-acre Cherokee Park.  FLO’s Louisville go to, close to the top of his profession, could be his final however it was auspicious. Town’s Park Commissioners made their annual report in 1897. “Louisville was unquestionably essentially the most distinctive and exquisite park websites of any metropolis in America. That is the expressed opinion of Frederick Legislation Olmsted, than whom no higher authority lives.”

Olmsted Parks Conservancy C.E.O., Layla George, welcomed friends to Louisville’s birthday celebration. She mentioned, “Frederick Legislation Olmsted was invited by a bunch of Louisville neighborhood leaders to design not only a park, however a park system. Over the span of 45 years, starting within the late 19th century, our metropolis invested cash to buy property, construct bridges, roads, playgrounds and ball fields, and plant hundreds of timber to create this magnificent park system we now have right now—considered one of solely 4 Olmsted-designed programs on the planet, and essentially the most absolutely realized one of all of them that features 17 Olmsted-designed parks and 6 parkways.”

I envision a grand parkway of picturesque kind…reaching from the guts of the town into the agricultural surroundings of the suburbs. –FLO

Every of Louisville’s three principal, and bigger, Olmsted parks have distinct traits, from rolling hillsides and meadows in Cherokee, to Shawnee’s Nice Garden and river vistas, to Iroquois’s forested slopes and spectacular overlook. Parks equivalent to Bingham, Tyler, Victory, Boone Sq., and Chickasaw are examples of smaller paradises.

Victory Park. OPC photograph.

Layla was on the Loeb Boathouse in New York’s Central Park the place FLO’s events had begun a couple of days earlier than Louisville’s. Adrian Benepe spoke. Benepe was the previous New York Metropolis Parks Commissioner, ran the Belief for Public Land, and now oversees Brooklyn Botanical Backyard, one other Olmsted jewel. He mentioned, “We predict we’re actually particular on the subject of Olmsted parks. We have now Central Park, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and some different nice Olmsted-designed parks. However for those who assume New York is particular for having these Olmsted Parks, we’ve obtained nothing on Louisville.”

Mike Clark and Layla George on the Loeb Boathouse in New York’s Central Park.

Olmsted and Calvert Vaux partnered on the design and development of Central Park. They drew their inspiration from Birkenhead Park in Liverpool, England. Vaux was the principal designer and Olmsted the logician who supervised development. City Parks got here into American consciousness with Central Park.  

We would like a floor to which individuals might simply go after their day’s work is completed, and the place they could stroll for an hour, seeing, listening to and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets, the place they shall, in impact, discover the town put far-off from them. –FLO

Olmsted got here to his calling after working as a mercantile clerk, sailor, farmer, traveler, journalist, social reformer, and Government Secretary of the Union Military’s Sanitary Fee (a forerunner of the Crimson Cross), through the Civil Conflict. I, too, was a dreamer and a wanderer. Olmsted turned a hero in my early 20s. FLO had his epiphany in 1850, as a 28-year-old journalist, throughout a go to to Birkenhead Park in Liverpool. It “broke on him like a revelation,” biographer Laura Wooden Roper wrote. My very own revelation got here in Lisbon’s metropolis park, Jardim de Estrela, within the winter of 1976. I used to be 24. I dreamed panorama design is likely to be my calling. Like Olmsted, I wished to have interaction the grandeur of nature with design as a way to enhance society. 

Design wasn’t my calling

I don’t have a spatial bone in my physique. Happily, horticulture was a fortunate fallback. I endured numerous chilly, moist, steaming scorching and soiled days, however by no means a boring day. The bonus comes from moments of pleasure that always sneak up on me in gardens and parks. I’m grateful for good designers, gardeners, passionate parks staff, donors and volunteers. Louisville’s Olmsted Parks have survived political winds, the nationwide financial panic in 1893, a historic flood in 1937 that lined Shawnee and Chickasaw Parks, a large twister in 1974 that worn out enormous swaths of Cherokee Park, and continual issues over inadequate funding for all of Louisville’s 120 parks.

OPC works intently with their longtime, loyal accomplice, Louisville Parks and Recreation. The Conservancy, based in 1989, has raised over 50 million {dollars} for capital, restorative, and enhancement tasks. Additionally they advocate strongly to guard Olmsted parks throughout the town. I’m grateful to OPC and confess I’m a former board member of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

Extraordinary Olmsted Park Nuts. OPC photograph.

Sarah Wolf, Director for Advocacy and Programming, has labored for the OPC for 17 years and lives close to Shelby Park. She works on cultural enhancements and spends lots of time speaking to residents who dwell close to Olmsted Parks, listening to wishes and issues. Park customers have begun to advocate for his or her parks, with metropolis leaders, by way of their neighborhood associations in Shelby, Tyler, Victory, Iroquois, Elliott, and Bingham parks. Capital enhancements have been made, in these and different Olmsted Parks with neighborhood enter and with matching funding from the town and the OPC.

Shawnee Park Pavilion


“Floating beds” with sedges, flag iris and gentle rushes in Shawnee Park

Whereas I lack spatial intelligence, I’m a eager observer. I spent a few hours with Matt Spalding, the Conservancy’s Director of Stewardship, a couple of days earlier than Olmsted’s birthday. We began in Shawnee Park and geeked out on cottonwoods, shagbark hickories and a wild rye grass alongside the banks of the Ohio River. We handed the small “pinetum” that included Bulgarian and Manchurian firs and a golden larch. Farther on, Matt confirmed me “floating beds” of newly planted sedges, flag iris and a gentle rush within the lily pond. We drove a brief distance and visited Boone Sq., Baxter Sq., and Victory Parks, smaller, neighborhood parks. Matt identified a big gingko in Boone Sq., an impressive tulip poplar and curvilinear paths in Baxter Sq. Park, in addition to the brand new neighborhood middle and designed basins that seize storm water in Victory Park.

Iroquois Park winding street to the overlook. OPC photograph.


Iroquois Park Overlook. OPC photograph.

We rushed to Cherokee Park to fulfill College of Kentucky Panorama Structure college students. Matt stood atop Baringer Hill, waved his hand towards the attractive vista and informed the story of Olmsted’s extraordinary imaginative and prescient and Louisville’s willpower. We moved onto Barringer Springs, down the hill, surrounded by Kentucky espresso timber, satan’s strolling sticks, wooden poppies and coral berries earlier than ending up at Hogan’s Fountain. I wished to maintain the hayride going. I wished the scholars to see the opposite two, principal Olmsted Parks— Shawnee and Iroquois. And the smaller Victory Park within the California neighborhood.  What would these spatial-minded college students see that I couldn’t?

View from Baringer Hill in Cherokee Park. OPC photograph.

What would Fred assume?

Olmsted would have been inquisitive about these younger college students and their ambitions. He could possibly be harsh. I forgave him for as soon as calling Beatrix Farrand, America’s first feminine architect, “a dabbler.” My guess is he would have been dismissive of the iconoclastic Tepee in Cherokee Park constructed within the 60s. That’s OK. He would definitely be grateful his parks are nonetheless beloved and for the way the Olmsted Parks Conservancy stays keen about and dedicated to the parks that he and his sons had touched so a few years earlier than.  

Frederick, Jr., and John Olmsted inherited the family firm upon their father’s dying in 1893. They labored on the in depth, Louisville system of parks and parkways for the following 45 years. Louisville has earned the privilege of being included in any severe discussions about essentially the most important Olmsted tasks.

The Olmsted Parks Conservancy is the steward of this historic Louisville path. Their mission is to “…restore, improve and endlessly defend Louisville’s Olmsted-designed parks and parkways, connecting nature and neighborhood whereas strengthening the neighborhood’s well-being. Keenly targeted on our imaginative and prescient—that each one seventeen parks and 6 parkways are extraordinary, in each approach, for everybody.”

YouTube Birthday Salute from Nationwide Affiliation of Olmsted Parks:  

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Layla George rejoice Olmsted Parks Day. Nancy Bush photograph.

Mayor Greg Fischer got here to the celebration and proclaimed April 26th as Olmsted Parks Day, 133 years after the Louisville Olmsted Parks started. (Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear additionally acknowledged the big day.) Mayor Fischer complimented FLO as “…tremendous visionary.” On this lovely April night, he added, “Our time on earth is to make a greater place…The very best is but to return.”


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