CityLab: “Frederick Law Olmsted might be best known for New York’s Central Park and Washington’s U.S. Capitol grounds, but his role in shaping modern America spans far more than a few famous sites, as the Library of Congress’ newly digitized collection of Olmsted’s writings and personal records makes abundantly clear. The materials, including drafts of his writings, family letters and journals, correspondences with colleagues, and project proposals, piece together a unique glimpse into the famed landscape architect’s creative process and fervor to create parks open to everyone. Barbara Bair, historian in the Library of Congress’ manuscript division, told CityLab that they’ve been working on digitizing the Olmsted papers for a long time. It just turns out the archive is ready before the bicentennial of Olmsted’s birth, so he can be celebrated in 2022 with partner organizations. Bair noted that the records not only shed light on his most famous works, but also on the omnipresence of his landscape architecture and conservation contributions throughout the United States.
The collection also reveals some of the inspiration for Olmsted’s ideas about the value of public parks for America. Olmsted had saved a copy of Andrew Jackson Downing’s essay, “The New-York Park,” published in Horticulturalist in 1851, which laid out key ideas for a space like Central Park. Downing had been a “crucial” mentor to Olmsted..”