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A GCA Garden History & Design Video


October 05, 2021

Frederick Law Olmsted, the Father of American Landscape Architecture - Celebrating a 200 Year Legacy

The Garden Club of America (GCA) is celebrating Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th birthday with a focus on the importance of parks and open spaces in member communities. The GCA’s Garden History & Design Committee kicked off the celebration by producing a short video entry for the GCA’s 2021 Annual Meeting Around the Green flower show which highlights how Olmsted’s revolutionary work shaped American landscape architecture in parks and public landscapes - creating visionary masterworks. The video explores his legacy, theories, design elements, and principles that still remain relevant for today. 


Olmsted believed that residents of urban areas benefited from restorative time outdoors, alone, and in the company of others. The benefits of parks and having access to the outdoors in our own and neighboring towns are more evident than ever. All 199 GCA clubs across the nation are presented with the unprecedented opportunity to tie the current needs of their communities to Olmsted’s revolutionary vision and work in parks and public landscapes by participating in the GCA initiative, PARKS: Where Nature Meets Community, with a club project in their community honoring Olmsted’s vision and legacy. The initiative continues through June 2022.

Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1822 and is regarded as the father of landscape architecture. He was the creator of many magnificent public masterworks such as New York City’s Central Park, the U.S. Capitol grounds in Washington, DC, and the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. He and his successor firms designed over 6,000 projects including parks, public spaces, city and regional planning projects, suburban communities, college and school campuses, private estates, exhibitions, and fairs.

This educational video features Olmsted’s personal history, presents his six principles of landscape design, and includes images of outstanding examples of his design projects found across the United States. Many of these images are from the Smithsonian Archives of American Gardens (AAG), Garden Club of America Collection. For over thirty years, GCA has partnered with AAG documenting American gardens to preserve the visual record and collective narrative of gardens. The collection is searchable through the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archive (SOVA). Gardens are part of the American experience, highlighting the region, culture, history, and personal tastes that influence them. Documenting gardens provides an important piece of the contextual puzzle of social change, traditions, and trends over time.

The GCA Garden History & Design Committee uses photography and research, the study of good design practices, educational and lecture programs, and internships to develop an appreciation of America's gardens. The committee works closely with the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Gardens to document cultivated gardens throughout the country. 

The Garden Club of America is a proud founding partner of Olmsted 200, the national bicentennial celebration. 



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