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Olmsted’s Longmeadow

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

This week mark's the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted who is considered the father of American landscape architecture. He was born in Hartford, Connecticut April 26, 1822. His most famous work is Central Park in New York City designed in 1857. Other works include the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, the grounds of the United States Capitol, the grounds of the White House, the 1893 Columbia Exposition (The White City) in Chicago, Illinois, and the Main Quad at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. Mr. Olmsted also was informally involved in the design of Forest Park in Springfield. He retired in 1895 and his sons John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. continued their father’s firm doing business as the Olmsted Brothers which lasted until 1980. Frederick Law Olmsted Sr died in 1903.

Olmsted Brothers had several projects in Longmeadow. From 1908 to 1936, various entities sought out the Olmsted Brothers landscape design firm to assist them in beautifying their properties. Sometimes an individual homeowner commissioned their services, sometimes owners of proposed residential developments such as the Colony Hills and Glen Arden neighborhoods, and twice the Town of Longmeadow solicited their services. In 1908, a group by the name of Longmeadow Street Improvement Association was quoted $100 plus travel expenses by the Olmsteds to come out from Brookline to advise them as they were, “anxious to have some capable landscape architect look over the street, or rather the 300 foot broad street of Longmeadow and offer suggestions as to permanent improvements beautifying it, setting out of shade trees, laying out of walks, etc.” There is no record of the group following through with the Olmsted’s though.

Olmsted Brothers Proposed Plan

for Longmeadow Resident, Stanford Haynes' Property

Olmsted Brothers created the landscape plans for the Glen Arden, Colony Hills and Laurel Manor neighborhoods.

Olmsted Brothers Plans for the Glen Arden neighborhood of Longmeadow

Olmsted Brothers plan for the Colony Hills neighborhood.

Olmsted Brothers plans for the Laurel Manor neighborhood off of Laurel Street.

Additional Olmsted Brothers plans for Glen Arden neighborhood

Another project designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm was the Longmeadow Golf Club, today know as the Longmeadow Country Club.

Olmsted Brothers design work for the Longmeadow Golf Club

It may also interest you to know that in 1934, the Town of Longmeadow did move forward with an intricate landscape design plan for what is today known as Laurel Park and Bliss Park, but then was planned as “Longmeadow Park,” a beautiful recreational oasis including a swimming pool at west end, performance space and stage, skating pond, and gardens. The work began in 1934 on land that had once been the domain of the town water department. The project was plagued by Depression era setbacks and bad weather. Ultimately funding was cut for the project by the town and it never came fully to fruition. The park, as it was deemed completed, was opened in 1936.

From the 1934 Longmeadow Annual Town Report

Article 1 sought to provide funding for design, etc of new park

Olmsted Brothers Plan for western section of "Longmeadow Park" 1934

Notice the swimming pool, pond, and amphitheater and stage in what is now Laurel Park

Olmsted Brothers proposal for "Longmeadow Park" in 1934.

Today it is Laurel and Bliss Parks

Olmsted Brothers Proposed Plan for "Longmeadow Park" 1934

featuring a swimming pool and bath houses at the west end.

This would be the Longmeadow Street side of Laurel Park

Laurel Park Construction, 1934

Laurel Park Construction, 1934

Laurel and Bliss Parks today

Laurel Park Plaque at Entrance

more accurately, the park was based on a design by Olmsted Brothers,

It is fascinating that within our town there are exquisite neighborhoods and grounds designed by one of the premier landscape architectural firms in the world. This is Longmeadow history that should be remembered.

With the exception of the Google view image and the Laurel Park Plaques, all images courtesy of the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.

-contributed by Lenny Shaker, Longmeadow Historical Society Board Member

Originally published April 28, 2022

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