This essay explores the reasons that Franklin Park in Boston, Massachusetts, failed to fulfill the high expectations of its designer, Frederick Law Olmsted. The fate of Olmsted's lofty goals in Boston is revealing because it sheds light upon his thought and work, on the historic development of the urban park in the United States, and on the significance of the movement for public parks as a turn-of-the-century reform effort. In 1886 Olmsted presented his plan for Franklin Park, the crucial component of Boston's new park system. Influenced by Ruskin and others, Olmsted held that contemplation of the park's vistas of rolling lawns would reverse the debilitating effects of city life. The success of Franklin Park, he felt, depended upon sequestering the Country Park section of the scheme and protecting it from noisy, crowded, and athletic activities. Olmsted's choice of the "beautiful" style of landscape without visual centers of interest allowed local golfers, bicyclists, and baseball players in the 1890s to shape Franklin Park's pleasant but empty-looking spaces for their own uses. Then, in 1910, the park commissioners added ornate flower displays and a wild animal zoo, both ideas that Olmsted had explicitly condemned. The alternative uses of the park were accepted because they were promoted by powerful groups of middle-class and upper-middle-class Bostonians and because their proponents claimed for them the same properties of mental, physical, and moral improvement that Olmsted claimed for his peaceful park scenery.

[Footnotes]

[Footnotes]
1
Frederick Law Olmsted, Notes on the Plan of Franklin Park and Other Related Matters, Boston, Mass., City of Boston Department of Parks, 1886, 7, 9
Albert Fein, Frederick Law Olmsted and the American Environmental Tradition, New York, 1972
Fein
Frederick Law Olmsted and the American Environmental Tradition
1972
Laura Wood Roper, FLO, A Biography of Frederick Law Olmsted, Baltimore, 1973
Roper
FLO, A Biography of Frederick Law Olmsted
1973
Francis R. Kowsky, "Municipal Parks anid City Plan- ning: Frederick Law Olmsted's Buffalo Park and Parkway System," JSAH, XLVI, 1987, 49-64
Kowsky
XLVI
JSAH
1987
2
Frederick Law Olmsted, Forty Years of Landscape Architecture: Cen- tral Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and Theodora Kimball, eds., reprint edition, Cambridge, Mass., 1973, 86-169, 499-522
David Schuyler, The New Urban Landscape: The Redefinition of City Form in Nineteenth-Century America, Baltimore, 1986, 185-187, 190.
Schuyler
185
The New Urban Landscape: The Redefinition of City Form in Nineteenth-Century America
1986
3
Law Olmsted, Notes, 7-15, 20-36, 43, 10-11, 46-47, 113-114, 115.
4
S. B. Sutton, Charles Sprague Sargent and the Arnold Arboretum, Cambridge, 1970
Sutton
Charles Sprague Sargent and the Arnold Arboretum
1970
Geoffrey Blodgett, "Frederick Law Olm- sted: Landscape Architecture as Conservative Reform, "Journal of Amer- ican History, LXII, 1976, 883-88510.2307/1903842
883
Frederick Law Olmsted, "Remarks about a Difficulty Peculiar to the Park Department of City Govern- ments, Addressed, Upon Invitation, to the New England Club, 26th January, 1889," in City of Boston Department of Parks, 14th Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Department of Parks for the Year 1888 (hereafter Annual Park Commissioners' Report), 48-53.
5
August Heckscher, Open Spaces: The Life of American Cities, New York, 1977, 182-185
Heckscher
182
Open Spaces: The Life of American Cities
1977
Norman T. Newton, Design on the Land: The Development of Landscape Architecture, Cambridge, Mass., 1971, 296-299
Newton
296
Design on the Land: The Development of Landscape Architecture
1971
Cynthia Zaitzevsky, Frederick Law Olmsted and the Boston Park System, Cambridge, Mass., 1982, 78-79
Zaitzevsky
78
Frederick Law Olmsted and the Boston Park System
1982
Blodgett, "Fred- erick Law Olmsted," 869-889
Blodgett
869
Frederick Law Olmsted
John Brinckerhoff Jackson, American Space, New York, 1972, 214-215
Jackson
214
American Space
1972
Roy Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will, Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920, New York, 1983, 127-152
Rosenzweig
127
Eight Hours for What We Will, Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920
1983
Galen Cranz, The Politics of Park Design: A History of Urban Parks in America, Cambridge, Mass., 1982.
Cranz
The Politics of Park Design: A History of Urban Parks in America
1982
6
Frederick Law Olmsted to Frederic Kingsbury, 12 June 1846
Charles C. McLaughlin, ed., The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted: Volume I, The Formative Years, 1822-1852, Baltimore, 1977, 243
McLaughlin
243
The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted: Volume I, The Formative Years, 1822-1852
1977
Blod- gett, "Frederick Law Olmsted," 871, 872-877, 875
Blodgett
871
Frederick Law Olmsted
David Schuyler, eds., The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted: Volume III, Creating Central Park, 1857-1861, Baltimore, 1983, 201.
Schuyler
201
The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted: Volume III, Creating Central Park, 1857-1861
1983
7
Olmsted, Civilizing American Cities: A Selection of Frederick Law Olmsted's Writings on City Landscapes, Cambridge, Mass., 1971
Olmsted
Civilizing American Cities: A Selection of Frederick Law Olmsted's Writings on City Landscapes
1971
Olmsted, Notes, 103-105.
Olmsted
103
Notes
8
Olmsted, Civilizing American Cities, 107-108
Olmsted
107
Civilizing American Cities
Olmsted, Vaux & Co., Preliminary Report Upon the Proposed Suburban Village at Riverside, Near Chicago, New York, 1868, 6
Olmsted
6
Preliminary Report Upon the Proposed Suburban Village at Riverside, Near Chicago
1868
Henry W. Rumsey, M.D., Trans- actions of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, 1869, "Address," 78
Rumsey
78
Transactions of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science
1869
Olmsted, "Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns," Journal of Social Science, III, 1871, 9-16
Olmsted
9
III
Journal of Social Science
1871
Olmsted, "The Justifying Value of a Public Park, "Journal of Social Science, XII, 1880, 163
Olmsted
163
XII
Journal of Social Science
1880
David Roth- man, The Discovery of the Asylum: Social Order and Disorder in the New Republic, Boston, 1971
Rothman
The Discovery of the Asylum: Social Order and Disorder in the New Republic
1971
George M. Beard, American Nervousness: Its Caus- es and Consequences, New York, 1881
Beard
American Nervousness: Its Causes and Consequences
1881
Thomas Bender, Toward an Urban Vision: Ideas and Institutions in Nineteenth Century America, Lexington, Ky., 1975, 169- 194.
Bender
169
Toward an Urban Vision: Ideas and Institutions in Nineteenth Century America
1975
9
von Zimmer- mann's Solitude (Considered with Respect to Its Influence upon the Mind and Heart), London, 1800
von Zimmermann
Solitude (Considered with Respect to Its Influence upon the Mind and Heart)
1800
Ruskin's Modern Painters, 5 vols., London, 1843-1860
Ruskin
Modern Painters
1860
Roper, FLO, A Biography, 10-11, 35, 345, 408, 521n
Roper
10
FLO, A Biography
Olmsted to John Hull Olmsted, 2 February 1845, in McLaughlin, Papers: Volume I, 203
Olmsted, "Justifying Value," 163
Olmsted
163
Justifying Value
Olmsted, "A Healthy Change in the Human Heart," Century, XXXII, 1886, 963- 965
Olmsted
963
XXXII
Century
1886
Ernest Lee Tuveson, The Imagination as a Means of Grace: Locke and the Aesthetics of Romanticism, New York, 1974
Tuveson
The Imagination as a Means of Grace: Locke and the Aesthetics of Romanticism
1974
Samuel Monk, The Sublime: A Study of Critical Theories in 18th-Century England, Ann Arbor, 1960
Monk
The Sublime: A Study of Critical Theories in 18th-Century England
1960
Daniel Walker Howe, The Unitarian Con- science: Harvard Moral Philosophy, 1805-1861, Cambridge, 1970
Howe
The Unitarian Conscience: Harvard Moral Philosophy, 1805-1861
1970
Roger B. Stein, John Ruskin and Aesthetic Thought in America, 1840-1900, Cambridge, 1967
Stein
John Ruskin and Aesthetic Thought in America, 1840-1900
1967
Olmsted, "Public Parks," 17-20.
Olmsted
17
Public Parks
10
Zimmermann, Solitude, 104-106
Zimmermann
104
Solitude
Olmsted, "Public Parks," 23
Olmsted
23
Public Parks
George F. Chadwick, The Park and the Town: Public Landscapes in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, New York, 1966
Chadwick
The Park and the Town: Public Landscapes in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
1966
Christopher Hussey, The Picturesque; Studies in a Point of View, London, 1927
Hussey
The Picturesque; Studies in a Point of View
1927
Edward Malins, English Landscaping and Literature, London, 1966.
Malins
English Landscaping and Literature
1966
11
Olmsted, Notes, 42, 45-48, 106.
Olmsted
42
Notes
12
Olmsted, "Public Parks," 22-24
Olmsted
22
Public Parks
Notes, 46.
46
Notes
13
Olmsted, Notes, 43, 45, 46, 53, 60-61, 114.
Olmsted
43
Notes
14
Olmsted, Notes, General Plan, 53, 61, 56-60
Olmsted
General Plan
53
Notes
Olmsted to A. Hyatt, 24 March 1889
Zaitzevsky, Frederick Law Olmsted, 234, n. 50
Zaitzevsky
234
Frederick Law Olmsted
Schuyler, New Urban Landscape, 121-122, 124-125
Schuyler
121
New Urban Landscape
Kowksy, "Municipal Parks," 52-60.
Kowksy
52
Municipal Parks
15
Olmsted, Forty Years, 41-42.
Olmsted
41
Forty Years
16
Olmsted, Notes, 60-61
Olmsted
60
Notes
General Plan; Zaitzevsky, Frederick Law Olmsted, 77, 176-181
Zaitzevsky
77
Frederick Law Olmsted
16th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1890, 36-37.
36
16th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1890
17
9th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1883, 23
23
9th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1883
10th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1884, 18-19
18
10th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1884
11th Annual Park Commis- sioners' Report for 1885, 19.
19
11th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1885
18
12th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1886
12th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1886
14th Annual Park Commissioners' Reportfor 1888, 29
29
14th Annual Park Commissioners' Reportfor 1888
15th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1889, 44-47.
44
15th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1889
19
15th Annual Park Commissioners' Reportfor 1889, 47
47
15th Annual Park Commissioners' Reportfor 1889
17th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1892, 42-44
42
17th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31
1892
Boston Globe, 2 June 1891, 9; 3 July 1981, 1
2 June
9
Boston Globe
1891
Jamaica Plain News, 8 July 1899, 1
8 July
1
Jamaica Plain News
1899
Olmsted had long recommended a facility to lessen pressure on Franklin Park. Zaitzevsky, Frederick Law Olmsted, 78.
Olmsted
78
Frederick Law Olmsted
20
Stephen Hardy, How Boston Played: Sport, Recreation, and Com- munity, 1865-1915, Boston, 1982, 9, 158, 181
Hardy
158
9
How Boston Played: Sport, Recreation, and Community, 1865-1915
1982
Boston Morning journal, 22 April 1895
22 April
Boston Morning journal
1895
26th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1901, 8
8
26th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1901
27th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1905, 19
19
27th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1905
Jamaica Plain News, 8 July 1899.
8 July
Jamaica Plain News
1899
21
Blodgett, "Frederick Law Olmsted," 883-885
Blodgett
883
Frederick Law Olmsted
35th An- nual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1910, 6, 7- 8
6
35th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1910
Jamaica Plain News, 24 June 1911, 3, 5.
24 June
3
Jamaica Plain News
1911
22
35th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1910, 6, 7
6
35th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1910
36th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1911, 10-11
10
36th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1911
38th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1913, 6
6
38th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1913
39th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1914, 7, 9
7
39th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1914
42d Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1917, 52-53
52
42d Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1917
50th Annual Park Com- missioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1925, 3-4.
3
50th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1925
23
Jamaica Plain News, 14 October 1899
14 October
Jamaica Plain News
1899
Minutes of the Board of Commissioners of the Department of Parks of the City of Boston, 11 September 1899
Records of the Boston Parks Department, Boston City Hall
Jamaica Plain News, 16 May 1903
16 May
Jamaica Plain News
1903
Hardy, How Boston Played, 98.
Hardy
98
How Boston Played
24
Minutes of the Board of Commissioners of the Boston Park Department, 12 May 1890
George H. Sargent, "Golfing Around the Hub," Outing, XXXIV, May 1899, 131-132.
Sargent
May
131
XXXIV
Outing
1899
25
Minutes of the Boston City Council, 4 and 6 June 1889
Boston Globe, 5 July 1891, 9
5 July
9
Boston Globe
1891
Jamaica Plain News, 9 and 23 September 1899
9 September
Jamaica Plain News
1899
4 and 7 October 1899
4 November 1899
22d Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1897, 59-60.
59
Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1897
1897
26
15th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1889, 30-40
30
15th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for 1889
Who's Who in New England, 1916
Who
Who in New England
1916
27
Paul Boyer, Urban Masses and Moral Order in America: 1820-1920, Cambridge, 1978, 242-251
Boyer
242
Urban Masses and Moral Order in America: 1820-1920
1978
Minutes of the Park Commissioners, 23 April 1910
Hardy, How Boston Played, 97
Hardy
97
How Boston Played
Jamaica Plain News, 2 January 1909.
2 January
Jamaica Plain News
1909
28
Hardy, How Boston Played, 52-53
Hardy
52
How Boston Played
John R. Betts, "Mind and Body in Early American Thought," Journal of American History, LIV, March 1968, 787-80510.2307/1918070
787
Stephen A. Reiss, ed., The American Sporting Experience: A Historical Anthology of Sport in America, New York, 1984
Reiss
The American Sporting Experience: A Historical Anthology of Sport in America
1984
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "Saints and Their Bodies," At- lantic Monthly. I, March 1858, 82-95
Higginson
March
82
I
Atlantic Monthly
1858
Reiss, ed., American Sporting Experience.
Reiss
American Sporting Experience
29
Henry E. Howland, Scribner's Magazine, XVII, May 1895, 544, 545
Howland
May
544
XVII
Scribner's Magazine
1895
Peter Levine, A. G. Spalding and the Rise of Baseball: The Promise of American Sport, New York, 1985, 97-99, 109-112
Levine
97
A. G. Spalding and the Rise of Baseball: The Promise of American Sport
1985
Richard Harmond, "Progress and Flight: An Interpretation of the American Cycle Craze of the 1890s Reiss, ed., American Sporting Experience, 199-201
Harmond
Progress and Flight: An Interpretation of the American Cycle Craze of the 1890s
199
American Sporting Experience
Sylvester Baxter, "Economic and Social Influences of the Bicycle," The Arena, VI, October 1892, 580, 581, 582-583.
Baxter
October
580
VI
The Arena
1892
30
Jamaica Plain News, 10 June 1899, 2
10 June
2
Jamaica Plain News
1899
Jamaica Plain News, 3 June 1911, 8.
3 June
8
Jamaica Plain News
1911
31
Jamaica Plain News, 8 July 1899, 4
8 July
4
Jamaica Plain News
1899
Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, New Haven, 1967, 140, 141- 160.
Nash
140
Wilderness and the American Mind
1967
32
Schuyler, New Urban Landscape, 96-100, 136-138.
Schuyler
96
New Urban Landscape
33
36th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year EndingJanuary 31, 1911, 73, 74, 75, 76.
73
36th Annual Park Commissioners' Report for Year Ending January 31, 1911
34
Cranz, The Politics of Park Design, 228-230.
Cranz
228
The Politics of Park Design
This content is only available via PDF.