Olmsted found a divided Boston when he arrived in 1870. Over the next decades, he launched a civic experiment[5]still ongoing—to unite it.

Whether by foot, horseback, carriage, or (following the 1890s craze for bicycles) on two wheels, visitors could follow the circuit of parks and parkways on Olmsted’s linear system that connected multiple Boston neighborhoods over 5.5 miles. Here, women speed ahead of horses through the Forrest Hills Entrance to Franklin Park. Image courtesy JoAnn Robinson. Public Collection

Adapted from “Do Beautiful Parks Strengthen Democracy?” by Garrett Dash Nelson

Olmsted’s parks aren’t merely pretty places—they’re social arguments. They are some of the most important testing grounds for American democracy in action, places which express a confidence in our ability to recognize and promote the common good.

Today, the American landscape is again in transition, placing incredible strain on the fabric of mutual purpose that holds us together. At such a time, we ought to think about how to reinvoke the principles of an Olmstedian vision, in terms of neighborhoods, cities, and regions that reflect the collective enterprise of a complex society. We still long for good places to live: places of beauty, places of neighborliness, places of diversity and possibility. Olmsted’s parks are such places. They are a treasured and quintessential part of the American landscape: not merely for what they look like, but because of whom they belong to.

Visitors to the second annual Boston Art & Music Soul Festival (BAMSFest) enjoy over 30 performing and visual artists in Franklin Parks historic Playstead, 2019. Image still from video by BAMS Fest, Inc.

NOW:Franklin Park, a shared space for joy and justice, will be renewed to serve today’s users. Add your voice to the planning process.

Olmsted 200

Greater Boston’s Olmsted Bicentennial is a proud part of a national effort

Emerald Necklace Conservancy
350 Jamaicaway, Boston, MA 02130
(617) 522-2700

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
99 Warren Street, Brookline, MA 02445
(617) 566-1689


Are you interested?