Please note, there is a new version of this website, at http://www.olmstedinbuffalo.com. It is substantially updated in content and structure, with more images, yet in keeping with the clean layout of this version. The older site will be kept available here for the time being, but it will not be updated. Please visit the new site!
Buffalo, New York is the home to America's oldest coordinated system of public parks and parkways, designed by the renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), in concert with his partner Calvert Vaux and other subsequent partners.
Olmsted's pioneering design for Buffalo consisted of three public grounds: a very large park featuring a naturalistic landscape; a public ceremonial space; and a military drill ground, all of which were connected by broad "parkways" which excluded all commercial traffic and extended the park experience throughout the city. Olmsted began his work in Buffalo in 1868, and continued to design public grounds for the rapidly expanding city's Board of Park Commissioners during the remainder of his career. After Olmsted's retirement due to ill health in 1895, his firm continued a relationship with Buffalo through 1915, when the city's form of government was altered and its independent Park Commission dissolved.
The Park - 1876.
Today the majority of Olmsted's designs in Buffalo are substantially intact and represent one of the largest bodies of work by the master landscape architect. The Olmsted designed portions of the Buffalo park system are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The original components of the Buffalo park system as designed by Olmsted and Vaux are:
Gala Water, The Park, about 1906.
Later Olmsted-designed additions to the park system are:
Grounds of The Parade, about 1880.
Frederick Law Olmsted also was involved in a number of other projects in and around Buffalo. He produced designs for parks which for various reasons the Park Board decided not to construct; and he undertook a number of projects in Buffalo which were unrelated to his work with the Board of Park Commissioners. He was active in designs in nearby cities, including the design of the Niagara Reservation at Niagara Falls, N.Y., Point Chautauqua community in Chautauqua County, N.Y., the Rochester, N.Y. public parks, and Montebello Park in St. Catharines, Ontario.
Frederick Law Olmsted's designs for the Buffalo Parks.
Very early stereo photographs of the parks, including the original Boat House in The Park, several views of the extravagent Parade House, and others. They show some remarkable details of the parks, their plantings and structures. Most of these views date from the late 1870's and the 1880's.
A set of postcards featuring views of the parks, published about 1910 by H. L. Woehler of Buffalo.
Additional historic postcard images of Buffalo's Olmsted parks.
What makes an "Olmsted Park" unique?
Suggestions for additional reading.
Some of the threats still facing the Buffalo Olmsted parks, and some opportunities for revivals.
Notes on the sources used in the creation of these pages.
Delaware Park Drive, about 1905.
Olmsted in Buffalo has been on the World Wide Web for over sixteen years, since August of 1996. It is the personal endeavor of the author and is not affiliated with, nor sponsored by, any organization, business, or governmental body.
(Last update: September 5, 2012.)
Copyright 1996-2012 Stanton M. Broderick