What is OlmstedOnline.org? Back to Top

OlmstedOnline.org is a web portal that brings together information about the landscape design, urban and regional planning work of the Olmsted firm. This information includes interactive maps, georeferenced original drawings, historic photographs and correspondence, navigational tools, and descriptions of the Olmsted work and its significant features. It is a resource that fosters education, appreciation and direct interaction with this significant legacy. OlmstedOnline.org assists park stewards, government agencies and the public with the restoration, maintenance and preservation planning for Olmsted-designed sites. How is the Project Funded explains why Washington State is the initial focus of the site.

Who is the National Association for Olmsted Parks (NAOP)? Back to Top

OlmstedOnline.org is a project of the National Association for Olmsted Parks, a coalition of design and preservation professionals, historic property and park managers, scholars, municipal officials, citizen activists and representatives of numerous Olmsted organizations around the United States. Founded in 1980, NAOP's mission is to advance Olmsted principles and legacy of irreplaceable parks and landscapes that revitalize communities and enrich people's lives. NAOP is a strong national advocate for preservation and advancement of the Olmsted legacy. Learn more about NAOP at olmsted.org.

How is the Project Funded? Back to Top

To initiate the project and launch the website, NAOP received a federal Transportation Enhancement grant administered by the Washington State Department of Transportation to display online maps, plans, photographs and correspondence for the Olmsted work in the Puget Sound and Washington State. The database underlying the website is able to grow to accommodate the full body of Olmsted work in North America and internationally. NAOP was also awarded a grant by the Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks to edit descriptive material for the Washington State portion of the project.

NAOP has also been fortunate to receive in-kind support from volunteers, who have selected documents for digitization, donated photographs, written site descriptions, and advised on all aspects of the program. See Projects and Partners for information about grant projects and local partners.

NAOP seeks partnerships and support to expand the project into new cities and regions. If you are interested in contributing data, expertise or financial support, please contact NAOP at info@naop.org or (202) 223-9113. You can also donate online by visiting our support page.

Do I Need Permission to Download Documents? Back to Top

OlmstedOnline.org allows users to download copies of documents for research and educational purposes. Anyone wishing to publish copies of documents or use them for commercial purposes must first contact the copyright owners (identified with the materials) for permission.

For more information, see the Fair Use Policy.

Where are the Original Olmsted Documents? Back to Top

In addition to the main repositories of the Olmsted Firms’ original documents described below, there may be additional collections located in other national, state or municipal archives, public libraries, academic institutions, and historic societies. As you find additional collections, please notify NAOP at info@naop.org.

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (FLONHS or ONHS)
The Olmsted Archives at the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, National Park Service contains close to 1,000,000 original documents related to the work of the Olmsted firm. These resources include drawings and plans, photographic negatives and prints, planting lists, lithographs, financial records, job correspondence, reports, and models, among other documents. Research appointments or requests for digital copies may be made by contacting the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site at:

99 Warren Street
Brookline, Massachusetts 02445
(617) 566-1689
Olmsted_Archive@nps.gov
www.nps.gov/frla

Library of Congress (LOC)
The Olmsted Papers and Records collection at the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress contains most of the firm’s written correspondence and administrative files which support and explain the drawing files held at Olmsted National Historic Site. It includes two important collections related to the work of the Olmsted firm: the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers and the Olmsted Associate Records Collection, 1863-1971. Detailed finding aids for both collections are available online. The Manuscript Division also houses the papers of Laura Wood Roper, Frederick Law Olmsted’s first biographer.

Researchers are advised to write or phone prior to visiting:

Manuscript Division
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, D.C. 20540-4680
(202) 707-5387
www.loc.gov/rr/mss

Frances Loeb Library at Harvard University Graduate School of Design (FLL)
The John Charles Olmsted Collection at the Frances Loeb Library includes some 5,000 letters John Charles Olmsted exchanged with his wife, Sophia White Olmsted (1862-1956), during the years 1898-1920. During this period Olmsted traveled for lengthy periods on firm business and this correspondence provides insight into the realities of both practice and domestic concerns. There are also correspondence files with professional colleagues, notecards, scattered manuscript materials of professional interest, as well as family papers, ephemera and photographs.

Researchers are advised to contact the Loeb Library prior to visiting:

Special Collections
Frances Loeb Library
Harvard University
48 Quincy, Gund Hall
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 496-1300

Where can I find more digital scans of the Original Olmsted Plans and Photographs? Back to Top

OlmstedOnline.org, as a curated website, will display selected plans and photographs. OlmstedOnline.org will also provide external links on the Project Details Page to digital archive collections associated with that job.

In the case of the Olmsted Archives at Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, the plans and photographs are being shared on Flickr after they are scanned. The photo albums and photo collections have been digitized and posted on the Olmsted Archives Flickr site. The scanning process of the 139,000 plans is underway. Olmsted Archives is adding new scans to the Flickr site frequently, so checking back on Flickr from time to time may be beneficial.

The plan lists on OlmstedOnline.org include the extant plans in the Olmsted Archives plan collection. If a plan of interest is not yet available on the Flickr site (as only a portion of the plans have, as yet, been digitized), contact Olmsted Archives at Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (FRLA_OlmstedArchives@nps.gov) to arrange to see a specific plan.

The Flickr site, which hosts the Olmsted Archives digital collection online, is organized to display the individual albums related to a job. The albums can have plans, photographs, photo albums or in some cases ephemera and there can be multiple albums per job. To find all the albums associated with a job, select View collections just below the upper banner of the Flickr site and scroll down through the 3500 plus job collections.

Using OlmstedOnline.org, the link to the Flickr website can be found in the right hand sidebar of the Project Details Page, labeled Olmsted Archives - digital collection courtesy of NPS Frederick Law Olmsted NHS. OlmstedOnline.org periodically updates its list of Flickr links. If a link does not show up on a Project Details Page, entering the job number (#xxxx) (no lead 0 needed) and job name, if known, in an internet search may provide a direct Flickr collection or album link for that job.

Link:

Olmsted Archives Flickr FAQ - for more detailed information about the Flickr site and its content.

Keyword searches look for terms in the Description text, so any word or phrase can be entered.

Descriptions are provided by NAOP as specific items and locales are curated. The Description of Plans, Documents and Images, when provided, will include the archive source number in [] if available, such as [photo album 03879-01-ph023] or [frlalith05950-05front]. So entering an archive source code in the Keyword box may help locate that item.

Projects - Keyword searches where Project Descriptions are provided can help in finding subprojects with other common names or related projects.

Plans - Only a few plans have added Descriptions, so Keyword search results will be limited.

Documents - Some Documents may be a published photo of a site and the Description text would include cultural landscape terms in {} as appropriate. See below under Images for terms. National Register documents available on OlmstedOnline.org can be searched by entering NR in Keyword box. Olmsted Firm digitized files linked on OlmstedOnline.org from the Library of Congress can be searched by entering the Job Number and entering “loc.gov” in Keyword box. Note: Include the Job Number because there are over 6000 LOC files linked on OlmstedOnline.org.

Images - For purposes of narrowing the set of images the Description includes bracketed text with certain terms typically used to describe a cultural landscape, such as {Vista - Vegetation - Circulation}. The terms are described below. Search results will only show exact matches of the Keyword text entered.

Keyword Terms

Spatial Organization - shows a relationship between spaces. Refers to the three-dimensional organization and patterns of spaces in a landscape. Both the functional and visual relationship between spaces is integral to the historic character of a property.

Vista - shows a view or vista from the site. Vistas show the natural landforms and features that provide context or setting for the site and typically have been framed by the site design.

Vista-Water - shows a view or vista of a natural body of water, such as a lake, sound or ocean.

Topography - illustrates the topography of the overall site or feature of the site. Topographic features may contribute to the creation of outdoor spaces, serve a functional purpose, or provide visual interest.

Vegetation - shows distinctive vegetation. Vegetation may derive its significance from historical associations, horticultural or genetic value, or aesthetic or functional qualities. It is a primary dynamic component of the landscape’s character.

Circulation - shows a circulation route, such as path, trail, driveway, parkway, boulevard or road. The character of circulation features is defined by factors such as alignment, width, surface and edge treatment, grade, materials, and infrastructure.

Circulation-Boulevard - shows a parkway or boulevard.

Water Feature - shows constructed water features. May be aesthetic as well as functional components of the landscape and include fountains, pools, cascades, irrigation systems, ponds, lakes, streams, and aqueducts.

Structure - structures are non-habitable, constructed features.

Site Furnishing - shows site furnishings or objects, such as sculptures, related to the site. These small-scale elements in the landscape may be functional, decorative, or both.

Building - shows a building or buildings as a prominent feature of the image or the relationship of the landscape to the building. Buildings have walls and roofs and are generally habitable.

Additional Terms Related to Images

  • aerial when image provides an aerial perspective
  • illustration when image is a sketch or illustration
  • photo when postcard is an actual photo
  • plan when image includes a plan, such as on an interpretive panel
  • text when image includes text, such as a photo album label, interpretive sign or plaque, but not just a descriptive title of image(s).
How do I research an Olmsted project? Back to Top

The Olmsted Firm was engaged in thousands of projects across the United States and Canada and in several other countries, spanning over one hundred years and nine different Olmsted firm names, starting with Olmsted & Vaux in 1858 and concluding with Olmsted Associates Landscape Architects in 1980. To understand the extent of the Olmsted firm involvement in any project requires finding the relevant correspondence, plans, photographs and related documents which may now be located in several repositories, the primary ones being the FL Olmsted National Historic Site (FLONHS) in Brookline, MA for plans, photographs, some correspondence and ephemera and the Manuscript Reading Room of the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, for the bulk of the correspondence (project files, personal correspondence and some ephemera) for both FLO, Sr and the various Olmsted firms. See below for more complete information about the holdings in these repositories. OlmstedOnline.org is intended to facilitate access to the digital resources available for most of these documents and repositories and is building connections to many other related archives as they bring material online.

To keep track of its vast practice, beginning in the 1880s, the Olmsted firm assigned a number to each of its projects. This Job Number was attached to all the critical documents concerning a project (correspondence, reports, photographs, plans, maps, etc.) and is usually the more reliable tool, rather than a name or place name, to follow the course of a commission. Client names were variably spelled or changed as a project progressed; and even early location names changed as jurisdictional boundaries were altered.

Finding a Job Number:
To find a Job Number in OlmstedOnline.org use either:

  • Explore the Map or
  • Advanced Search
Enter a name and/or locale, remembering that spelling variations or partial names may help. See below for details about using these OlmstedOnline.org search tools. For modern research, the Job Number is now a five-digit number with zeros added at the beginning of the original numbers used by the Olmsted Firm.

Of the projects assigned Job Numbers, the range of involvement varied widely. It might have involved minimal correspondence of a letter of inquiry or a simple survey plan but progressed no further with the Olmsted firm. Or it might be a complex project, spanning several decades and generations of firm members, generating a considerable amount of correspondence, hundreds of plans, photographs and other ephemera including articles in periodical literature of its era. Additionally, there are diverse landscapes that may claim an Olmsted design heritage, but turn out not to be Olmsted Firm commissions. Accessing the primary sources is the best way to resolve these questions and ongoing research continues to clarify the role and influence of the firm in numerous locales.

Using OlmstedOnline.org:
To reach the Projects Details Page, which provides the information and links related to an individual Olmsted firm project, use Explore the Map or Advanced Search (see instructions below). Explore The Map is a convenient tool to locate projects geographically and to see the quantity of nearby projects. Advanced Search provides a variety of ways to search using the information already known.

Note: If you know the five-digit Job Number for the project, a shortcut allows direct access to the Project Details Page by entering: https://www.olmstedonline.org/Job/Details/xxxxx. (Copy the link format and enter the job number in place of the five ‘x’s.) This shortcut also is a way to quickly move from one Project Details Page to another.

Using Explore the Map to find a project and its Project Details Page:

  • Search by project name or job number, or a location
  • Enter a location using City, ST (or just ST) (Note: Province abbreviation for Canada can be used, but for other countries use the countries full name)
  • Select a project type from the dropdown list to see red dots for that project type.
  • Roll over dots to see project detail boxes. If project type has been selected, only the red dots will have pop-up boxes. Deselect specific project type to activate the green dots.
    (Note: Zoom in until dots do not overlap to see all the jobs in your focus area.)
  • Select Learn More in pop-up box to go to Project Details Page for that project
    (Note: Quick Search on the Home Page zooms into Explore the Map using address information, including street names)

Using Advanced Search to find a project and its Project Details Page:

  • Use Search or Projects tabs to find a project by Job Number (if you know it) or Name (try partial name or alternate name as spellings may vary or the Olmsted project name is different from the current name)
    (Note: It is easiest to go to the Projects tab to narrow a search by Location and/or Type.)
  • A results list will appear and any results item can be clicked on to go to its item details page.
    (Note: Copying the results list into a spreadsheet makes it easy to create a list of the projects of interest with the live links to the Project Details Page.)
  • Using other research tabs in Advanced Search: See What Keywords Can Be Used in a Search? for information about using the Image and Document Search Tabs

Using a Project Details Page to learn about a project:
The Project Details Page includes:

  • Project Name (as well as Alternate Name(s) if added). Searches will find either name.
    (Note: If the Alternate Name is followed by [ORGO] that means that name is one of the original names assigned by the Olmsted firm in their files. The main Project Name shown may then be a more familiar name or current name that might typically be used in a search.)
  • Dates currently are noted for Washington State jobs.
    (Note: The date range is drawn from the correspondence dates for the project.)
  • Project Type is one of 14 Project Types established by the editors of the Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted and expanded based on Olmsted Brothers and Olmsted Associate records. (Note: The Project Type is the original project type at the time of the Olmsted work on the project. If a project site has changed uses, the current use may not correlate with the assigned Project Type. There may also be mistakes in the original assignment of Project Type.)
  • Location is the City and State or Province drawn from the Olmsted records or updated to reflect the current jurisdiction. It may include a street address if added by NAOP. Alternate Locations may show location names noted in the Olmsted records [ORGO], as well as additional entrances or project locations, as the website data is expanded.
  • Key Image, if shown, is also included in the Gallery and the Image list.
  • Synopsis is typically a brief description of the Olmsted project, focusing on the Olmsted firm role. For the long descriptions, click on “more” below the text.
  • To View Plans, Documents & Images provides dropdown lists of the content with quantity noted on the right of the bar.
    • Plans include the list of extant plans at the Olmsted Archives at FLONHS. (Note: Since this list was uploaded from ORGO in 2013, FLONHS in rare circumstances may have identified a few additional plans, so it is also worth checking ORGO when doing an exhaustive search.) The list also may include plans from other archives with the archive initials appended to the plan number, such as 28-sh1_SMA. A camera means the plan is resident on OlmstedOnline.org. Plans, if scanned by Olmsted Archives, can be found by clicking on the project’s Olmsted Archives collection link in the right-hand sidebar.
    • Documents may include a variety of materials related to a project, both historical and scholarly, such as National Register nominations as well as project level links to the Olmsted Firm Subject and Job Files held at the Library of Congress. The Documents may be resident on OlmstedOnline.org or may only have an external link. Photos of plans or sketches, as well as lithograph plans, are included under Documents because they are catalogued separately from Plans in ORGO. Photo Album covers may be included if it is useful to describe the content.
    • Images include historical and current day photographs as well as postcard images. In the Gallery these can be searched across all images using Keyword Terms as described in FAQs: What Keywords Can be Used in a Search? The entry needs to be exact to properly search. The project-related photo albums and photographs in the Olmsted Archives can be viewed by clicking on the Olmsted Archives collection link in the right-hand sidebar of the Project Details Page (see below).
  • Views [DATA] [MAP] lets you toggle between the Data content for a project and a Map view. When plans are geo-referenced (see examples in Seattle - Job 02690) you can view the overlays and adjust the transparency. Using the satellite view is most effective. Currently examples of plan overlays are available for some Washington state projects.
  • Map box shows the location if known with a green dot (which disappears when selecting [MAP]) Note: There are a few glitches with the mapping location, so please let us know if you find an error and can provide the correct location.
  • LINKS provides external access to additional plans and images for the project held at the Olmsted Archives Flickr collection. Links may also be included to other digital collections and to additional project information. More background on the LINKS can be found in Glossary & Links.

Using Other Resources:

Olmsted Archives

ORGO
When doing in-depth project research, check ORGO for the lists of the materials contained in the Olmsted Archives and the related collections at the Library of Congress (see notes below). Also ORGO notes if there is Olmsted correspondence housed at the Olmsted Archives rather than at the Library of Congress. These typically include correspondence files post 1949 as well as files from the western office. OlmstedOnline.org focuses on digitally available materials, so checking the Olmsted Archives Finding Aids and contacting the archives directly will be necessary for materials not yet digitized, such as the correspondence held by the Olmsted Archives. Library of Congress Olmsted correspondence from the Series A, Letterbooks, 1884-1899, which are organized chronologically rather than by job number, is listed in ORGO with the job materials and provides author, recipient and date, making it easier to locate the digital version from the Library of Congress.

ORGO lists materials either at the file level or at the item level in the following order:

  • Series: JOB# 0xxxx
  • File Unit: 0xxxx PLAN.
  • File Unit: 0xxxx PHOTOGRAPH. (photo albums)
  • File Unit: 0xxxx CORRESPONDENCE. Jobname, location, folder #, job#, year range (files at LOC)
  • File Unit: 0xxxx CORRESPONDENCE. Planting List
  • File Unit: 0xxxx RECORD. (includes Plan Index Cards)
  • Item: 0xxxx CORRESPONDENCE. LETTER
  • Item: 0xxxx CORRESPONDENCE. REPORT
  • Item: 0xxxx PHOTOGRAPH.
  • Item: 0xxxx PLAN. title. date. Plan#:

Library of Congress - Manuscript Division

Frederick Law Olmsted Papers
The LOC Manuscript Division holds a collection of the papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, which consists of approximately 24,000 items (roughly 47,300 images), most of which were digitized from the 60 reels of previously produced microfilm. The collection, spanning from 1777 to 1952, with the bulk dating 1838-1903, contains materials about both Olmsted's private and professional life. The digital collection is organized in files, not as individual items.

The primary Series related to Olmsted firm projects are:

  • Correspondence, 1838-1928, which includes personal and business letters, including letterbooks from 1860 to 1865, and general correspondence from 1838 to 1928, arranged chronologically in files; and
  • Subject File, 1857-1952, with correspondence, maps, drawings, reports, newspaper clippings, printed matter, and other papers relating principally to Olmsted's practice of landscape architecture and his partnerships and firms, arranged alphabetically by subject and chronologically therein.
    Note: When these files relate to a single job number, a link is provided in OlmstedOnline.org under Documents on the Projects Details Page for that project.

The other six Series (Journals, Speeches and Writings, Miscellany, 1975 Addition, 1996 Addition, and Oversize) can be searched through the LOC Finding Aid for the papers.

Olmsted Associates Records
The LOC Manuscript Division holds a collection of the records of the Olmsted Associates that dates from 1863 to 1971 (bulk 1884-1950) and consists of about 170,000 items in 648 containers plus 13 oversized boxes. Much of the collection has been reproduced onto 532 reels of microfilm. A finding aid for the collection is available over the internet through the Manuscript Division’s website at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/eadmss.ms001018.3 (.pdf). The microfilm copies of the series of Letterbooks, 1884-1899, and Job Files, 1863-1971, have been digitized and are presented online in “The Olmsted Associates Records at the Library of Congress” at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/collmss.ms000086.

  • Series A, Letterbooks, 1884-1899, documenting the firm's work from 1884 to 1899 represent 76 volumes of letterbooks which were reproduced onto 42 reels of microfilm. ORGO (as noted above) includes a listing of the project related correspondence found in the Letterbooks.
  • Series B, Job Files, 1863-1971, consists of the firm's job files numbered 1 to 9858. OlmstedOnline.org provides project level links to the LOC Job Files from the Project Details Page listing of Documents, organized at the file folder level.

The LOC finding aid also describes the remaining Series of the collection which have not yet been microfilmed or digitized and include General Correspondence, Business Records, Family Papers, and Scrapbooks. These series are available for study only in the Library of Congress.

Other Archives

There is a wealth of materials related to the Olmsted Firms’ work, spanning over 100 years, so fully researching a project requires checking many archival sources, both nationally and locally. OlmstedOnline.org is intended to help in the discovery process. Please let NAOP know about additional useful materials that you find which may benefit other users of OlmstedOnline.org.