The year 2022 marks the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted—landscape architect, journalist, social reformer, and creative genius who transformed the American landscape. During his life, Olmsted completed hundreds of landscape projects ranging from parks, parkways, and institutional campuses to urban and suburban areas and planned communities. While his physical landscapes are remarkable, the values behind them are equally important. Olmsted believed that parks and landscapes are essential public spaces, belonging to all Americans. His democratic vision of public parks, and his insistence that human health and civic engagement depend on them, resonate more than ever today.

Ellen Biddle Shipman

The work of Frederick Law Olmsted inspired many to rethink ideas around access to land and nature, and created a larger understanding of and appreciation for landscape design and landscape architects in this country. Among them, Ellen Biddle Shipman (1866–1950) was one of the most prominent and prolific incorporating nature on a personal level into every space available. This idea is seen at Longue Vue where garden spaces are seen as “the most essential part of a home.”

The Oak Spring Garden Foundation, in partnership with the National Association for Olmsted Parks and Olmsted 200, is proud to celebrate Olmsted’s birth with this exhibition, which focuses on Olmsted’s life story, his major landscape commissions, and their relevance for contemporary society. Also highlighted is Olmsted’s trailblazing philosophy about the natural world and how to shape it for public benefit.