Olmsted Park and Parkway System - Table of Contents
Planning the Niagara Reservation
by Charles E. Beveridge
Editor of the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, Department of History, The American University, Washington, D. C. The twelve-volume series of the Olmsted Papers is published by the Johns Hopkins University Press
Reprinted with permission from the Buscaglia-Castellani Art Gallery of Niagara University. Originally published in "The Distinctive Charms of the Niagara Scenery: Frederick Law Olmsted and the Niagara Reservation," the catalog for the 1985 Niagara Reservation art exhibit.
Catalog Companion Article:
In Defense of Niagara: Frederick Law Olmsted and the Niagara Reservation by Francis R. Kowsky
The footnotes in the original publication have been inserted into the main body of the text (brown type).
Click on photos to enlarge
Frederick Law Olmsted
Goat Island Bridge postcard
Goat Island Bridge postcard
Bridge to Second Sister Island postcard
Bridge Between Second and third Sister Islands postcard
Thid Bridge, Across to Outer island of the Three Sisters postcard
Bridge to Third Sister Island, Niagara Falls postcard
Luna Island Bridge postcard
The beauty of America's natural scenery played an important role in the formation of Frederick Law Olmsted's aesthetic sense, and in the development of his style of landscape design. Olmsted's earliest childhood memories included riding before his father's saddle along the meadows of the Connecticut River valley, and when he was still a child his family's summer "tours in search of the picturesque"took them through the Green and White mountains of northern New England, and across New York State as far as Niagara Falls. This early experience taught him the powerful effect that scenery could have, and led him to value, "not so much grand or sensational scenery" as that "of a more domestic order" that could be "looked upon contemplatively and which is provocative of musing moods."
Frederick Law Olmsted (hereafter FLO) to Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer (draft, June 1893).
As he developed his theory of landscape design, Olmsted became convinced that scenery had a particularly beneficial effect on the human psyche, an effect both relaxing and restorative. Drawing from his own experience and from extensive reading, he concluded that scenery acted most powerfully when it worked by an unconscious process. For this reason, he excluded from his parks, as completely as he could, works of sculpture, architecture, or gardeners' art art that were created for their beauty as individual objects, to be examined and admired as specimens of artistic achievement. He designed his parks as "passages of scenery" through which visitors were led by gently curving walks and drives with minimal demand on the conscious mind. For Olmsted, the gift of soothing relaxation was the highest contribution that the art of landscape architecture could provide to mankind. Moreover, the development of aesthetic sensibility in the public at large, leading to increased awareness of subtleties of texture, color, and form, was one of the changes he hoped to see as a result of widespread popular education in nineteenth-century America.
For further discussion of this question, see Charles E. Beveridge, "Frederick Law Olmsted's Theory of landscape Design," Nineteenth Century vol. 3, no. 2 (Summer 1977), pp. 38-43.
Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Tree Grove in California
Olmsted applied these views in his professional treatment of areas whose scenic character was spectacular, awesome, and in the terminology of the day, "Sublime." This was clearly the case in the two most important scenic reservations with which he was involved, the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Tree Grove in California, and the Niagara Falls area in New York State. The impressive size of their natural features drew most visitors to Yosemite and Niagara, but at both places Olmsted discovered scenery with a richness and lushness that displayed the "superabundant creative power infinite resource, and liberality of Nature," the "profuse careless utterance of Nature" that was for him the most impressive quality of scenery.
FLO to Ignaz Pilat, September 6,1863, in Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and Theodora Kimball, eds., Frederick Law Olmsted, Landscape Architect, 1822-1903 (Forty Years of Landscape Architecture), vol. 2, p. 343.
The rich green of vegetation in Yosemite Valley formed a striking contrast to the dust and dryness of the midsummer Sierra foothills outside, while the profusion of trees and shrubs at Niagara, constantly watered by clouds of mist, created there a lushness usually associated with much warmer climes.
Olmsted's Yosemite experience began in the fall of 1864 while he was serving as general manager of the Mariposa Estate and living in the settlement of Bear Valley, thirty miles southwest of Yosemite Valley. In September of that year the governor of California appointed him a commissioner of the reservation recently ceded to the state by the Federal government. Olmsted was given primary responsibility for developing a management program for the reservation. As one of his first acts, he hired the geologist Clarence King and the government surveyor James T. Gardner to survey and map the reservation. He also drew up an extensive report that developed a justification for creating public scenic reservations, analyzed the scenic beauty of Yosemite, and outlined a program for managing the site.
The importance of preserving the scenery of Yosemite Valley by governmental protection was already evident. Although the first white man had entered the valley only a few years before, squatters were lumbering the trees there, and along the road to the reservation patent medicine advertisements already defaced picturesque outcroppings of rock. Realizing how easily a few men could destroy such a place for their own material gain, Olmsted was willing to use the power of the government to protect areas of scenic beauty and to manage them for the enjoyment of the public. Such measures were part of his larger vision for the United States as "a whole people whose system of voluntary education embraces . . . not only schools of rudimentary knowledge, but common enjoyments for all classes in the higher realms of art, letters, science, social recreations and enjoyments."
Frederick Law Olmsted, preliminary report on the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Tree Grove reservation (1865).
The greatest value of Yosemite, Olmsted believed, lay not so much in the bold and barren sublimity of the spires of the Three Brothers or the massive tower of El Capitan, as in features that had a more restful and soothing effect on their viewers. The uniqueness of the valley lay in its combination of great cliffs with the quiet beauty of foliage and flowing streams. There he found "a series of groves of magnificent trees, and meadows of the most varied, luxuriant and exquisite herbage, through which meanders a broad stream of the clearest water, rippling over a pebbly bottom and eddying among banks of ferns and rushes; sometimes narrowed into sparkling rapids and sometimes expanding into placid pools which reflect the wondrous heights on either side." The experience of Yosemite should not, he felt, consist only of spectacular views of monumental rock pinnacles: rather, it should be a continuous one –a succession of scenes in which the peaks were not viewed alone, but were part of compositions in which the foreground of green meadow, flashing river, dense fern-brake and luxuriant foliage played a crucial part.
In the rugged country between the valley and the Big Tree Grove of giant sequoias, Olmsted emphasized similar scenic qualities. Here the attraction was not so much nearby scenery "of grand character" but rather "the more secluded charms of some of its glens." In the recesses of old water channels he noted "tender plants of rare and peculiar loveliness," including delicate ferns, soft mosses, and brilliantly colored lichens. Botanic richness as well as delicacy of plant beauty contributed to the unique landscape of the area: the botanist John Torrey told Olmsted that along the main trail of the reservation there were some six hundred species of plants. In a few acres of meadow, Torrey had found -and named–over three hundred plant species native to California. The reservation must serve to protect these native plants while safeguarding the scenery.
For the features of the reservation that most visitors came to view and admire the cliffsides of the valley and the great sequoias Olmsted expressed appreciation only when he saw them rendered mysterious and indistinct through the action of moonlight, campfires, clouds and mist. In this respect he remained true to his firm belief that "the term scenery does not apply to any field of vision in which all that is to be seen is clear and well-defined in outline. It must contain either considerable complexity of light and shadow near the eye, or obscurity of detail further away."
FLO, manuscript fragments.
Olmsted proposed to manage the Yosemite reservation by prohibiting the grazing and lumbering that threatened the vegetation of the area, while a simple circuit road and a few paths in the valley would provide access without being intrusive. A major part of the appropriation of $37,000 that he sought was for improving the road to the nearest steamboat access point at Stockton, over one hundred miles away. Unfortunately for his plan, several of his fellow commissioners were members of the California Geological Survey and feared that his proposals would divert funds they needed to complete their work After he returned permanently to the East in the fall of 1865 they suppressed his report. His plan for the reservation was not implemented, and his rationale for creation of public scenic reservations did little to influence public policy until his son, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., drew liberally from the Yosemite report of 1865 when he wrote a section of the enabling legislation for the National Park Service of 1916.
Robert Shankland, Steve Mather of the National Parks (New York, 1970), p.101; Alfred Runte, National Parks: The American Experience (Lincoln [Nebraska] and London, 1979), pp. 103-04.
In effect, Olmsted's role at Yosemite ended when he returned to New York in the fall of 1865, little more than a year after he became a commissioner. The story was far different with his next project of scenic preservation, at Niagara. For one thing, his interest in the place was of much longer standing. He had first visited Niagara in 1828, at the age of six, while living with an uncle in Geneseo, and he returned at intervals thereafter. Unlike Yosemite, where he entered the picture only after the reservation had been established, he was from the outset one of the leaders in the twenty-year battle for a scenic reservation at the Falls. His efforts received a better reward, too: with Calvert Vaux he drew up the landscape plan for the reservation and wrote the major part of the report explaining the plan. Throughout his involvement with Niagara, Olmsted approached questions of scenic value in the same way he had at Yosemite.
Despite the fact that the Falls of Niagara, more than any other scene in America, were supposed to awe the beholder with their size and power, his discussion of the place dealt primarily with other qualities of scenery that occurred in association with the Falls. As he expressed it in his final statement on the subject, the reservation had great "beauty of a kind depending on refinement and delicacy, and subtle qualities of natural elements of scenery, and these largely apart from the actual cataract." It possessed "beauty of a kind in which the nearness to the eye of illumined spray and mist and fleeting waters, and of intricate disposition of leaves, with infinitely varied play of light and shadow, refractions and reflections, and much else that is undefinable in conditions of water, air and foliage, are important parts."
Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, General Plan for Improvement of the Niagara Reservation (New York, 1887), p. 21.
Olmsted's first opportunity to state his views at length came in 1879, when he helped to prepare the special report of the New York State Survey on the preservation of the scenery at Niagara Falls. His collaborator was James T. Gardner, now director of the State Survey, whom Olmsted had hired to survey the Yosemite reservation in 1864.
In their report, Olmsted and Gardner set out to describe the threats to the beauty of Niagara and to define the area that the state should reserve. The American rapids above the Falls, they found, had suffered most from the encroachments of men. Bath Island, in the midst of the rapids, was covered with a pulp mill, sheds and outbuildings, while the mill's wing dams and ice barriers disfigured the rapids above. On the eastern shore of the rapids they found that "In place of the pebbly shore, the graceful ferns and trailing vines of former days, one now sees a blank stone wall with sewer-like openings through which tail races discharge; some timber crib work bearing in capitals a foot high the inscription, 'Parker's Hair Balsam;' then further up stream, more walls and wing dams." Further back stood a great array of buildings, ranging from "glaring white hotels" to "an indescribable assortment of miscellaneous rookeries, fences and patent medicine signs." (fig.5, cat. no. 17)
"Report of the Director," New York (State). State Survey, Special Report . . . on the Preservation of the Scenery at Niagara Falls, and Fourth Annual Report on the Triangulation of the State. For the Year 1879 (Albany, 1880), pp. 20-21.
It was true, Gardner and Olmsted conceded, that none of these developments reduced the grandeur of the Falls themselves, but they argued that the unique quality of the scenery of Niagara depended as much on the rapids as the Falls, and as much on foliage as on the sight of water. To strengthen that claim, Olmsted submitted some additional "Notes" in which he tried to state the case more strongly. In earlier years, he said, most people who came to the Falls stayed for several days and spent much time exploring the area on foot, visiting and revisiting favorite spots and postponing the day of departure. This was the kind of immersion in the scenery, letting it work its soothing magic by a gradual and unconscious process, that Olmsted valued so highly. Now, visitors came instead for one day and were "put through" the sights in carriages. They saw the most spectacular views of the Falls, but experienced little of the other equally unique and even more pleasurable elements of the place. What they missed, in particular, was the experience of viewing the rapids in association with the lush foliage along their banks.
As evidence, Olmsted cited the testimony of a number of visitors who were attuned to the various elements that made up the scenery of Niagara. He quoted the English gardener William Robinson, whose concept of the "wild garden" strongly influenced his own use of flowers in landscape designs. "The noblest of nature's gardens that I have yet seen," Robinson wrote, "is that of the surroundings and neighborhood of the Falls of Niagara. Grand as are the colossal Falls, the Rapids and the course of the river for a considerable distance above and below possess more interest and beauty." Both Robinson and the American botanist Asa Gray testified that Goat Island, between the Canadian and American Falls, had a greater variety of vegetation than any equal space of ground in Europe or in America east of the Sierra Nevada. Olmsted added that in his travels from one end of the Appalachians to the other he had never seen the same quality of forest beauty that once was common in the Niagara area and could still be found on Goat Island. The lushness of the shrubs and vines on the cliffsides of the gorge were exceptional, too, he pointed out –always moist and made dense by the pruning action of freezing mist in winter. "All these distinctive qualities," he concluded, "the great variety of the indigenous perennials and annuals, the rare beauty of the old woods, and the exceeding loveliness of the rock foliage,–I believe to be a direct effect of the Falls, and as much a part of its majesty as the mist-cloud and the rainbow." While certain measures should be taken to preserve the vegetation below the Falls, he observed, the important view to save was that of the rapids and their frame of foliage.
"Notes by Mr. Olmsted," Ibid., pp. 27-31.
Gardner and Olmsted urged that the State immediately buy Goat Island, the eastern shore of the rapids and the bluff overlooking the American Falls, and take steps to reserve the cliff edge from the Falls to the suspension bridge downstream. The purpose of the reservation, and Olmsted made the point time and time again in the ensuing years, was to provide for the simplest enjoyment of natural scenery. This required the removal of buildings that disfigured the banks of the American rapids. It also called for return of the bluff at Prospect Point to a more natural condition than that recently devised by its owner, who had created a whole series of diversions with which to entertain visitors. Olmsted was most anxious to secure a large area near the point in order to form "a distinct, capacious well arranged ante-room to the American reserved ground" for structures and functions that might otherwise be intruded on Goat Island. The problem was to restore the scenery and at the same time provide for the large crowds that would swarm over the bluffs and the island. "I feel," Olmsted wrote Gardner in the fall of 1879, ". . . that if not the most difficult problem in landscape architecture to do justice to, it is the most serious–the furthest above shop work–that the world has yet had."
FLO to James T. Gardner, October 3, 1879, James Terry Gardner Papers, New York State Library, Albany, N. Y.
Much of the analysis presented by Olmsted and Gardner in the 1879 State Survey report was spread further by the writings of J. B. Harrison, whom Olmsted and Charles Eliot Norton enlisted to write for the newspapers on Niagara in the early 1880s. Olmsted's next opportunity to put forward his views on the subject came in 1880s when he and his former partner Calvert Vaux were selected by the commissioners to prepare a plan for the reservation.
The main point that Olmsted and Vaux sought to establish in their plan for the Niagara reservation was that nothing "of an artificial character" should be introduced there. To support their view, they cited the fears expressed during debates over the reservation that the area would be prettified and made unnatural. Olmsted and Vaux made clear that they wanted restoration of something resembling the original scenery where it had been destroyed, and preservation of it thereafter. "What is mainly important," they urged, "is that the one purpose for which the State invites the Reservation to be visited–namely, the enjoyment of certain passages of natural scenery of a distinctive character–shall plainly control all the arrangements it makes."
Olmsted and Vaux, General Plan for the Improvement of the Niagara Reservation, p. 26.
It was particularly important to dedicate all of Goat Island to that central purpose. Any offer to place a costly object of art, such as a large statue, on the island, they warned, should meet with as firm a refusal as an offer "to stock the Island with poison ivy or with wolves or bears."
The problem that made Niagara so challenging for Olmsted was that of preserving scenery in areas subject to heavy use. "The great question," as he put it, ". . . is how can the natural scenery suitable to Niagara Falls be restored and maintained against the riotous actions of a mob unconscious of wrong purposes and indignant at obvious constraints upon what it regards as harmless conduct!" He hoped to control the flow of people whose constant treading had already begun to destroy the beauties of the Sister Islands in the Canadian rapids and of Luna Island overlooking the American Falls. "I have seen a great vigorous oak tree killed in two years by the trampling of the ground over its roots," he explained; "No turf in our summer climate will remain in any spot where a hundred footsteps have fallen in rapid succession."
FLO to Howard Potter, March 16, 1883.
Although he expected that there would be a keepers' force adequate to prevent willful destruction of the scenery (such as cutting shrubs and saplings for walking sticks), he intended to prevent other destructive practices by the arrangement of walks, banks, and plantings. Subtly directed by these physical arrangements, he hoped, Niagara's visitors would be moved to make proper use of the reservation. Part of Olmsted and Vaux's plan to protect Goat Island involved use of the upper grove in Prospect Park as a visitors center. There weary travelers could rest and eat before entering the scenic parts of the reservation. Their good humor thus restored, they would be more thoughtful of others and less resentful of restrictions. In the rest of the reservation Olmsted and Vaux wished to exclude all structures for activities, including the taking of refreshments, that could in any way interfere with the prime purpose of enjoying the scenery.
Two shelters from rain were to be the only buildings on Goat Island. They also sought to reduce to a minimum the intrusion of carriage roads and large concourses for carriages.
Goat Island should be a place for walking, since only by exploring it on foot could visitors experience its special charm. Moreover, the scenery along the rapids on both sides of Goat Island might well be destroyed if carriage roads came too close to the water. Their solution was to introduce a walking path along the route of the old carriage drive and keep the new drive around the island a minimum of fifty feet from the shore. As in their parks, Olmsted and Vaux planned an extensive system of wide, well-drained and smooth-surfaced walks that could accommodate large numbers of people and lead them through the scenery with a minimum of difficulty or distraction.
To increase the pleasure of contemplating the rapids, they planned sites for nearly six hundred linear feet of stone seats on Goat and Bath islands, supplemented by an additional four hundred feet of them on Prospect Point and the mainland shore. The principal carriage views of the rapids would be from the "Riverway" to be constructed between Prospect Point and Old French Landing. To protect that view, Olmsted deliberately warned against a proposal to build a new bridge further upstream. The view of the rapids from the mainland end of the existing bridge to Bath Island, he observed, was most impressive: "there is, indeed," he declared, "nothing to compare with it in all the world." Accordingly, he warned that "no possible form of bridge could be placed in the position suggested that would not greatly injure it."
Olmsted and Vaux, General Plan for the Improvement of the Niagara Reservation, p. 37.
At the time that Olmsted and Vaux were devising their plan for the American reservation, the Canadians acted to reserve their side of the gorge. Olmsted was anxious to have the two reservations planned in a unified way, and hoped to prepare the design for both of them. He was particularly anxious to do so, since he feared that public sentiment in Ontario favored "a garden park character rather than a forest scenic in character." From that it would be easy to drift toward a "Coney Island Big Elephant affair" with all kinds of extraneous facilities and entertainments. As Olmsted had warned in his report on the New York reservation, "Once the reason for excluding decorative detail is lost sight of, there is nothing to hinder the introduction of any amount of it, thus bringing about the gradual transformation of the Reservation into an affair of the sumptuous park and flower-garden order, than which nothing would be more deplorable."
Ibid., p. 7; FLO to Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, May 18, 1887.
The commissioners of the Queen Victoria Niagara Falls Park agreed in July of 1887 to consult with Olmsted concerning their plans, and he met with them in mid-August. The preservation of Goat Island, in particular, depended on the availability of good carriage views of the Falls from the Canadian reservation. Visitors must be willing to take their carriages there instead of thronging to Goat Island and the edge of Prospect Point, but the Canadians were planning to set their road back more than a hundred yards from the viewing points at the edge of the cliff. Olmsted urged, apparently with some success, that they locate the road much closer to the gorge than was being planned.
FLO to C.S. Gzowski, August 15,1887, Olmsted Associates Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, vol. Al, pp. 944-52; C.S. Gzowski to FLO, July 28, 1887, Olmsted Associates Records, job folder no. 6054, box B326.
The main responsibility for writing the report for the New York reservation fell to Olmsted, and he agonized over it as he sought to clarify the particular problems of the place and to present the reasons for his design. He told a friend that he was more interested in the problem of Niagara than any other living man, but lamented, "l can no more write what is in my mind about it than a crow can sing." Typically, too, he worked on the report right up until the last minute. Just as the time to make the report finally arrived in September of 1887, the meeting of the commissioners was postponed. "He worried a good deal over the opening of the report," Olmsted's stepson and partner John C. Olmsted wrote Vaux, "and was rather 'cut up about the postponement of the meeting. Being all primed and cocked he wanted to fire. Then, too, he had been working every night and getting but little sleep saying to himself that it would be all over on Tuesday and thinking that he could stand it till then. He can't take writing easily. He must worry over it till the moment it is delivered and he can alter no more."
FLO to Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, May 17, 1887; John C. Olmsted to Calvert Vaux, September 22, 1887.
The commissioners met soon after, and Olmsted was freed of the burden of reworking the report. Its publication marked the end of his important involvement in Niagara matters, nearly twenty years after he first took them up.
Vaux and Radford
As for the realization of the plan, Olmsted was willing to leave the construction work to Vaux and his partner George Kent Radford. Vaux was also eager to provide a professional opportunity for his son Downing Vaux, an architect. Under the direction of superintendent of the reservation Thomas Welch, who had played an important part in the campaign for its creation, construction began immediately. The first tasks were removal of the obnoxious buildings along the rapids and on Bath Island and protection of banks on both the mainland and island shores. At first the work was slowed by lack of funds, but beginning in 1891 the state legislature made annual appropriations for construction. By 1895, the year of Vaux's death and Olmsted's retirement, $110,000 had been appropriated. Intensive construction continued until the season of 1901/02, when total expenditure reached $352,000, or approximately the sum that Olmsted and Vaux had projected in 1887.
This and the following information concerning the construction of the Niagara reservation is taken principally from New York (State). Commissioners of the State Reservation at Niagara, annual reports number 1 (for 1883/84) through number 19 (for 1901/02); "Map of land proposed to be taken by the Commissioners of the State Reservation at Niagara for Preserving the Scenery of the Falls of Niagara" (1883), published in the first annual report; four plans of the reservation as constructed by January 1903, published in the nineteenth annual report; and the lithographed plan "General Plan for the Improvement of the State Reservation at Niagara" published as part of Olmsted and Vaux's report of 1887.
The construction those funds paid for, however, was only in part the improvements that Olmsted and Vaux had outlined in their report and plan of 1887. Vaux was directly involved in the work, but did not have final authority concerning the improvements to be made. This was vested in the commissioners and their chief executive officer, Thomas Welch. During 1891 and 1892, Vaux and Radford surveyed the route of the new carriage drive on Goat Island. However, there was "such a clamor" at the idea of setting the drive well back from the shore that they had to modify the plan of 1887 in that respect.
George Kent Radford to John C. Olmsted, January 14, 1892.
Moreover, the system of paths and drives constructed on Goat Island was far less extensive than Olmsted and Vaux had proposed, while the arrangement of walks and drives along the mainland shore was simpler than in their plan and lacked the scattered groves that created a number of sequestered places with seats for viewing the rapids. The places for stone seats that Olmsted and Vaux had carefully designed for viewing the onrushing torrent on the shore of Bath Island were not constructed, and Prospect Park never achieved the coherence they had planned for it. Carriages were given greater access to Prospect Point than the plaza overlooking the river and the single access drive to the inclined railway building provided in the plan of 1887. Without that drive, the separation of the upper grove as reception area from the lower grove as entrance into the scenery of the reservation was incompletely defined.
Olmsted and Vaux had provided for no water features except the magnificent rapids themselves, while the mainland section of the reservation as constructed had several other water themes. A pond was placed on the site of an old illuminated fountain on Prospect Point where Olmsted and Vaux had planned a grove of trees. Then, too, the 1887 plan had provided for filling in the raceway and wing dams on the mainland, replacing them with a heavily planted natural shoreline. Instead, part of the old mill race was allowed to remain, running parallel to the rapids and providing an incongruous accompaniment to them. The long stone wing dam extending upstream from the entrance to the raceway at the tip of Willow Island was also retained, interfering with the view. At the uppermost point of the reservation on the mainland, the cove below the Old French Landing was shut off from the river by a stone pier that formed Port Day Pond and encircled the pond with a loop carriage drive, further blocking the view from the shore. These water features led to construction of more bridges than had appeared on the plan of 1887, but the extent to which Vaux contributed to their design is unclear.
Other architectural work can be attributed directly to Vaux. The simple, incurving three-railing guardrail that he designed in 1887 was installed at many places on the reservation during the next fifteen years. He designed the bridge to Luna Island in 1894, and apparently made the plan for the bridge to First Sister Island in the same year. After Vaux's death, his son Downing continued to provide plans for buildings and bridges,
Downing Vaux, as senior partner of the firm of Vaux & Emory, designed the first shelter building for Goat Island, constructed in 1895; prepared plans for structures at Hennepin's View in Prospect Park, constructed in 1896; and completed designing of the bridge to First Sister Island, constructed in 1898. However, plans for the new stonearched bridge from the mainland to Goat Island, published in the fourteenth annual report (for 1895/96) and with construction completed in 1901, were prepared by the New York architectural firm of Walker & Morris.
while George Radford did further engineering work and another of Vaux's partners, Samuel Parsons, Jr., continued to supervise landscaping and planting.
After 1887, Olmsted's involvement in the cause of scenic preservation slackened from the intensity of the final decade of the Niagara crusade. In 1883, with approval of the Niagara reservation by the New York legislature, he and Charles Eliot Norton had begun a campaign for a state scenic reservation in the Adirondacks. But the creation of a forest preserve in the Adirondacks in 1885 forestalled that project.
FLO to Charles Eliot Norton, August 6, 1885; J.B. Harrison to FLO, October 2,1884; Charles Eliot Norton to FLO, July 30,1885, Charles Eliot Norton Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Thereafter, Olmsted turned his attention to preserving natural scenery in urban areas. In 1886 he wrote an article on the subject in the Century magazine, urging reservation of urban watercourses and sites with water views close to cities. During the succeeding years he assisted in creation of the system of scenic reservations taking shape in the Boston area under the leadership of his partner and former student, Charles Eliot. This work in scenic preservation, near the end of his long career, gave Olmsted his most delightful opportunity for "dealing with lands specially fitted by nature for public recreative uses."
Frederick Law Olmsted, "A Healthy Change in the Tone of the Human Heart," Century, Illustrated Monthly Magazine, vol. 32 (October 1886), pp. 963-64.
After Olmsted's death, his sons and successors, John C. Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., expanded the role that he had begun in scenic preservation in California and the Niagara region. Olmsted, Jr., advised the National Park Service concerning Yosemite itself, and in 1928 drew up the basic list of most desirable sites to be included in a state park system. He also planned the East Bay Regional Park near San Francisco, which came into being exactly a half-century after the Niagara reservation was opened to the public. In addition, he advised on landscape issues relating to the Niagara reservation and the Niagara gorge during the two decades 1906-1926, and campaigned for reservation of the American side of the Niagara gorge for scenic purposes. He and his half brother John C. Olmsted also helped to realize the vision of unified planning for the Niagara reservations. Both men gave extensive advice to the commissioners of the Queen Victoria Niagara Falls Park in the period 1914-1918.
Olmsted Brothers and Ansel F. Hall, "Report on Proposed Park Reservations for East Bay Cities (California)" (Berkeley, 1930). For the involvement of Olmsted's successors in Niagara matters, consult material for the following projects in the Olmsted Associates Records, Library of Congress, and at the (National Park Service) Frederick Law Olmsted National Historical Site, Brookline, Massachusetts: job no. 617, "Niagara Falls Reservation"; job no. 3330, "Niagara Falls"; job no. 2903, "Ontario Power Company"; job no. 5560, "Niagara Falls Park System"; and job no. 6054, "Queen Victoria Park."
In this way Olmsted's concept of a comprehensive scheme for protecting the manifold scenic beauties of the Niagara region was carried well into the present century by the next generation of his family and his firm.