In the late 1870s, New York’s loss was Boston’s gain: Frederick Law Olmsted, renowned for designing Central Park but then booted from the Big Apple, landed in Brookline. Over the next decade he’d lay plans for the Emerald Necklace and transform the young field of landscape architecture.
A new book details those momentous years. “The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted: The Early Boston Years, 1882-1890,” is the eighth of nine planned volumes of Olmsted’s papers edited by Charles Beveridge and published by Johns Hopkins University Press. In 1878, political infighting led to the elimination of Olmsted’s job as New York City’s resident landscape architect. At the same time, officials in Boston were struggling to find a suitable proposal for restoring the Back Bay Fens (a project biographer Justin Martin wrote about for Ideas in 2011). Olmsted swooped in and during the 1880s designed the Back Bay Fens, Franklin Park, and the Muddy River Improvement.