He came, he saw, he designed. It was 150 years ago this year that Frederick Law Olmsted visited the Queen City and began the process of developing Buffalo's public park system. The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, which oversees the parks, has announced plans to celebrate the milestone anniversary in the spring and summer.
Olmsted, in partnership with Calvert Vaux, had already designed New York City's Central Park and Brooklyn's Prospect Park when he was invited by Buffalo attorney and legislator William Dorsheimer in 1868 to visit Buffalo.
Buffalo leaders had hoped Olmsted would be inspired to create a park as glorious as his designs downstate. What they got instead would be a first for the nation.
"When Olmsted returned he didn't come back with that grand park. He came back with a grand park system," said Kevin Kelly, President of Travel and Hospitality at Delaware North Companies and the local chairman of the 150th Anniversary celebration. "That park system, made up of Delaware Park, Front Park and (now) MLK Park, all connected by parkways and circles, meant that no matter where you were in the city, you could easily reach a greenspace that connected to a park. That was the grand idea."
Construction of that "grand idea" took about 40 years and also includes Cazenovia Park, South Park and Riverside Park. The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is planning a series of events to celebrate the system's 150th anniversary, including an education week and celebration weekend in April alone.
"We have a wonderful year planned to celebrate Buffalo, to bring great spotlight on to this fabulous city and cheer the fact that we have the very first urban park system that was designed, right here in Buffalo, New York," said Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy executive director Stephanie Crockatt.