Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903)
By the time Frederick Law Olmsted was hired to design Moraine Farm, he was a well-known landscape architect having designed New York’s Central Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn and the grounds of the Capitol in Washington, DC. He had recently been working to lay out portions of what is now Boston’s Emerald Necklace including the Arnold Arboretum. Moraine Farm is a superb example of many of the design principles that Olmsted would employ in his later works including Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina.
Olmsted alternates the openness of meadows, such as the one on the right as you enter the farm, with lush, naturalistic plantings of native shrubs and trees such as rhododendron, azaleas, hemlock and white pine to draw visitors forward along the drive. The curving drive lined with naturalistic plantings serves to both separate the working areas of the farm from the residential areas and to hide the spectacular view of Wenham Lake that is just around the corner on the other side of the house.
In a design concept later used at Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, Olmsted created a massive curved terrace overlooking Wenham Lake enabling him to site the house closer to the lake. The shape of the land was significantly altered but in a naturalistic fashion. Olmsted recognized the importance of and restorative qualities of the outdoors and designed walkways for residents to use no matter the weather. The photograph above, taken from the terrace in 1881, shows a pathway winding through naturalistic plantings.
We are excited to partner with Olmsted200.org in celebrating the bicentennial of his birth.