Posted in: Louisville attractions, Louisville Information, Louisville Real Estate, What to do in Louisville, Author: Younger Group (May 16, 2011)
Now that spring has decided to stay around in Louisville, residents areeager to enjoy the parks that are such an important part of the city’s design.
The parks you know and love in Louisville have a new name: the Frederick Law Olmsted Parks. Individually named for Indian tribes, the parks will now collectively honor the New England native regarded as the “Father of Landscape Architecture.” The name change was celebrated recently at a public ceremony at the Baringer Hill Pavilion on the Scenic Loop in Cherokee Park, just east of the Cherokee Golf Clubhouse.
Olmsted, also known as a social critic, journalist, and public administrator, had great credentials before designing the Louisville Park system 120 years ago. His other works include Central Park in New York City, the U.S. Capitol grounds, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago campuses and municipal park systems in Boston, Buffalo, Milwaukee, and New York among many others throughout the country.
Louisville’s park system was the last park system designed by Olmsted before his retirement in 1895, so the system is considered his most mature work. Seeing parks and green space as integral to city life, he believed that parks were not only a good place for parades and sports, but offered harried urban dwellers a chance to enjoy natural scenery. The park system he outlined took advantage of the natural features of Louisville, such as the topography, riverfront, and native woodlands. He then added trees and shrubs to form planned compositions, plus paths and drives to guide park visitors through the landscape.
Of the 120 parks in Louisville, Olmsted and his firm, which included his son and stepson who finished his work in Louisville, designed six major parks and 15 neighborhood parks, squares, and playgrounds throughout the city. The most prominent parks in the system are Iroquois (south), Cherokee (east), and Shawnee (west). Today, the parks are unified by system of six parkways that unifies the series of parks and open spaces in the city. Since 1982, the park system was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The Olmsteds also influenced the general design of Louisville, as they also designed residential subdivisions, estates, institutional and religious grounds, country clubs, cemeteries, arboreta, and gardens. Both the University of Louisville and public library are examples of Olmsted design.
Over the years, the parks fell into disrepair. A Force 5 tornado in 1974 uprooted trees and destroyed the historic landscape. In the late 1970’s, the Friends of Olmsted Parks encouraged Mayor Jerry Abramson to establish a Task Force that recommended the creation of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy in 1989 to restore the park. In 2005, the mayor announced park expansion to complete Louisville’s transition to a City of Parks. The plan includes a paved loop around the city to unify the parks and provide a boon to cyclists. So far, The Ohio River Levee Trail and the RiverWalk have been completed.
Celebrate Spring in Louisville Parks and continue the party. Though Louisville parks are great for personal recreation, they are the scene of fun events throughout the year from musical festivals to bike races to Shakespeare in the Park. Watch this blog for news of upcoming events.
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