Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th birthday will be celebrated this spring, and the celebration in Riverside has already started in the form of a new 23-panel exhibition about the renowned landscape architect’s philosophy and career now on display in the Great Room of the Riverside Public Library, 1 Burling Road.
Titled “Frederick Law Olmsted: Landscapes for the Public Good,” the exhibit is the result of a collaboration between the National Association for Olmsted Parks and the Oak Spring Garden Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit.
While the panels are available for viewing online, the organizations also provided a way for other groups, such at the Riverside Historical Commission, to download high-resolution images of the panels and reproduce them for display.
Connie Guardi, a longtime member of the Riverside Historical Commission, said the group leapt at the chance to reproduce the exhibit in Olmsted’s first planned community.
“We felt it was really important for our community being such a significant part of Olmsted’s career,” Guardi said.
While there was no cost to download the exhibit, the commission did expend funds to make the panels. The commission decided to draw those funds from the Bill Sherman Memorial Fund, which was created following the 2019 death of the longtime Riverside firefighter and deputy chief who served as the fire department’s historian.
The 18-by-24-inch panels that make up the exhibit are displayed just inside the entrance to the Riverside Public Library on shelves and tables in the Great Room, where they will remain until April. Each panel includes a photo and text tracing Olmsted’s career, from gentleman farmer at his Staten Island, New York, estate to his years working with Calvert Vaux on their landmark design for Central Park in New York City, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, his work as general secretary of the U.S. Sanitary Commission during the Civil War, his efforts to protect the Yosemite Valley and the sequoias of the Mariposa Big Tree Pine Grove, his ground breaking work designing Riverside and more.
“Riverside is the only community included in the exhibit,” Guardi said.
The commission had planned to host an opening reception for the exhibit but canceled it due to the recent upturn in COVID-19 cases. According to Guardi, the entire exhibit will be moved outdoors in April to an area near the library, where it will be in place for the official celebration of Olmsted’s 200th birthday on April 26. The commission plans to host a birthday party for Olmsted at the Riverside train station, 90 Bloomingbank Road, from 4 to 6 p.m. that day.
Exhibit panels will remain on display outside through the summer and into the fall, Guardi said, before finding a permanent home on rotating display inside the Riverside History Museum’s east well house in Centennial Park.