Olmsted's 1859 Letter Describing his Vision for Central Park to be Auctioned
Los Angeles - A handwritten letter from renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to a Central Park volunteer will be auctioned by Nate D. Sanders Auctions on December 13, 2018.
Olmsted is known as the father of American landscape architecture. He was most famous for co-designing Central Park, which opened in 1858.
The letter was written while Olmsted was Superintendent of Central Park and was managing the construction of the open space he designed. The letter requests volunteer participation from a local musician to help draw the public to the city’s most famous green space. In the letter, Olmstead describes his social perception, tremendous commitment to egalitarian ideals and how these beliefs translate to his obligation to provide managed open space for passive recreation and enjoyment.
Olmsted famously advocated “common green space” must always be available to everyone, and was to be defended against private encroachment. These principles are now considered fundamental to the idea of a "public park," but was considered groundbreaking thinking in 1858. Olmsted's tenure as New York City’s park’s commissioner and later as an architect for public green spaces throughout the United States was a long well-documented struggle to preserve these ideas.
Auction owner Nate Sanders said, “This letter is incredibly timely and it is being auctioned in the midst of today’s national conversation regarding the value of open space and parks. The letter provides a beautiful example of Olmsted’s advocacy and is very prescient, as the importance of open federal lands are being debated in Congress.”
Olmsted’s 1859 letter was composed on Central Park stationery and was embossed “Office of the Arch’t in Chief / CENTRAL PARK / 5th Avenue and 79th St.” It reads in full, “It is proposed to provide by subscription a band of music upon the finished portion of the park for a few hours during one or two afternoons a week, for the purpose of increasing its immediate value to those who cannot leave the city. It is believed that after this year the Commissioners of the Park will be able to furnish the means for this purpose without drawing upon their construction fund, but their arrangements cannot be completed at present without the aid of voluntary contributions from citizens who will be influenced by motives of kindness toward those who have no means to go into the country for relief from the heat and turmoil of the city. [Signed] Fred. Law Olmsted. / Superintendent.”
Bidding for Olmsted’s letter begins at $35,000.
Additional information on Olmsted’s letter can be found at