Frederick Law Olmsted, the popular but problematic fave of public park fans, is being celebrated with an ice cream social on Baringer Hill in Cherokee Park on his 200th birthday. Graeter’s Ice Cream will be scooping, and with your cash or credit card, you can partake. The event will be held tomorrow April 26 from 2 p.m.-6 p.m.
Frederick Law Olmsted was a landscape architect, journalist, social critic and public administrator. He is best known for his work on New York’s legendary Central Park, but locally he was the design brain behind 18 parks and six parkways including Cherokee and Iroquois parks. So he’s pretty important to this town.
About the people of New York he said, “A large part of the people of New York are ignorant of a park. They will need to be trained to the proper use of it, to be restrained in the abuse of it.”
Part of his creation of Central Park also involved the dispossession of Black landowners in the surrounding areas of Seneca Village where Black people had begun buying property. He felt this was ultimately for the greater good and the future of “social democracy.”
To complicate the man a bit more, Olmsted spent much of his time in the 1850s traveling the South where he felt that the issues of the South were inherently evil and that Black people deserved to have all of the rights of other men. He asked that “all those who do not think Slavery is right, or who do not desire to assist in perpetuating it, whether right or wrong, [to] demand first of their own minds, and then of their neighbors, fair play for the Negro.”
So needless to say, he’s a complicated individual and for many years, many of us have enjoyed the natural preserves he has created. So celebrate him, celebrate nature or celebrate spring. Get some ice cream.
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