Frederick Law Olmsted, creator of the Buffalo Olmsted Park System and father of American landscape architecture, believed the purpose of green space was to “refresh and delight the eye and through the eye, mind and spirit.” Upon touring the City of Buffalo in 1868, he convinced the city’s leaders that not one park – as in New York City’s Central Park – but multiple parks would better serve Buffalo’s needs.
The first three parks, The Park, The Front and the Parade (now Delaware Park, Front Park and Martin Luther King Jr. Park), served different purposes for the people of Buffalo, yet were intrinsically linked by parkways to from one magnificent, coherent whole. Over the years, Olmsted and his firm extended the park system into southern parts of the city – South Park and Cazenovia Park – to fulfill the needs of those who could not easily access the three original parks. Soon after, Riverside Park was developed to spotlight the glory of the Niagara riverfront. Numerous smaller spaces were also incorporated into the park system. Assisted by his partner, architect Calvert Vaux, Olmsted created a park system that
was an incredible accomplishment and is a true historic gem.
A System of Parks
The Buffalo Olmsted Park System comprises of six parks, seven parkways, eight landscaped circles and several smaller spaces. There are canopies of green — the parkways and avenues. Olmsted’s parkways link the six main parks and also integrate the park system with the rest of the city. Once called “Park Approaches,” some of his parkways were 200 feet wide and lined on both sides by lush elm trees that formed “canopies of green.” The parkways were designed to allow visitors to travel from one park to another without leaving the serenity of these green spaces. Olmsted wanted these areas to be “more park-like than town-like,” an effect he most certainly achieved. It was our nation’s first system of parks and historic parkways, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. In 1876, Olmsted proclaimed Buffalo to be “the best planned city … in the United States, if not the world.” Today our city retains its remarkable urban fabric thanks to the vision of this extraordinary man, as well as the support of thousands of Buffalonians and friends who enjoy the parks every day.
The Buffalo Olmsted Park System was originally designed to enhance the quality of life in the City of Buffalo, economically, socially, mentally and physically. As the city grew and developed some of the parkland was lost or significantly altered, changing the look of Buffalo, once known as the “City of Trees.” Thankfully, a group of concerned citizens came together to do something about it. In 1978, The Buffalo Friends of Olmsted Parks was formed to help save the parks. Over the years, the group evolved into what is now known as the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
Yours to Enjoy … and Support.
Today, the parkways continue to fill our city with lovely places where people can drive, walk and play. The Conservancy is an independent, membership-based, not-for-profit organization that strives to broaden awareness of, appreciation for and investment in the Buffalo Olmsted Park System in order to enhance, restore and maintain the historic cultural treasure for the benefit of current and future generations. In 2004, a powerful partnership among the city, the community and the Conservancy emerged. The Conservancy is now responsible for the maintenance of the Buffalo Olmsted Park System, or 75% of the city’s parkland. Plus we have implemented a revolutionary urban park management plan that brings accountability and community participation into its plan for success. We invite all Buffalo Olmsted Park System visitors to become partners in taking care of the parks. Participation opportunities include becoming a member, a donor, a volunteer, or adopting a tree or park bench. When you get involved, you help ensure that our parks, parkways and landscaped circles remain beautiful places for leisure, recreation and the appreciation of nature, for today and forever.