From Connie Weimar:
A Green Celebration for Atlanta’s Famous Park
2013 “Dream in Green” gala celebrates completion of the Olmsted Linear Park
Sunday, February 17, Fernbank Museum, 7 pm - 10 pm
Reserve tickets at www.atlantaolmstedpark.org
ATLANTA - (Druid Hills) When Charles Beveridge visited Druid Hills to view the restoration of the neighborhood’s linear park, designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, he judged the effort to be “the most thorough and comprehensive replanting of any Olmsted project undertaken in the last 25 years.” Beveridge should know. He is the foremost Olmsted expert, having edited the nine volumes of Olmsted’s papers and consulted on Olmsted restoration projects throughout the nation.
Beveridge’s comment was welcome news to the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance (OLPA), the group that has spearheaded the rehabilitation and preservation of the park. This winter, the implementation phase of the decade-plus project will be complete, and OLPA is throwing a party to celebrate.
In what promises to be the neighborhood party of 2013, the “Dream in Green” gala will be held on Sunday, February 17, 2013, from 7p.m. to 10p.m. at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Chairwoman, Beth Grashof, promises an evening to remember with chances to connect with neighbors and park lovers, listen to live jazz, and sample delectable hors d’oeuvres and signature cocktails. Both a live and silent auction will feature beach and mountain getaways, along with fine art, rare wines, roundtrip airline tickets and more.
Reserve tickets now by visiting atlantaolmstedpark.org or call 404-377-5361 for more information.
In Olmsted’s day. In the late 1890s, when Olmsted first saw the tract of land that Atlanta entrepreneur Joel Hurt wanted to transform into a residential suburb, it was practically raw wilderness, according to Olmsted biographer Elizabeth Stevenson. But onto that landscape that became Druid Hills, Olmsted could already see in his mind’s eye winding roads, gracious lots, a forest preserve, and as its centerpiece a linear park. Thirty years earlier, Olmsted had designed his first neighborhood suburb, Riverside, Illinois, just west of Chicago. But he approached the Druid Hills project as a mature artist at the end of a career in which he had created masterworks such as Central Park in New York City, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and the Emerald Necklace in Boston.
Olmsted died before the design for Druid Hills was complete, with his conceptual framework and early detailed drawings being carried out by his sons. However, his touch is visible throughout, with hallmark elements of promenades for easy public access, widening and narrowing vistas to create a sense of movement, a stream to salve the soul. He even made room for an extra wide road that would allow for use by both buggies and mules and cars, as well as a streetcar that ran from downtown Atlanta to the suburb.
Interpreting the plan.In 1997, Atlanta-based landscape architect Spencer Tunnell began interpreting Olmsted’s original 1904 plans for OLPA. He started his designs on the northernmost segments of the park by filling out details for Springdale, Virgilee, and Oak Grove parks. He made modifications when necessary, for example in Oak Grove, which had narrowed since Olmsted’s time to accommodate the widening of Ponce de Leon Avenue.
For plantings, Tunnell stayed with the native plants that Olmsted preferred, and he drew on records of the plants in a nursery that Olmsted used but that has since disappeared, located between Clifton and East Clifton Roads.
In Deepdene, Tunnell’s work broadened to interpret Olmsted’s intent in the largely conceptual drawings the master architect had made. The sylvan Deepdene Forest contains 22 acres of hardwoods, including the tallest tree (a Tulip Poplar) in Atlanta. At one end, its dense trees give way to a meadow—the Meade—that has a pastoral character that mirrors the other segments of the linear park. One guiding principal that inspired Tunnell was Olmsted’s vision to capture a resource—a forest preserve—to set aside for the future. As Atlanta has grown denser, Deepdene has become a more precious resource.
After implementation. OLPA began as an organization dedicated to the interpretation and implementation of the linear park. But now that the implementation is practically complete, the group has taken on a broader vision. OLPA’s focus is on building an endowment that will create a lasting legacy for the park—even becoming a springboard for other community-building efforts.
“Olmsted knew intuitively that green space and parks make us happy,” says Tunnell. “He knew the importance of preserving land for the future, to save something undeveloped. He knew that this place could spur the Platonic ideal and become a place to study, play, come together, reflect, and be calm in the midst of our busy-ness. One hundred years later, that dream has come true.”
OLPA President Kirk Elifson echoes Tunnell’s sentiment: “The Olmsted Park is a legacy for all Atlantans, now and in the future.”