…Hartford-born landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted re-designed the grounds on the campus of the Hartford Retreat for the Insane to help induce healing and serenity.
Described as the founder of landscape architecture in America, Frederick Law Olmsted was born in 1822 in Hartford. His younger years were filled with family vacations through northern New England and upstate New York and, as he grew older, he traveled with friends to Europe. Olmsted’s early experiences gave him a unique perspective that would help define his work throughout his career. When administrators for the Hartford Retreat for the Insane hired him in 1860 to redesign the hospital’s grounds, Olmsted’s plan included clearing the land of overgrown shrubs and greenery in order to create a tranquility-inducing setting complete with a wide-open meadow rolling toward the Connecticut River and enclosed with a simple line of trees. An affirmed social reformer, Olmsted advocated for the rights of the mentally ill (which was rare in the 19th century) and took on many commissions throughout his career to landscape the grounds of mental institutions. In addition, Frederick Law Olmsted designed many residential estates, university campuses, and parks. The latter include Connecticut’s Walnut Hill Park in New Britain and Seaside and Beardsley Parks, both in Bridgeport.