The Emerald Necklace

Nature was idealized in the nineteenth century. The Romanticists communed with nature to experience God, and the New England Transcendentalists went even further in venerating nature. In an era when nature was valued in an almost religious sense, public parks multiplied.

The landscape design genius Frederick Law Olmsted carried out these popular ideals on the grandest possible scale. After designing Central Park, he was frustrated in his desire to build a regional open-space network throughout New York City. Boston welcomed him. In 1869 he began advising the city on a comprehensive park system. During the next decade he focused on the Arnold Arboretum, Back Bay’s Charlesgate, and the Fens. In 1887 he created his plan for an interconnected park system for Boston that would stretch from the Common to Franklin Park, passing through many Boston neighborhoods. Beyond this, he designed a number of other parks and initiated a metropolitan open-space plan.

Olmsted’s network of Boston parks remains the largest continuous green space through an urban center in the United States, but some sections have become fragmented as new roads and bridges were built. The City of Boston, working with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and a variety of pedestrian and cycling advocacy groups, is making progress in repairing broken links and restoring the integrity of Olmsted's design.

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Image: By Boston Parks Department & Olmsted Architects - National Park Service Olmsted Archives, Public Domain,