CONNECTICUT OLMSTED AWARD
Jenny Scofield and Christopher Wigren at ASLA CT Event in Wickham Park
ASLA CT Presenting Olmsted Award to PCT & SHPO
Christopher Wigren of PCT Leads a Tour of Fulton Park
Seymour Cunningham's Grave Plot in the East Cemetery, Litchfield
Since 1992, CTASLA has recognized 28 recipients with the Connecticut Olmsted Award which is given annually to a person or organization in Connecticut that has employed the principle of stewardship of the land as the guiding force in their actions. The award honors the life and lasting legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted, a native son of Hartford who pioneered the modern landscape architecture profession as an advocate for public spaces and a steward of natural resources.
In Bridgeport, the signature Olmsted landscapes of Seaside Park and Beardsley Park established the “Park City” moniker and the city’s reputation of being a first-rate, prosperous industrial center. Forward-thinking advocacy by P.T. Barnum, James Beardsley, and William Noble in creating the city’s parks system helped transform these swampy, barren, overgrown areas into cherished public spaces.
Both parks emphasize bucolic elements in the landscape as a foil to Bridgeport’s industrial center. Long Island Sound, the Pequonnock River, open meadows, and undulating woods edges draw the eye away from hectic city scenes. On a pleasant summer day, the spaces in each park come alive with families strolling around, children at play, and the joyful cacophony of pick-up sports games. The persistence of these parks for over 150 years demonstrates the power of design advocacy and the importance of conserving open space for public benefit.
In 2022, which marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), it feels doubly appropriate to recognize two groups which have put forth a tremendous effort to recognize and celebrate Olmsted's legacy in Connecticut.
The 2022 Connecticut Olmsted Award winners, Preservation Connecticut (PCT) and the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office (SPHO), have worked together over the past year to document and make public the life and work of Frederick Law Olmsted, as well as the continued work of the Olmsted firm, which practiced in different forms from 1860 until 1979.
The documentation of Frederick Law Olmsted’s life and work in Connecticut was, and is, a tremendous undertaking. The idea for this project began in 2017 when the National Association for Olmsted Parks (NAOP) promoted the idea that Connecticut had an important place in the Olmsted story. Since then, Preservation Connecticut and the State Historic Preservation Office hired the Red Bridge Group, a nationwide heritage consulting firm, to survey and document 139 Olmsted landscapes in the state. A record was made of the history of these sites as well as their current state, ranging from intact to no longer in existence. Also assessed were the signature design elements of an Olmsted landscape (see sidebar), the influence of Connecticut on Olmsted designs, and the legacy of Olmsted designs on Connecticut.
This report is now accessible to the public through the PCT and SHPO websites, through SHPO’s new geospatial system, CONNCRIS, and through presentations to community groups. The report will also be used as a basis for assessing eligible sites for the listings on the National Register of Historic Places or for adding information to sites already on the Register but which are currently under-documented.
In addition to organizing this significant report, Preservation Connecticut and the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office have been hosting Olmsted-related events throughout the state over the course of 2022. Events have included tours at Olmsted-designed parks, presentations of the research findings to interested groups, and even helping to run a summer camp session at the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop in Hamden, Connecticut.
For all their work unveiling and celebrating the Connecticut Olmsted history in this year of Olmsted200, ASLA Connecticut is proud to recognize Preservation Connecticut and the State Historic Preservation Office with the Connecticut Olmsted Award.
2022 Preservation Connecticut & Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office
2021 Groundwork Bridgeport
2020 Connecticut Fund for the Environment & Save the Sound
2019 U.S. Senator Chris Murphy
2018 Bushnell Park Foundation
2017 No award
2016 UConn CLEAR Program
2015 Chris Donnelly, Urban Forestry Coordinator, State of Connecticut
2014 Terry Backer, State Representative and Soundkeeper
2013 William DeMaio, Director of Parks and Recreation, City of New Britain
2012 No award
2011 Mary Donohue, CT Dept. of Economic and Community Development
2010 Steve Broderick, Goodwin Forest Conservation Education Center
2009 James Gustave Speth, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
2008 Peter L. Malkin, Merritt Parkway Conservancy
2007 State Senator Andrew Roraback
2006 David Leff, Connecticut DEP/Author
2005 State Senator Bill Finch
2004 Green Valley Institute
2003 Town of Simsbury, CT
2002 Lieutenant Governor M. Jodi Rell and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin B. Sullivan
2001 No award
2000 Jim Gibbons, Land Use Educator, University of Connecticut
1999 Jack Shannahan and the Connecticut Historical Commission
1998 Joshua's Tract Conservation and Historic Trust
1997 U.S. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman
1996 Land Preservation and Enhancement Program, Iroquois Gas Pipeline Company
1995 William Niering, Ph.D., Connecticut College
1994 Joseph Hickey, Connecticut DEP, State Parks
1993 Philip Barske, Ph.D., Applied Ecologist
1992 Richard Goodwin, Ph.D., Connecticut College