Our Parks

Cherokee - Big Rock 2pa

Join Today

Become a member today and support the Frederick Law Olmsted Parks! Membership includes great benefits for you and your family. more >

Fred's Facts

Frederick Law Olmsted believed parks would educate and civilize citizens, that they would provide physical and spiritual blessings to people from tenements and sweatships as well as those from expensive mansions. He believed all people would meet and mingle in parks, thus overcoming the barriers of class and wealth. He believed in the power of parks to elevate humankind.

The Frederick Law Olmsted Parks and Parkways were created with great vision for the future of our city. Over the last 120 years these parks and parkways have contributed to the quality of life for all citizens.


In one way or another, parks have the ability to improve almost every aspect of life for individuals and the community at large. Caring for these historic treasures and seeing that they remain valuable assets for our community is the heart of the work undertaken by Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

When Frederick Law Olmsted was commissioned to design a park system for Louisville in 1891, he was already the acknowledged father of American landscape design, famous for his work on Central Park in New York, the U.S. Capitol Grounds, and the Biltmore estate grounds. Olmsted’s greatest achievement, however, was his concept of creating a system of parks connected to tree-lined parkways, instead of freestanding parks as was the common practice. His concept was most fully realized in Louisville, the ultimate park system of his career, and one of only four completed such Olmsted systems in the world.

It was quite a revolutionary idea for the turn of the century. Not only did Olmsted’s plan integrate the native landscape throughout the entire city as it was projected to grow, but it created a system of green spaces that all social and economic groups could enjoy.

Olmsted designed for three types of recreation:

  1. Recreative or individual use, such as walking or relaxing
  2. Gregarious or social use, such as picnics
  3. Exertive or athletic use, such as ballgames

These activities were to be enjoyed in enhanced parklands where “sequestered and limitless natural scenery” could have a “poetic and tranquilizing influence” on an urban populace otherwise surrounded by brick and steel, cement and fumes.

Together Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. and his sons John Charles and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. were responsible for 18 parks and 6 parkways that have shaped the city of Louisville and provided a wealth of open spaces for its citizens.

Map of the Frederick Law Olmsted Parks and Parkways System

Watch these videos, produced by KET’s Louisville Life, about Olmsted, the parks and the Conservancy:
The Olmsted Parks
Olmsted Parks Conservancy
Olmsted’s “pastorial” Beauty