The early 20th century witnessed the flourishing of parks in Louisville, thanks to the grand designs of Frederick Law Olmsted, the Father of American Landscape Architecture, and his sons who followed him. Eventually eighteen parks and six parkways were completed under the direction of the Olmsted firm. Their influence permeated the developing city, including designs for civic institutions (the grounds of the public library and the University of Louisville campus are examples, as well as the landscapes of many private homes).
By the mid-20th century however, the parks—which are such an integral element of the structure of the city—fell into disrepair. The construction of an interstate highway through Cherokee and Seneca Parks in the 1960s caused great disruption. And Force 5 tornadoes in April of 1974 tore through the city, compounding the destruction in the parks, uprooting mature hardwood trees and destroying the environment so carefully planned by Olmsted.
Concerned citizens in the late 1970s launched a grass-roots effort, “The Friends of Olmsted Parks,” to call attention to the worrisome loss of a great city asset. Louisville took notice. After reviewing a report on park conditions prepared by the Friends, Mayor Jerry Abramson established a task force which, in 1989, recommended the creation of Louisville’s Olmsted Parks Conservancy to protect and restore this great public resource.