Milwaukee Is Finally Getting an ‘Olmsted Way’

The ribbon-cutting ceremony is on Monday, Oct. 31.

Frederick Law Olmsted in 1893, the same year he began work on his Milwaukee parks; Photo via public domain

Frederick Law Olmsted was a pioneering landscape architect, and the father of our modern parks system. At the tail end of his career, he designed three parks in Milwaukee: Lake, Washington and Riverside. And his influence was crucial in developing the county’s “emerald necklace” of parks. Despite that, for decades there was very little recognition of Olmsted’s legacy in the city.

But now, Milwaukee is giving the man his due, renaming Washington Boulevard, which runs through the park of the same name, to Olmsted Way.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony and sign reveal will be on Monday, Oct. 31 at 9 a.m. near 4090 W. Vliet St.

“Frederick Law Olmsted’s design of Washington Park deserves to be celebrated,” said Marcelia Nicholson, the chairwoman of the National Association for Olmsted Parks in a news release. “The landscape architecture in the park has shaped how people have enjoyed the space for more than 130 years and will continue to shape how we enjoy it for the next 100. Naming this stretch of road ensures we remember this history.”

The naming comes near the end of the bicentennial of Olmsted’s birth in 1822. The bicentennial saw celebrations of his work across the country and in Milwaukee, many local groups participated. Notably, Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum hosted the biggest exhibition of Olmsted’s Milwaukee parks yet held. Lake Park Friends, Historic Milwaukee, the Urban Ecology Center (located in Olmsted’s Washington Park) and many more hosted lectures and exhibits in his honor.

And it so happens that Milwaukee Magazine published a feature about the Olmsted legacy in our April issue, which you can read here.

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Archer is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Some say he is a great warrior and prophet, a man of boundless sight in a world gone blind, a denizen of truth and goodness, a beacon of hope shining bright in this dark world. Others say he smells like cheese.