Saturday, May 18, 2013

Olmsted Online

Well, look at what a pretty thing this is!

Olmstead Online is an archive of plans and projects of the Olmstead firm across the United States. The Olmsteads were the most prominent landscape design firm of the late-19th and early-20th century America. The project is in its initial phase and the only state with a rich set of content is Washington. A FAQ page tells visitos that "received a grant from the federal Transportation Enhancement Program with a pilot to digitize plans and maps of the Olmsted-designed landscapes in Washington State." Lucky us! The interactive map of Washington State shows that most of the firm's work was Spokane or the Puget Sound region, with a scattering of projects in other corners of the state:

Zooming in on individual sites reveals shows us what is under the hood at Olmstead Online. The data set for Cannon Hill Park, an Olmstead park a few blocks from my house, lists 13 files including contour maps and sketches for buildings--but the only files online as yet are two planting plans. They are pretty neat:

Most of the Washington Olmstead sites are like this--a couple of interesting images but far more intriguing image descriptions that have not yet been uploaded. The site reminds us that for all of the Olmstead's fame as park builders, a huge amount of their firm's business was landscaping the grounds of private residences. Look at the details on this preliminary grounds plan for the mansion of H. W. Cowles in Browne's Addition:

This is a project in the early stages and the gaps are quite visible. Some of the locations on the map contain no images at all. Search features are wonky. The non-interactive timeline add little to the site. And there is very little information about the project itself. How did they choose which images to put online? Are more images on the way or is this it? What about the other states? Still, Olmstead Online is a compelling resource.

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