So how did it come to be that the firm responsible for creating New York City’s Central Park and for designing the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. play such a vital role in the planning – and now future of Lake Wales?
A letter from the famed landscape architecture team of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. was penned that day and sent to city leaders, who were familiar with the now famous firm who a few years earlier helped plan Mountain Lake and design the landscape at nearby Bok Tower.
The proposal was for a “comprehensive city planning report” and was to include “a study of present conditions, of trends of development, of the principal requirements that are likely to face the city in the future and of the probable resources for meeting those requirements.”
In other words, for the price of $4,500 nine decades ago, the city was creating a roadmap to the future, a plan that stands as the underpinnings of the award-winning “Lake Wales Connected” document the city is using as its redevelopment blueprint today.
Olmsted’s 28-page draft document was completed and presented to the city in May, 1931, with the final report issued later that year. The plan drew upon the garden city movement which came from Great Britain in the late 1800s, a vision that was actually used as a model by the city’s Founding Fathers before Olmsted’s fame and expertise was called upon.
“Olmsted Jr. was at that time well established as the preeminent landscape architect in the world. He was the top of the mountain,” noted Robert Connors, a former president and current secretary of Lake Wales Heritage Inc., which will host "Olmsted Day in the Park" April 30 in Lake Wailes Park, part of a nationwide celebration in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted. Sr.
Our destiny as a “City in a Garden” was likely cemented on June 5, 1929.
Written by Brian Ackley