Frederick Law Olmsted Park and Arboretum
The Mission of the Frederick Law Olmsted Park and Arboretum at the National Museum of American Illustration is to promote an understanding and appreciation of trees on the property by preserving and enhancing two historically important, diverse “Gilded Age” gardens. While different in concept and executions, each holds a unique and historic landscaped garden. The Arboretum also seeks to honor the pioneering work of America’s first landscape architect: Frederick Law Olmsted, particularly his efforts on the Frederick Law Olmsted Park property.
Four State Champion trees make up the Arboretums’ Signature Collection. Rhode Island Helen Walker Raleigh Champion Tree Program field examiners identified these four trees in 2015: a magnificent Cutleaf European Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’), a native magnolia (Magnolia acuminata), an exceptionally rare Spruce selected by Olmsted for the site (Picea jezoewnsis var. hondoensis), and a Zelkova (Zelkova serrata) also selected by Olmsted and believed to be largest in the United States.
Judy and Laurence Cutler, founders of The National Museum of American Illustration at Vernon Court, honor Olmsted’s legacy with his design for a small private park as a perpetual memorial to America’s first landscape architect: The Frederick Law Olmsted Park and Arboretum.
The Frederick Law Olmsted Park and Arboretum was accredited in 2015 as a Level I Arboretum by the Moreton Register of Arboreta and the international ArbNet program.
Stoneacre, situated on three acres opposite Vernon Court between Ruggles Avenue and Victoria Avenue, was named for the mansion designed in 1884 by architect William Potter for John W. Ellis. Potter recommended Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) to his client as “a garden designer.” Stoneacre became Olmsted’s first commission after he named the new profession “landscape architecture.” The Stoneacre mansion was demolished in 1963 and the grounds lay dormant for decades thereafter. It is the last privately held open space on Bellevue Avenue. Stoneacre was purchased along with Vernon Court in 1998 by Judy and Laurence Cutler, where they created a memorial park honoring its designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s first and most noted landscape architect.
Olmsted designed the nation’s most beloved parks and grounds including: New York’s Central Park, The White House, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, the Biltmore, Winterthur, Detroit’s Belle Isle, Boston’s Franklin Park, and many estate grounds. He conceived of Boston’s first park system known as The Emerald Necklace. Olmsted’s office went on to create the National Park System and designed a plethora of campus plans including Stanford University. Olmsted was a social activist and reformer, artist and engineer—a man of epic vision. His work during the thirty years following the Civil War created an American landscape that is enjoyed today and forevermore.
Olmsted conceived of Stoneacre as a “park-like setting” with a variety of exotic trees to protect the Ellis family from viewers. Stoneacre was furnished with native and exotic trees including London Plane, Fern Leaf Beech, Japanese Maple, Zelkova, European Linden, English Oak, and Tulip Trees, as well as Silver Maple, Cucumber, and Sweet Gums. Manmade earthen forms and contours were designed to give a rolling and more interesting perspective to the overall site, which had been flat prior to Olmsted’s naturalistic design.