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Buffalo honors Frederick Law Olmsted on his 200th birthday

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is celebrating the milestone birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted all week.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On Tuesday, Buffalo is celebrating the 200th birthday of the man who helped design the city, Frederick Law Olmsted.  

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is celebrating his birthday with a whole week dedicated to him. 

“Buffalo isn’t BFLO without ‘flow.’” Stephanie Crockatt, executive director for the Buffalo Parks Conservancy said at a press conference kicking off the week.

Olmsted designed Buffalo's park system, which was the first of its kind in the nation. He wanted not only to design beautiful parks like Delaware Park, but for people to be connected to greenery with parkways and circles.

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy held a press conference on Tuesday to kick off the week of events on one of Olmsted's parkways. On Chapin Parkway next to Soldiers Circle, Crockatt was joined by local and statewide leaders, as well as Buffalo's first poet laureate, Jillian Hanesworth.

Hanesworth read an original poem written for the occasion, titled 'Paint My People Green.'

"Paint my peace and serenity green, let is soak in the sun and blossom in the spring. Build it with intention, and then build a city around it. Make it beautiful, as if designed by Olmsted himself," the first few lines of the poem read.

The poem touched on the meaning of the parks, as well as touched on some of the other aspects of Olmsted's life, such as his career as a journalist working for what would become the New York Times. As a journalist and a social critic, he applied those perspectives to his design work.

“Olmsted was a fantastic landscape architect, all while fighting for equality and improving public health,” Erie County Legislative Chair April Baskin said.

Hanesworth reflected this side of Olmsted in her poem.

"It’s where we find life and where we learn that green justice, is racial justice, it’s economic justice," she read.

Congressman Brian Higgins spoke at the event about how his experience as a journalist as well as a public health worker showed him the healing power green spaces have.

“He believed that everyone should have access to parks. And there is something important that you will notice about the Frederick Law Olmsted park system and park systems around the world is that there is no fences, there are no gates, and there are no walls,” Higgins said.

Olmsted applied these beliefs to other design projects he undertook in Buffalo, including the Richardson Olmsted Campus, which 2 On Your Side's Pete Gallivan profiled in his latest Unknown Stories of Western New York.

Olmsted's legacy stretches far beyond Buffalo to many state across the country. The most notable of his work being Central Park in New York City, which he designed with Calvet Vaux.

However, Buffalo is still honored to house Olmsted's first system of parks and parkways, which is larger than Central Park, topping it by seven acres.  

A full list of upcoming events to celebrate the landmark birthday are available on the Olmsted Parks Conservancy website.