Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. was born July 24, 1870 on Staten Island, New York, the son of Frederick Law Olmsted and Mary Cleveland Perkins, and was the half brother of John Charles Olmsted. In 1890 he began his career as his father’s apprentice. He worked on two significant projects with his father: Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and Biltmore, the George Vanderbilt estate in North Carolina which is the largest privately owned residence in the United States.
In 1894 he earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. He joined his father’s landscape architecture firm in 1895. Shortly thereafter, his father retired and Olmsted and his half brother took over leadership of the firm. The firm’s name was changed to Olmsted Brothers in 1898. John Charles took lead responsibility for the firm’s Buffalo work, and Frederick, Jr. played a lesser role in those particular projects.
In 1900, Frederick, Jr. returned to Harvard to teach (maintaining his position with Olmsted Brothers), and he also established that school’s first formal training program in landscape architecture. In 1901, he was appointed as a member of the Senate Park Improvement Commission for the District of Columbia, commonly known as the McMillan Commission, responsible for restoring and updating the street and landscape design of Washington, D.C. He was also a founding member and later president of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Under the leadership of John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the Olmsted Brothers firm employed nearly 60 persons at its peak in the early 1930s. His half brother died in 1920, and Frederick, Jr. maintained the firm. Mr. Olmsted, Jr. retired in 1949, the last surviving family member in the firm which continued to operate until 1961.
Olmsted married Sarah Hall Sharples March 30, 1911, and the couple had one child. In his later years, he was actively involved in wildlife protection, advocacy for the national parks, and for the protection of California’s coastal redwood trees.
Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. died December 25, 1957 in Malibu, California and is buried in Hartford, Connecticut.