John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920), was born in Switzerland to John Olmsted and his wife Mary Perkins. His father was the younger brother of Frederick Law Olmsted and a medical doctor who died of tuberculosis in France in 1857. Two years later, his mother married Frederick Law Olmsted, her brother-in-law. Frederick Law Olmsted subsequently formally adopted John C. Olmsted and his two younger siblings.
John C. Olmsted was educated at the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale College. He became an apprentice in his father’s firm after his 1878 graduation. His role steadily broadened within the practice, becoming a full partner in 1884 as the firm of F. L. and J. C. Olmsted. Henry Sargent Codman, a brilliant apprentice, joined the firm as a partner in 1889. Unfortunately, his association with the Olmsteds was brief, as he died unexpectedly at age 29 in 1893. Charles Eliot, who had been a student of the elder Olmsted, joined the practice in the place of the late Mr. Codman. The firm was then renamed Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot. After his father’s retirement from active practice in 1895, John and Eliot continued the firm. Unexpected death intervened once again, however, as Eliot contracted spinal meningitis and died in 1897 at age 39. After Eliot’s death, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. joined his half-brother Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. under the earlier name of F. L. and J. C. Olmsted. The firm’s name was changed to Olmsted Brothers in 1898 and continued beyond the deaths in 1920 of John and in 1957 of Frederick, Jr., until 1961.
John assumed primary responsibility for the firm’s work in Buffalo. He created the new design for The Parade, renamed as Humboldt Park (now Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park), and the design for Riverside Park, and he advocated strongly but unsuccessfully with the Park Board to resist the siting within Delaware Park of the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox) and the Buffalo History Museum Building.