Essex County Park System

Black and white of bridge on stone slabs over water with trees all around
Essex County Park System, Job #02120, Essex County, NJ

Olmsted Archives

Quick Facts
Essex County, NJ
Olmsted Designed Park
After their work on Central and Prospect Park, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were invited to Newark, New Jersey in 1867 to explore potential parkland around the area. The first park the pair would develop in the area would be Branch Brook Park, due to its scenic potential.

Olmsted and Vaux had originally proposed acquiring a 420-acre tract, though the county rejected the land acquisition, which would be too costly for a single park. At the same time Essex County rejected the proposal, Charles Eliot’s concept for a metropolitan-based park system had just emerged in Boston, giving Essex a feasible model to base their work off.

In 1895, the Essex County Park Commission again reached out to the Olmsted firm, though this time it would be John Charles Olmsted of Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot who took lead on the project. John Charles submitted a comprehensive report to the Commission, detailing both the public health and economic benefits of a park system.

In the end, the Olmsted plan of a network of connected parkways was only minimally implemented, with most of the land being acquired by state highways. Despite this, by 1895 20 of the 26 parks and reservations in Essex County were designed by the Olmsted firm.

Source: "Essex County Park System," The Cultural Landscape Foundation

For more information and primary resources, please visit:
Olmsted Research Guide Online
Olmsted Archives on Flickr Olmsted Online 

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

Last updated: June 5, 2024