The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted recount Olmsted’s successful gambit to become the first Superintendent of Central Park. Having been urged to apply for the job by a member of the Parks Commission, Olmsted seeks to have a powerful recommendation letter.
James Alexander Hamilton, father of Eliza Schuyler, wrote and was the first to sign the petition seeking to have Olmsted employed as Superintendent. Second on the petition was Hamilton’s neighbor, Washington Irving, who was president of the Central Park Advisory board. Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, Vol 3, p. 93, n. 13. According to Olmsted, it was this petition –and Washington Irving’s signature – that clinched the deal. “The Beginning of Central Park: A Fragment of Autobiography” by FLO (published Landscape Architecture Magazine, 1912).
Olmsted knew the Schuylers thanks to his very good friend, Charles Loring Brace, whose Children’s Aid Society was supported by the Schuyler Family. In early Feb. 1855, Brace took Olmsted for a two-day visit to the Schuylers and Hamiltons who lived in Dobbs Ferry.
John Hull Olmsted reported that Olmsted was “much pleased [with the Schuylers] – and apparently they with him.“ Olmsted described the Schuylers to his father “as most capital people – the most finished people that I ever saw.”
According to the Papers: “James Alexander Hamilton assisted [Olmsted] in his free-soil colonization schemes of the later 1850s, and all of the women of the Schuyler family – Eliza Schuyler and her daughters Louisa and Georgina – were active in Sanitary Commission affairs during the Civil War. Louisa Lee Schuyler, in particular, was an important friend and colleague of Olmsted’s. As corresponding secretary of the Women’s Central Association for Relief, she made that organization a nationally effective auxiliary of the US Sanitary Commission, and after the Civil War she enlisted Olmsted’s help in forming the New York State Charities Aid Society.” Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, Vol 2, P. 237, n. 16.