Rochester, NY is one of only four cities in the U.S. with an entire park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted was commissioned in 1888 to design the first park for the city on 20 acres of donated land. However, Olmsted recommended the addition of lands along the Genesee River, north and south of the city center, which resulted in the creation of a system of three major parks – Highland Park, Genesee Valley Park, and Seneca Park – which remain the green heart of the community. Olmsted designed each park to showcase Rochester’s natural scenic assets.
Highland Park, created atop a glacial moraine with panoramic views, on land donated by nurserymen George Elwanger and Patrick Barry, was developed as a shrub arboretum with a world-class collection of lilacs. The Highland Park Conservancy is currently engaged in an exciting campaign to restore the viewer experience from the high point of the park, by reconstruction of the three-story Children’s Pavilion.
Genesee Valley Park, located on 800 acres along the Genesee River plain, was designed as a broad, rolling, pastoral landscape on both sides of the river. Seneca Park, located on both sides of the dramatic Genesee River gorge, features the grandeur of the native forest and views of the Lower Falls.
Rochester’s Olmsted heritage continued, with later parks and squares designed by Olmsted Brothers, including Jones Square, and Brown Square, among others.
For more information on Rochester’s Park System and conservation efforts, visit the Highland Park Conservancy’s website. You can also learn more about the Genesee Valley, by checking out Olmsted Network member Lower Falls Foundation and reading these two delightful blogs by Justin Martin and Dr. Edna Claunch.