Legacy for Living Blog

ASLA Founders

June 6, 2024

ASLA founders Barrett Farrand Lowrie Manning Olmsted Parsons Simonds Vaux
Eight of the eleven founding members of ASLA. Clockwise from top left: Nathan F. Barrett, Beatrix Jones Farrand, Charles N. Lowrie, Warren H. Manning, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., John C. Olmsted, Samuel H. Parsons, Jr., and O. C. Simonds


The American Society of Landscape Architects was organized on January 4, 1899, at the office of the landscape architecture firm Parsons & Pentecost in the St. James Building, Manhattan. Preceding the formation of ASLA, several leading Boston-area landscape architects (such as the Olmsted brothers and Warren H. Manning) began meeting informally to dine and share design sketches – a group they called the Repton Club. Anxious for something more serious than a dinner club, Samuel H. Parsons, Jr., and his New York group eventually convinced their Boston colleagues and others to meet in 1899 with the intention of forming a national society.

Present at the founding meeting of ASLA in January 1899 were ten landscape architects: Nathan F. Barrett, Beatrix Jones (later Farrand), Daniel W. Langton, Charles N. Lowrie, Manning, John C. Olmsted, Parsons, George Pentecost, Jr., O. C. Simonds, and Downing Vaux. Olmsted’s younger half-brother Frederick Law, Jr., was absent from the meeting, but was listed liable for the $10 dues the others pledged, and thus is among the eleven founding members of ASLA (or Fellows, as the immediately named themselves). John Olmsted was elected president pro tempore while a constitution was drafted.

The group reconvened at Parsons & Pentecost on March 6 and formally adopted a constitution. The following officers were then elected by acclamation to serve until the next regular election: President, John C. Olmsted; Vice President, Samuel Parsons, Jr.; Secretary, Daniel W. Langton; Treasurer, Charles N. Lowrie; additional members of the Exectuvie Committee, Downing Vaux, O. C. Simonds, and Warren H. Manning.

The first annual meeting of ASLA was held at the Hotel Martin in Greenwich Village on January 9, 1900. By then the Society had elected its first Junior Members, Arthur A. Shurcliff, F. Maitland Armstrong, and Albert B. Bushnell, as well as Elizabeth Bullard, as a Fellow.


Nathan F. Barrett

Nathan Franklin Barrett was born on Staten Island in 1845. After three years in the Union forces during the Civil War he spent another three in his brother’s nursery, studying plants with a view to a professional career as a "landscape gardener." His first commission came in 1869 for the Central Railroad of New Jersey. From this he branched out into town planning and park work; in 1872 he planned the experimental town of Pullman, Illinois. More town planning followed, along with considerable residential work in which he was one of the early proponents of geometric or "formal" design. In 1895 he was appointed landscape architect of the newly formed Essex County Park Commission in New Jersey; from 1900 to 1915 he was a member of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. It is of particular interest that he should have served professionally with both the first county park system and the first interstate park body in the United States. He was president of the ASLA in 1903 but not very active in the Society after 1907. He died in Pelham, New York, October 17, 1919.

Newton, Design on the Land, 387.

Beatrix Jones (Mrs. Farrand)

Beatrix Cadwalader Jones was born in New York City in 1872. From earliest childhood she was fascinated by the outdoor environment, and at the age of eleven she participated in laying out the family place, "Reef Point," at Bar Harbor, Maine. As a young woman she lived in Brookline with the Sargents while studying under Professor Sargent at the Arnold Arboretum. From the large office that she later maintained for some years in New York, she carried on an extensive and demanding practice, mainly on private residential projects but also as a consultant landscape gardener—a title on which she always insisted—to Princeton, Yale, the University of Chicago, Oberlin, and other institutions. In 1913 she married Max Farrand, a professor at Princeton; when he was appointed director of the Huntington Library in Pasadena they moved to the west coast. From 1922 on, she was in full charge of all outdoor efforts at Dumbarton Oaks; these gardens and the great quadrangles of Princeton and Yale are generally regarded as her most outstanding professional work. Yale made her an honorary Master of Arts in 1926 and Smith College a Doctor of Humane Letters in 1935. She was an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects. After her husband’s death Mrs. Farrand lived in Bar Harbor, and there she died February 27, 1959, the last surviving charter member of the ASLA. Throughout the sixty years of her membership she maintained loyal, unflagging enthusiasm for the Society.

Newton, Design on the Land, 387-388.

Daniel W. Langton

Daniel W. Langton, a southerner, was the Society’s first secretary; but failing eyesight compelled him to relinquish that post and, ultimately, his practice as well. Some of his gardens had achieved public notice in the middle 1890s, and the memorial minute adopted by the ASLA after his sudden death on June 20, 1909, referred to "his active career as a public official and designer of parks, country estates, and playgrounds." In certain municipal park work he was associated with Lowrie.

Newton, Design on the Land, 388.

Charles N. Lowrie

Charles Nassau Lowrie was born at Warrior’s Mark, Pennsylvania, in 1869 and was graduated as Civil Engineer from the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale in 1891. Establishing his private office in New York in 1896, he built a wide practice, especially in parks and institutional grounds. Some of his earliest studies were for state parks, but he became known primarily as an authority on municipal parks and recreational areas. For thirty years he was landscape architect of the Hudson County Park Commission in New Jersey. He was on the Fine Arts Commission of the State of New York for some six years and in 1938 became by appointment the first landscape architect on the Art Commission of New York City. One of the most energetic organizers of the ASLA, he was its president in 1910-11 and remained active in the Society throughout his life. He took a primary part in arranging the Society’s 1939 annual meeting at the New York World’s Fair only a few weeks before his death on September 18, 1939.

Newton, Design on the Land, 388.

Warren H. Manning

Warren Henry Manning was born in Reading, Massachusetts, in 1860. His father was a prominent nurseryman; with his three brothers, he immersed himself early in the study of plants, with emphasis on native species. In 1888 he entered the Olmsted office, serving first as a horticulturist and later as an assistant in design; in 1896 he opened his own office in Boston. Later he worked for many years from the Manning Manse in Billerica; there the office became large but remained always highly personal, so that all the work bore indelibly the Manning stamp. He was deeply interested in the development of young "landscape designers," as he called them; the Billerica office was a training ground remembered affectionately in later years by young men of whom many became prominent in the profession. Manning’s practice, covering just a half-century in time, was remarkably varied: general city planning, parks, and institutional grounds, as well as many country places. Among his best-known works were the park and parkway system along the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; the Hampton Institute in Virginia; the Jamestown Exposition of 1907; [and] municipal park systems in several states. He was incessantly active, always a vigorous participant in ASLA affairs. He was president of the Society in 1914. In his last years his office was in Cambridge, Massachusetts; he died February 5, 1938.

Newton, Design on the Land, 388-389.

Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., was born on Staten Island in 1870. He took his A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard in 1894. After working diligently in the field on projects of the Olmsted office until 1898, he joined his elder half-brother John in partnership and the firm became Olmsted Brothers. In 1900 he was selected by President Eliot to organize and head at Harvard the first university curriculum of professional training in landscape architecture. In 1901, when he was only thirty-one, he was chosen as a member of the famous McMillan Commission to revive the L’Enfant plan of Washington; the great Mall is primarily his creation. Later he was a member of the National Commission of Fine Arts from its inception in 1910 until 1918. During World War I he led the collaborative teams of architects, landscape architects, and engineers that planned the government’s war housing and military cantonments. The notable State Park Study of 1929 for California was another of his major accomplishments. Throughout a phenomenally busy life he was always somehow able to find time to guide and counsel students and younger landscape architects. There can be little question of his place as the outstanding practitioner of his times, with a store of energy and a capacity for application that wore out many a younger man. One of his last undertakings was a survey of the Colorado River Basin, carried on in field and office when he was in his seventies. He was at all times a devoted servant of the profession and of the ASLA, of which he was president in 1908-1909 and 1919-1923. He spent his last years in retirement in California, where he died at Malibu on December 25, 1957.

Newton, Design on the Land, 389-390.

John C. Olmsted

John Charles Olmsted was born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1852, the son of John Hull Olmsted. After his father’s death he became, at the age of seven, the step-son of his uncle, Frederick Law Olmsted [Sr.] A graduate of Yale in 1875, he entered his uncle’s office in New York, was allowed a share of the enterprise in 1878, and rose to partnership in 1884 after the office had been moved to Brookline. At the time of the founding of the ASLA he was unquestionably the most widely experienced in the group and probably the ablest. Prior to his uncle’s retirement in 1895, the projects most clearly associated with John Olmsted were such Boston ones as Franklin Park, the Arnold Arboretum, and the Riverway; for in those days he managed the Brookline office and traveled much less than in later years. After 1895 he was the senior partner in the firm (Olmsted Brothers from 1898 on), and can thus be credited with a high degree of responsibility for its manifold operations during the rest of his life. He was a prolific designer, genuinely admired by his colleagues as leader of the profession after his uncle’s retirement. He was the first president of the ASLA, serving from 1899 through 1901 and again in 1904-05. He died in Brookline on February 25, 1920.

Newton, Design on the Land, 389.

Samuel H. Parsons, Jr.

Samuel Parsons, Jr., was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1844, the third of his name in an old Quaker family of horticulturists. Taking his B.S. degree from Yale in 1862, he served during the remining years of the Civil War with the U.S. Sanitary Commission, of which the elder Olmsted had been the organizer. He then returned for several years to his father’s nursery, farmed for a while in southern New Jersey, and began to offer his services in laying out private residential properties. In 1880 he became a partner of Calvert Vaux, with whom he practiced until the latter’s death in 1895. Meanwhile, Parsons had been appointed superintendent of planting in Central Park in 1882 and superintendent of parks in 1885. Eventually he went on to be landscape architect to the City of New York and commissioner of parks. Even after leaving the Park Department in 1911, he continued to lead an unrelenting campaign against any threatened maltreatment of Central Park. Primarily as defender of the parks, he was for years a well known and highly respected public figure in New York. In private practice he did residential projects in some thirteen states, as well as parks throughout the country. A prime mover in establishing the ASLA, he was its president in 1902 and 1906-07. He died in New York City, February 3, 1923.

Newton, Design on the Land, 390.

George Pentecost, Jr.

George F. Pentecost, Jr., was born in 1875, started his practice in New York in 1896, and was Parsons’ partner at the time of the ASLA’s founding in their office. Shortly thereafter they were engaged in Washington on work between the White House and the Washington Monument that antedated the McMillan Commission studies. Pentecost did numerous residential projects, land subdivisions, parks, and golf courses. He was intermittently active in affairs of the Society; the last meeting at which his attendance is recorded was the twentieth annual meeting in New York in 1919, and he resigned from the Society in 1921.

Newton, Design on the Land, 390.

O. C. Simonds

Ossian Cole Simonds was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1855. He took his degree as Civil Engineer from the University of Michigan in 1878 and for a time was a member of the architectural firm Holabird, Simonds & Roche in Chicago. He then became superintendent and landscape architect of Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery, which he developed into one of the most remarkable park-like cemeteries of the Western world. After 1888 he branched out into an extensive private practice, starting with the layout of Fort Sheridan, Illinois; but Graceland continues to be regarded as his masterpiece. The ASLA elected him president in 1913, the first sign of a move away from the Atlantic seaboard. In 1929 the University of Michigan conferred upon him the honorary degree Master of Arts, citing his creative work in landscape architecture. In his latter years his firm was known as Simonds, West & Blair. He died in Chicago, November 20, 1931.

Newton, Design on the Land, 390-391.

Downing Vaux

Downing Vaux was the son of Calvert Vaux and worked with his father from the middle 1880s onward. After the father’s death in 1895, the son practiced alone on a wide variety of projects including parks, institutional grounds, and the usual residential properties. Elected secretary of the ASLA at the first annual meeting in 1900, he served in that capacity with complete devotion through the Society’s difficult first decade. Poor health finally compelled him to retire; after an extended illness he died in Kingston, New York, May 15, 1926.

Newton, Design on the Land, 391.

The Twelfth Founder? Elizabeth Bullard

Elizabeth J. Bullard was the first new member elected to ASLA as a Fellow in December 1899, "one of the first women known to practice landscape architecture professionally." Originally a painter, Bullard helped in landscape projects with her father who was supervisor of parks in Bridgeport, Connecticut. After Mr. Bullard’s death, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., recommend her to the Bridgeport Park Commission to continue her father’s work, but local politicians felt the role was not worthy of a woman. Bullard later assisted John C. Olmsted with a plan for Smith College. She died in 1916.


Charles A. Birnbaum and Robin Karson, eds., Pioneers of American Landscape Design (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000.

Harold A. Caparn, James Sturgis Pray, and Downing Vaux, eds., Transactions of the American Society of Landscape Architects: From its inception in 1899 to the end of 1908 (Harrisburg, PA: J. Horace McFarland Company Mt. Pleasant Press, 1912).

Norman T. Newton, Design on the Land: The Development of Landscape Architecture (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971).

Bremer W. Pond, “Fifty Years in Retrospect: Brief Account of the Origin and Development of the ASLA,” Landscape Architecture Magazine 40, no. 2 (January 1950): 59-66.

Melanie Simo, “100 Years of Landscape Architecture: Some Patterns of a Century,” Landscape Architecture Magazine 89, no. 11 (November 1999): 106-107; 120-128.





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