The 2022 HALS Challenge: Olmsted Landscapes

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

Rockefeller Carriage Roads, HAER ME-13, Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

For the 13th annual HALS Challenge competition, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document Olmsted Landscapes.

2022 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, social reformer and founder of American landscape architecture. By documenting Olmsted landscapes for HALS, you will increase public awareness of historic landscapes and illuminate Olmsted’s living legacy. Any site designed or planned in part or in full by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., his firm, and the firm continued by his sons, John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Junior, is eligible (see Master List of Design Projects).

The Olmsted Research Guide Online (ORGO) and Olmsted Online are helpful research tools. You may search for records held at the Olmsted National Historic Site and the Olmsted collections at the Library of Congress. The copyright status of some of these materials is uncertain, so please do not reproduce the graphics in your HALS documentation. You may analytically write about and cite them instead.

Fairsted, HABS MA-1168, Brookline, Massachusetts. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Please contact your state ASLA Chapter’s volunteer HALS Liaison if possible when you have selected a site to document for the HALS Challenge to be sure no one else is already preparing a HALS historic report for it. If your chapter’s volunteer HALS Liaison position is vacant, please consider volunteering yourself or suggesting it to a colleague who may be interested.

Henry Hudson Parkway, HAER NY-334, New York, New York. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Short format histories should be submitted to NPS HALS no later than July 31, 2022 (c/o Chris Stevens, 202-354-2146, Chris_Stevens@nps.gov). The HALS Short Format History guidelines and digital template may be downloaded from either the National Park Service’s HALS or ASLA’s HALS websites. NOTE: Any updates to HALS Challenge rules and to the MS Word digital HALS Short Format Historical Report Template are reflected within the template itself. Please download and read it thoroughly before entering the competition. If you like to learn by example, you may view or download the HALS Challenge Winners from 2018 and before.

Ladies’ Pavilion, Central Park, HAER NY-197, New York, New York. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Sponsored by HALS, cash prizes will again be awarded to the top three submissions. This year the National Association for Olmsted Parks (NAOP) will also award three framed certificate prizes for the best entries in the following categories:

  • Submission by a college or graduate student.
  • Work of the Olmsted Firm in Ohio.
  • Non-park work of the Olmsted Firm.

Your HALS documentation will be archived by the Library of Congress for perpetuity and will allow future generations to learn about the Olmsted site(s) you record. This is primarily a writing competition. If you are interested in our drawing competitions, check out the Holland Prize and Peterson Prize Competitions | HABS/HAER/HALS.

Liberty Memorial, HABS MO-1936, Kansas City, Missouri. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Winners will be announced at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Francisco. Employees of the National Park Service, American Society of Landscape Architects, Library of Congress and National Association for Olmsted Parks may submit HALS Short Format Historical Reports but are ineligible for prizes.

Mountain View Cemetery, HALS CA-39, Oakland, California. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Here is a sneak peek at the theme for the 2023 HALS Challenge, Working Landscapes, for those who need to plan ahead. Historic “working” or “productive” landscapes may be agricultural or industrial and unique or traditional. Some topical working landscapes convey water or that provide flood control. Please focus your HALS report on the landscape as a whole and not on a building or structure alone. For this future theme, the HAER History Guidelines may be helpful along with the HALS History Guidelines.

U.S. Capitol, HABS DC-38, Washington, District of Columbia. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Now for 2022, people are hereby challenged to complete at least one HALS short format historical report to document Olmsted Landscapes. Preservation through documentation!

For more information, contact Chris Stevens, 202-354-2146, Chris_Stevens@nps.gov.

Chris Stevens, ASLA, is Senior Landscape Architect, Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS), National Park Service; past chair of the ASLA Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (PPN); and past ASLA HALS Subcommittee chair / coordinator.

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