2022 HALS Challenge Results: Olmsted Landscapes

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

A cyclist amidst redwood trees
2022 HALS Challenge First Place Winner: California’s North Coast Redwood Parks, HALS CA-166 / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Results of the 13th annual HALS Challenge, Olmsted Landscapes, were announced at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture on Sunday, November 13, 2022. Congratulations to the winners! Sponsored by the National Park Service, cash prizes were awarded to the top 3 submissions. The National Association for Olmsted Parks (NAOP) also awarded 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, and non-park work of the Olmsted Firm. This challenge resulted in the donation of 17 impressive HALS short format historical reports to the HALS collection for sites in twelve different states from coast to coast.

2022 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, social reformer and founder of American landscape architecture. By documenting Olmsted landscapes for HALS, entrants increased public awareness of historic landscapes and illuminated the Olmsteds’ 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, were eligible (see Master List of Design Projects).

First Place: California’s North Coast Redwood Parks, Job No. 08335, HALS CA-166
Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, California
By Douglas Nelson, ASLA, Landscape Architect
California’s North Coast Redwood Parks are significant for preserving the best examples of magnificent redwood forests and the world’s tallest trees. It took foresight and stewardship to recognize that these forests would be lost to logging if active conservation efforts were not undertaken in the early twentieth century. Conservationists, including the founders of the Save the Redwoods League, saw the immense value and benefits of preserving these extraordinary natural places for future generations. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. played a key role by providing recommendations for the acquisition, management, and conservation of these parks, and for preserving the economic vitality of the region through sustainable yield forestry practices in areas outside of the parks.

Second Place: Gray Gardens, HALS MA-9 / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Second Place: Gray Gardens, Job No. 07036, HALS MA-9
Cambridge, Massachusetts
By Allison A. Crosbie, ASLA, City of Cambridge Historical Commission
Gray Gardens is significant as a planned residential neighborhood designed by Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects in 1922, reflecting patterns of single family suburbanization that were widespread in the early twentieth century and popularized through the Garden City movement. A more modest example of the suburban planning and design practiced by the Olmsted firm, the development’s design included working with the topography, preserving existing landscape features, and incorporating small park spaces.

Third Place: Lakeshore Highlands, HALS CA-167 / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Third Place: Lakeshore Highlands, Job No. 05945, HALS CA-167
Oakland, California
By Stacy Farr, Architectural Historian, Chris Pattillo, FASLA, HALS Northern California Chapter, Petra Marar, ASLA, Ellen Monroe, and Cathy Garrett, ASLA, PGAdesign, and Betty Marvin, Planner III, Historic Preservation, City of Oakland
The Lakeshore Highlands development exemplifies a historically significant era of residential development in Oakland, when aesthetics, transportation advances, and new methods of real estate development combined to create a residential typology that reflected national trends and influenced the pattern of residential development in Oakland and beyond. Lakeshore Highlands became an early model for its developer, Walter H. Leimert Co., in partnership with the Olmsted Brothers, for later developments along the West Coast. Leimert attributed the success of Lakeshore Highlands notably to its homeowners’ association, one of the earliest on the West Coast. The association and its governing documents, still operating, guide and regulate the occupancy and use of lots, buildings, and use of common park areas. The impact of this mechanism, popularized alongside the development pattern, is both site-specific and far-reaching. Some restrictions are defunct, like the racial covenant restricting the race of homeowners and residents, while others remain, requiring lots to be used only for single family homes and grass to be well-mowed. As a result, the location, appearance, construction pedigree, and design integrity of Lakeshore Highlands continues to express the story of this significant era of residential development in Oakland.

Honorable Mention: Cadwalader Park, HALS NJ-9 / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Honorable Mention: Cadwalader Park, Job No. 01181, HALS NJ-9
Trenton, New Jersey
By Rebecca Flemer, Affil. ASLA, M.S. University of Pennsylvania, Evelyn Timberlake, M.S. University of Vermont, Randy Baum, ASLA, Licensed Landscape Architect, and David Bosted, Trenton Museum Society Trustee and Historian
Cadwalader Park is significant as a largely intact example of a Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. design. Completing the plan in 1891 at the age of 69, it is Olmsted, Sr.’s last great urban park and the only one in New Jersey created by him. He visited the site in 1890 and created the original plan for the park, continuing to work on it until his retirement in 1895. The park and the surrounding neighborhood of Cadwalader Heights, consisting of 73 houses exemplify the City Beautiful initiative to provide respite to city dwellers. In the late 19th century, Trenton was a manufacturing leader—producing ceramics, rubber, and steel—and was home to the Roebling plant. In response to burgeoning industrialization and urbanization, the park was created with winding pathways and open vistas to guide urban-dwellers to the beauty and cathartic elements of nature. Cadwalader Park’s extant features include a rustic ravine, open meadows, allées of mature trees, and Neo-Classical structures. At the center of the park is the Ellarslie Mansion, originally designed as a home for Henry McCall, Sr. by Philadelphia architect John Notman, who introduced the Italianate style to the United States. Notman planned the grounds in the picturesque style and used many landscape design principles of Andrew Jackson Downing, who incidentally was a champion of Frederick Law Olmsted’s early writing. Cadwalader Park represents the work and ideas of the major cultural figures in the 19th century American Landscape movement.

NAOP Certificate for Submission by a College or Graduate Student: Terwilliger Parkway, HALS OR-8 / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

National Association for Olmsted Parks (NAOP) Certificate for Submission by a College or Graduate Student: Terwilliger Parkway, Job No. 02642, HALS OR-8
Portland, Oregon
By Jeremy T. Ebersole, Historic Preservation Graduate Program, University of Oregon, with contributions by Anton Vetterlein; Wes Risher; William J. Hawkins, III – Friends of Terwilliger
Terwilliger Parkway is significant as a largely intact expression of City Beautiful planning ideals in Portland. Envisioned by famed landscape architect John C. Olmsted and implemented by his associate and Portland’s first Park Superintendent, Emanuel T. Mische, the road and bordering park land represents a “scenic parkway” period of thought concerning road construction influenced by the City Beautiful Movement that flourished around the turn of the twentieth century and stands in marked contrast to the newer SW Barbur Blvd. and Interstate 5 just to its east. In contrast to these larger highways—which are characterized by their high speeds, multiple lanes, long straightaways, low elevation, and roadside development—Terwilliger Parkway is characterized by slower speeds, a curvilinear course following the contours of the hills, and most notably by a guiding emphasis on facilitating opportunities to leisurely enjoy scenic vistas and outdoor recreation thanks to regular parking pulloffs, lawns, and a pedestrian path made possible by a wooded buffer zone keeping development at a distance.

NAOP Certificate for Work of the Olmsted Firm in Ohio: Hills and Dales Park, HALS OH-16 / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

National Association for Olmsted Parks (NAOP) Certificate for Work of the Olmsted Firm in Ohio: Hills and Dales Park, Job No. 03121, HALS OH-16
Kettering, Ohio
By Bernadette Whitworth, Historical and Cultural Resources Manager, Five Rivers MetroParks, Laura Stevens, Interpretation Coordinator, Five Rivers MetroParks, David Schmidt, Research Consultant, The Oakwood Historical Society, and Eric R. Sauer, RLA, Planning Manager, Five Rivers MetroParks
Hills and Dales Park was a roughly 500-acre project developed by John Charles Olmsted and industrialist and civic leader John H. Patterson. Patterson’s concept to provide for his National Cash Register (N.C.R.) employees and community betterment by building a subdivision and public country club park for outdoor recreation and enjoyment was ahead of its time and aligned with views the Olmsted firm held regarding the importance of nature and access to the outdoors for everyone. The land was both forest and open farmland with rolling hills, beautiful vistas, and lots of potential. The resulting park featured a multitude of options for visitors to take advantage of the benefits of fresh country air to socialize. Bridle and hiking trails, Adirondack style camps, a clubhouse, dance pavilion, community garden, sport fields and golf were highlights of the park. Patterson contracted with the Olmsted firm for over twenty years beginning in 1894 and worked with them on a variety of projects related to N.C.R., the park, and subdivision. The Olmsted landscape at Hills and Dales Park showcased the firm’s quality work to countless visitors over the years and was almost certainly a factor in the selection of the Olmsted firm for additional projects in the Dayton area and beyond during the upcoming decades. Though Hills and Dales Park has changed over time and most of the Olmsted era features are gone, the purpose and spirit of the park remains consistent with the original Olmsted and Patterson visions. The roads still wind through a picturesque landscape with towering trees and beautiful vistas and residents regularly visit the area to golf, socialize, hike, picnic, and enjoy nature.

NAOP Certificate for non-park work of the Olmsted firm: Lawrenceville School, HALS NJ-10 / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

National Association for Olmsted Parks (NAOP) Certificate for Non-Park Work of the Olmsted Firm: Lawrenceville School, Job No. 00052, HALS NJ-10
Lawrenceville, New Jersey
By Elaine A. Mills, Registered Landscape Architect, ISA Certified Arborist, LEED AP
Frederick Law Olmsted Senior was the master planner and landscape architect for the Lawrenceville School. Olmsted’s forward-looking campus master plan and landscape designs, which began in 1883 and thrives to this day, supported the School’s progressive educational and social system with aesthetic and functional manipulations of the architecture and landscape. He arranged the campus in a picturesque and uncommon circular fashion and established each building as a public building in a park with a north front and a south front. Olmsted set the fifty-acre residential educational community within a “museum of botany and dendrology,” and insisted on advanced facilities for public health including, exercise, water supply, drainage, sanitation, and building orientation. Additionally, in anticipation of future land acquisitions, he established a new axis leading from the Circle to guide the next expansion of the school. The Circle remains a rare surviving example of an educational institution where architects and landscape planners collaborated successfully to change the quality of life of its inhabitants.

The 10 other outstanding entries (alphabetical by state):

  • Anne W. Cheney Mansion and Grounds, HALS CT-4, Manchester, Connecticut, by Megan Pilla, PLA, ASLA
  • Bonebreak Theological Seminary, HALS OH-17, Dayton Ohio, by Austin Allen, Ph.D., ASLA
  • Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, HALS MN-11, Ely, Minnesota, by David Driapsa, FASLA
  • Conrad Weiser Homestead and Memorial Park, HALS PA-36, Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, by Zach Cross, Charlotte Tang Schmitt, Layla Khalifa, Chris Kurth—Landscape Architecture Team at Bernardon
  • Gasprilla Island, HALS FL-33, Boca Grande, Florida, by David Driapsa, FASLA
  • Peninsula Park, HALS OR-9, Portland, Oregon, by Carter W. Ause, Graduate Student, Historic Preservation, University of Oregon
  • Planting Fields, HALS NY-17, Oyster Bay, New York, by Patricia M. O’Donnell, FASLA, Preservation Landscape Architect and Planner, Heritage Landscapes LLC
  • Shelburne Farms, HALS VT-4, Shelburne, Vermont, Patricia M. O’Donnell, FASLA, Preservation Landscape Architect and Planner Heritage Landscapes LLC
  • Stanford University Campus, HALS CA-168, Stanford, California, by Duncan Snow Trau, Master of Science in Historic Preservation (MSHP), Department of Architecture, and Dorna Eshrati, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, R. Wayne Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana
  • Village of Pinehurst, HALS NC-9, Pinehurst, North Carolina, by Beth Powell, RLA

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was created in 2000 as a federal program to document historic landscapes in the United States and its territories. Documentation is critical to preserving these significant sites for the benefit of future generations. Like its companion programs, the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), HALS produces written and graphic records used by educators, land managers, and preservation planners as well as the general public.

The National Park Service (NPS) administers the planning and operation of HALS, standardizes formats and develops guidelines for recording landscapes, and catalogs and/or publishes the information when appropriate. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) provides professional guidance and technical advice for the program through its Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network. The Library of Congress (LOC) accepts and preserves HALS documents, furnishes reproductions of material, and makes records available to the public.

The HALS office is continuing the challenge again in 2023 with a new theme. For the 14th annual HALS Challenge competition, we invite you to document Working Landscapes. Historic “working” or “productive” landscapes may be agricultural or industrial and unique or traditional. Some topical working landscapes convey water for irrigation or provide flood control. Please focus your HALS report on the landscape as a whole and not on a building or structure alone. For this theme, the HAER History Guidelines may be helpful along with HALS History Guidelines.

Short format histories should be submitted to HALS at the NPS no later than July 31, 2023 (c/o Chris Stevens, 202-354-2146, Chris_Stevens@nps.gov). Sponsored by HALS, cash prizes will again be awarded to the top three submissions. Results will be announced at the 2023 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Minneapolis.

Look for more information on the 2023 HALS Challenge here on The Field next month.

Beginning in 2024, HALS Challenges will no longer have themes. All HALS short format historical reports submitted each year will then be eligible. There will be 14 years’ worth of themes and entries to turn to for inspiring examples. By not having a theme, we hope to encourage more entries from more states, and professors that teach HALS will be able to plan their curricula years in advance. HALS will also update the scoring sheet to include 5 bonus points for student entries to encourage more emerging professional interest in the HALS Challenge.

Thank you to all entrants for expanding the HALS collection and raising awareness of the historic Olmsted landscapes!

Chris Stevens, ASLA, is NPS HALS Landscape Architect, past chair of the ASLA Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (PPN), and past ASLA HALS Subcommittee chair / coordinator.

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