Film|Frederick Law Olmsted-Designing America

Please join our friends of the NY Upstate Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects in celebrating their 60th anniversary with the film Frederick Law Olmsted-Designing America, at The Little Theatre at 6:30 pm.

The documentary is an hour in length and following the film will be a panel discussion featuring local speakers; JoAnn Beck, ASLA, City of Rochester’s Senior Landscape Architect and Katie Eggers Comeau, Architectural Historian at Bero Architecture PLLC, as well as guests from Ithaca, NY Judy Hyman, and Jeff Cluas. The panel will be moderated by Project Manager at Bayer Landscape Architecture, Zakery Steele, ASLA.

At the conclusion of the panel discussion, attendees are cordially invited to the 60th Anniversary reception at Ballroom 384 at East Ave Inn & Suites. Tickets are just $25 for this great documentary and wonderful occasion! 

>>Click here to purchase your tickets

Ellwanger Garden Open for Lilac Festival


While you’re exploring the lilacs at Highland Park, escape the crowds and stroll over to The Ellwanger Garden at 625 Mt. Hope Avenue. Rochester’s “secret garden,” filled with colorful perennials, The Ellwanger Garden is maintained by The Landmark Society. It will be open to the public daily during Lilac Festival, May 10-19, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Admission is free, donations accepted.

Established in 1867 by famed Rochester nurseryman George Ellwanger, this living preservation site boasts eighty different kinds of perennials, including strong collections of peonies, roses, daylilies, hostas, irises and spring- and summer-flowering bulbs.  It’s a unique flower-viewing experience. There are few other sites in Rochester – or New York – where you can see such a wide variety of flowers in a relatively compact garden, including rare and historic varieties. The historic landscape can also be viewed during Peony Weekend in June and by appointment.


The altruism of George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry changed the face of Rochester. Their gift of 20 choice acres inspired the city to form the Parks Commission in 1888. The 20 acres were the start of Highland Park, location of the world famous Lilac Festival each May.

They also gave vast numbers of trees and donated two specimens of every variety of plant in their nursery to the Park. They planted many of the majestic trees that grace our city today.

The success of the Rochester nursery trade, as exemplified by the Mt. Hope Nursery, earned Rochester the title “The Flower City.” The Lilac Festival maintains the heritage of that name, and Ellwanger Garden gives visitors the chance to experience the inspiration of that heritage.

The Ellwanger Garden is maintained by The Landmark Society of Western New York, a not-for-profit organization. Donations made by visitors help maintain this historic garden and open it to the public each season. Follow the signs for parking.

New Signs in Rochester’s Olmsted Parks

With the impending storm from Hurricane Sandy, now might not be the best time to head out and see them for yourself, but here’s a look at some of the new interpretive way-finding signs that have just been erected in Rochester’s Highland Park.

A number of years in the making, the signs were funded, in part, by grants from the federal Preserve America program and the Rochester Area Community Foundation. The Landmark Society worked with the City of Rochester and Monroe County to secure the funding back in 2006. The project also funded signs in Genesee Valley Park, Seneca Park, and Maplewood Park, for a total of 13 signs in all.

All three parks are part of Rochester’s park system designed by renowned landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted is perhaps more commonly known for his work in New York City (Central Park and Prospect Park) but Rochester bears the rare honor of being one of only four park systems designed by Olmsted (the others being Buffalo, Louisville, and Boston).

If there’s any fall foliage left after the storm passes and the brush is cleared, take a lovely fall stroll or a bike ride through one of Rochester’s Olmsted-designed parks and learn a bit more about the parks’ design and why Frederick Law Olmsted was such an important figure in the development of many American cities and parks.

Thanks to JoAnn Beck, Senior Landscape Architect with the City of Rochester, for the photos!

Flashback or Fast Forward–Rochester’s Highland Park

Last summer, my husband and I took our four children to Rochester’s Highland Bowl, or should I say the John Dunbar Memorial Pavilion, ca. 1937, for the Monroe County Parks’ program “Free Movies in the Parks.” On one particular evening, the title was Back to the Future, originally released in 1985 when I was a sophomore in college. Fast forward 25 years and here I am procuring my own version of Back to the Future by taking my kids to the same spot where I first heard, saw, and fell in love with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel during the then popular “Opera under the Stars” series, probably around 1972.

We sat on the lawn in the beautifully landscaped park, enjoying the harmonious relationship of the amphitheater, a product of human hands, with the sloping hillside, carved from glaciers, a natural acoustic partner for the “Bowl.” The ampitheater or the “Bowl” as it is now widely referred to, was originally dedicated in 1937 to the late John Dunbar who is credited with the early establishment of the world class Lilac collection in Highland Park.

Many of our friends and neighbors who reside in the City of Rochester also attend these firefly-lit summer events. On this night, the crowd was surprisingly small for a gorgeous August evening. The potential crowd, I surmised, whittled down by the competing outdoor movie series screened on the same night in the nearby Towns of Brighton and Pittsford. My observation made me pause and consider the impact that sprawl and decentralization has had, and will continue to have, upon the oeuvre of childhood, and adult experiences alike which, only a generation ago could be shared with someone from 3 doors to more than 30 miles away. The collective memory and the vocabulary that comes from common experience, can be crucial as a launching point for discourse and understanding.

In the early days of the Bowl, the Rochester Philharmonic and other symphonic programs performed frequently during the spring and summer performance season. Today, a smattering of events are on the program annually, including Shakespeare in the Park, concerts, the movie series I attend with my family, and other community activities.

My suggestion: do your best to attend an event in the Highland Bowl, and if you have children, bring them. Look around and enjoy the legacy of Ellwanger, Barry, Olmsted, and Dunbar, while Frederick Douglass and Goethe look on. The first 20 acres of Highland Park was gifted by George Ellwanger & Patrick Barry in 1887. Their gift served as a catalyst for the establishment of the City’s Department of Parks, the hiring of internationally recognized landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the establishment of an Olmsted designed park system in Rochester–one of four in the nation–and the cultivation of a world class botanical collection that draws millions annually. We are fortunate to be the recipients of decades of vision, philanthropy, and planning. The Highland Bowl site’s naturally occurring landscape was appropriately retained and maximized by people like Ellwanger, Barry, Olmsted, and Dunbar. It is an incomparable venue and should be part of every greater Rochesterian’s vocabulary.

Today, Thursday, August 18th is the last program of the summer for the “Free Movies in the Parks” series at the Highland Park Bowl.Adults can enjoy The King’s Speech, a quintessentially English film amongst a uniquely American cultural landscape.


Posted by Maranne McDade Clay, Grants Administrator