Olmsted’s Personal Life–Not Exactly a Bowl of Cherries by any Stretch of the Imagination

Olmsted’s only brother (and closest friend) John died of tuberculosis in 1857, the same year that Olmsted won the competition to design Central Park.

Two years later, on June 13, 1859, Olmsted married Mary Cleveland (Perkins) Olmsted, the widow of his brother. Mary was a practical and simple woman and the decision to marry appeared to be one of obligation rather than passion, since she already had three sons with John, who would otherwise have gone fatherless. Hence, after several bouts of unrequited love in his own past, passion was now on the back burner in Olmsted’s life.

Olmsted adopted his brother’s three sons (his nephews) and with Mary, had two more children who survived infancy: a daughter, Marion (born October 28, 1861) who had serious mental problems, and a son Fred, Jr. (Their first child, who had been born on June 13, 1860 died in a tragic carriage accident that left Olmsted partially crippled for life.)

With the backdrop of the Civil War, Olmsted’s life was hardly a bowl of cherries.

However, in spite of the above, he dove into what was dearest to his heart–the creation of one of the most beautiful parks in the world.

What art it is to overlook life’s tragedies and view every second as an opportunity to create something beautiful, as Olmsted seemed to do time and again!

I have tried to do the same in my depiction of Christopher Middleton, in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, who learns to create a world of beauty in the midst of his many personal challenges.


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