Preservation Issues

After Large Public Response, Parks OK’s a Conditions Survey at Olmsted House

August 2, 2017

You Made a Difference!

Our great thanks to all of you who emailed the City Parks Commissioner expressing your concern for the deteriorated state of the Olmsted House and grounds in Staten Island. You made a difference.

After receiving a volume of emails, the Department has accepted the Conservancy’s offer to pay for a conditions survey of the house. The survey will give the Department specifics, and allow them to request City capital funding for restoration. The grounds, where trees planted by Olmsted still stand, are severely overgrown despite being an official City park: The Olmsted-Beil House Park. This is where Frederick Law Olmsted put finishing touches on his plan for Central Park. The “father of American landscape architecture” worked with Calvert Vaux on Central and Prospect Parks, as well as preliminary plans for Morningside and Riverside Parks. The conditions survey will be a first step in what will likely be a lengthy process of bringing back the house and grounds. We will keep you informed and ask for your help again with securing City capital funding.

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July 31, 2017

The former Staten Island home of Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture, is in a severely neglected state despite being an individual City landmark and City park. Visitors intrepid enough to visit the overgrown location are met with an unwelcoming sign: “Historical Site: No Trespassing.” It deserves to be saved.

After buying the house and grounds, the Parks Department announced that it intended to use the house for educational purposes and the surrounding land as a public park. At that time, the Conservancy gave a $20,000 grant and technical oversight to help stabilize the farmhouse. In a letter to Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver last week, we offered to pay for an updated structures report.

Lynda Ricciardone, Borough Commissioner for Staten Island, responded to the letter. She did not mention our offer of a grant. Instead, she said capital funding is needed and that the Parks Department is seeking to purchase an adjacent property to improve access. She also noted that a “friends group” would be helpful. The Parks Department enumerated these same steps in 2006. Aside from stabilizing the house after a fire, the Department has not moved forward. Nothing has happened except for the continuing deterioration of the house and grounds.

The Conservancy is sounding the alarm on this endangered landmark. Click here to contact the Parks Department to voice your support for saving this important piece of American landscape architectural history.

CONTACT THE PARKS DEPARTMENT

Olmsted-Beil House Park in Eltingville is part of “Tomosock Farm,” where Olmsted put the finishing touches on the plan that won the competition for the design of Central Park. Olmsted designed Central and Prospect Parks with Calvert Vaux, as well as preliminary plans for Morningside and Riverside Parks.

Olmsted’s father purchased the original 125 acres of farmland for his son in December 1847. Olmsted cultivated fruit trees and planted other magnificent species of trees, many of which remain on the property today. The first story of the farm house dates to the 1690s, with later additions completed in the 1730s. The upper wood frame stories were added by 1830. On a recent visit, Conservancy staff noted that the building is sealed but its porch has fallen off.

After Olmsted sold the property in 1866, the house had several owners, including the naturalist Carlton Beil, who purchased the property in 1961. The house survives thanks in large part to the Beil family who transferred ownership of the house to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation in 2006.

More photos here.