Celebrating 100 Years of Olmsted History at Black Brook Park

Photo by Explore Union County

Black Brook Park 100 Years

Dorothea Krihak, Friends of Black Brook Park

As we enjoy the outdoors and the fall colors on the leaves at Black Brook Park, it is noteworthy to point out it has been one hundred years since the creation of the park by the Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architectural firm. The creation of the Olmsted involvement began with a letter dated July 5, 1921, from the Olmsted brothers stating their desire to accept the proposal by the county to do the job.

It was a great firm and the Union County Parks Commission, as it was called then, was very fortunate to have a plan for park land for them to bring it all to fruition as a system of public parks here in Union County.

This plan included a map of the proposed land to be used which included today’s Black Brook Park here in Kenilworth.

This “parkway” of parks as the Olmsted Brothers referred to it as, along with the Olmsted world renowned name, made it a clear decision by the county upon reading their eager request to do our park system in their letter, this would be a remarkable venture together on this huge massive project. One that the county was embarking on one hundred years ago.

The Olmsted Brothers firm at that time was headed by Frederick Law Olmstead Jr., the son of Frederick Law Olmsted who was known as the “father of landscape architecture”.

Olmsted Jr., after his father’s retirement in 1898, carried on with his father’s work along with his brother, John Charles, and later without him after the older brother’s passing in 1920.

The Olmsted Brother’s firm, as it continued to be called, carried on Olmsted Sr.’s legacy. Differences in their work were due to the times in which they worked. They designed parks that were available to all, to encourage a sense of community and a remedy for stress.

Both Olmsted generations created works that included the capital grounds in Washington, D.C. In 1901 Olmsted Jr. continued with his father’s work on the capitol grounds with a fifty-year involvement.

Here in Kenilworth at Black Brook Park the County of Union continues to be influenced by the Olmsted design. The Black Brook itself is now bordered by trees to pinpoint its’ location. A beautiful, large willow tree where the brook meets Shallcross Pond was planted. These plantings reflect the Olmsted legacy of highlighting water features, as well as the trees’ ability to block out outside traffic noise and visuals on Springfield Road South on the park’s western side.

We are lucky the Olmsted brothers designed our park here in Kenilworth; one hundred years ago, it all began. It is a beautiful park to enjoy all year long, especially during the fall with the leaves changing colors. You don’t have to go far to see fall trees, it’s right here in our town. 

Many thanks and appreciation to all the “Friends” who care about the park by helping to keep it clean and green.