In 1891, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., addressed the Salmagundi Club, a small group of Louisville civic leaders, to further their interest in establishing a park system. The resulting commission created a network of parks and boulevards, one of five such systems in the country, representing the last design of this type in the elder Olmsted’s career -- and along with Rochester, NY, the only system that was designed by all three Olmsteds. Anchoring this system were three large parks along the city’s perimeter: Iroquois (south), Cherokee (east), and Shawnee (west) with each taking full advantage of the unique natural features they possessed that included diverse topographic variation, river front views and vistas, and native woodlands. In addition to the three major parks, the firm also designed 15 neighborhood parks, squares, and playgrounds throughout the city. A system of six parkways designed over a 30-year period unifies parks and open spaces with the city.
In addition to designing the city’s park system, the Olmsteds truly shaped the city, planning and designing residential subdivisions, estates, cemeteries, institutional and religious grounds, country clubs, arboreta, and gardens.
The Louisville park system was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. In 1989, the Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy was formed as a non-profit partner of Louisville and Metro Parks to preserve and restore this legacy.