Holyoke to mark Olmsted bicentennial with art contest, walking tours

  • Matthias Lipp, 16 of South Hadley, at the Holyoke Skate Park at the far end of Pulaski Park in Holyoke. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Matthias Lipp, 16 of South Hadley, at the Holyoke Skate Park at the far end of Pulaski Park in Holyoke. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Left, Quana Carter, 18, of Westfield, and Sirza Streit, 12, of Springfield, race around a small track at one of the playgrounds Monday at Pulaski Park in Holyoke. “I think it’s great — kids can play at the playgrounds or skate parks while grown-ups can be active, too,” Carter said. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Caly Deleon, with her sons Kiko Martell, 6, left, and Jorge Martell, 8, look out over the Connecticut River at Pulaski Park in Holyoke, Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

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    Left, Quana Carter,18, of Westfield, and Sirza Streit,12, of Springfield, race around a small track at one of the play grounds at Pulaski Park in Holyoke. "I think its great, kids can play at the playgrounds or skate parks while grownups can be active to," said Carter. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Holyoke's Pulaski Park after the first significant snowfall on Jan. 7. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Holyoke's Pulaski Park after the first significant snowfall on Jan. 7. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 2/21/2022 8:04:32 PM
Modified: 2/21/2022 8:04:12 PM

HOLYOKE — Standing in Pulaski Park, the beauty of Holyoke is immediately apparent. Outlooks provide views of the Connecticut River rushing over the city’s dam, the canals and industrial infrastructure visible from one side of the park and the Holyoke Range from the other.

“It’s a treasure,” nearby resident Sharron O’Neil said Monday afternoon, the sound of the burbling river in the background occasionally punctuated by the yell of children playing nearby. “The river, the birds that are here all the time, the trees.”

The city created Pulaski Park — originally called Prospect Park after the name of the street that used to run along it — in 1884, and by as early as 1905 had hired as consultants the renowned Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm. The Olmsted firm’s design of the park is just one example of the legacy that legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and his sons left in Holyoke and the region.

This April will mark what would have been the 200th birthday of Olmsted, who is known for designing everything from Central Park in Manhattan to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. To celebrate the occasion, the Holyoke Preservation Trust has launched an art competition for Holyoke’s youth and adults from throughout the Pioneer Valley.

In an announcement Friday, the Holyoke Preservation Trust said it will be handing out some $3,100 in prize money to artists in three categories: K-5 students from Holyoke, Holyoke students in Grades 6-12, and adults who are residents of the Pioneer Valley. The art can be in any medium — sculpture or painting, music or photography. The pieces must be connected to, or inspired by, any of the Olmsted designs found in Holyoke’s parks and private homes.

Olivia Mausel of the Holyoke Preservation Trust said the competition is for “individuals who want to do some kind of creative art piece, or sculpture, or drawing, or quilt … to respond to the Olmsted designs.

“We’re hoping that with the pieces that come in, we can display them throughout the city,” Mausel said.

The celebration is one of many sure to occur this year to celebrate the “Olmsted 200,” as the National Association for Olmsted Parks is calling it.

“Olmsted and his successor firms designed thousands of landscape projects across the country, transforming American life and culture,” the association’s website says. “His vision of public parks for all people — and their ability to strengthen communities and promote public well-being — are now more important than ever.”

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1822, Olmsted is considered the father of landscape architecture. He eventually created his own landscape architecture firm, Fairsted, in Brookline in 1883. From there, he designed many iconic places in the state, including the Smith College campus and Boston’s chain of parks known as Emerald Necklace.

After he retired, his sons — John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. — took over the firm, continuing the same vision their father had. And it was the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm that designed parks, gardens and other places across the region, including Pulaski Park.

Mausel said that the other parks and places in Holyoke touched by the Olmsteds include Springdale Park, Jones Park, Wyckoff Country Club, and a handful of gardens and grounds at private residences.

“The landscapes, that’s his legacy,” Mausel said. “And Holyoke has quite a few.”

Mausel said that the Holyoke Preservation Trust is hosting a walking tour of the former Elmwood Park on April 9, and of Jones Point Park on April 16, as part of its Olmsted celebrations. Another tour, of the Wyckoff Park area, will take place April 23. All three were Olmsted designs.

“He was just prolific in all the things he and his sons did,” Mausel said.

Of course, spaces continue to change as time moves on. In 2013, for example, the city opened a skate park in the southeast corner of Pulaski Park — a design feature it’s safe to say that neither Olmsted nor his children envisioned.

The skate park was full of young people enjoying the spring-like weather on Monday. So, too, were the nearby basketball hoops, playgrounds and outdoor workout equipment.

“I like it here,” 15-year-old Qwamaine Taylor said, his skateboard in his hand as he took a quick break from skating Monday. “Everybody loves it.”

Jon Rosado, 15, said he doesn’t come to the park too often. But with the nice weather Monday, he felt drawn to the area to try some new tricks on his skateboard.

“It’s a pretty good park,” he said, looking up the hill at the Olmsteds’ work.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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