One of the most beautiful drives in Atlanta is the short jaunt east to Decatur, via Ponce de Leon Avenue. The graceful contours of the road are lined by a string of pocket parks, and framed by a chorus of beautiful trees of all shapes and sizes. Numbed by the ebbs and flows of intown Atlanta driving, one might even think that they’re driving right through a park. And they would be, as it turns out, correct.
In 1890, Atlanta businessman Joel Hurt hired Frederick Law Olmstead, the Michael Jordan of American landscape architecture and urban planning, to deveop the area now known as Druid Hills. Olmstead- best known for his work designing New York’s Central Park, the nation’s Capitol Grounds and the astonishing Biltmore Estate– proved to be the right man for the task. I think that the thousands of motorists and pedestrians that enjoy Olmstead Linear Park every day would agree that it is one of Atlanta’s not-so-hidden-gems.
As is usually the case with not-so-hidden-gems, the vitality of Olmstead Linear Parkrelies in a large part on volunteers and charitable donations. Formed in 1997, the Olmstead Linear Park Alliance has raised $9.5 million, planted hundreds of trees, buried ugly overhead wiring, put in curbing, installed historical lighting and- generally speaking- made the entire space as attractive as the elder Olmstead envisioned it when he completed his design in 1902. The organization has been an incredible community resource and advocate for this remarkable green space.
This Sunday evening, February 28, is the annual Olmstead Linear Park Gala, Dream In Green. Held around the corner from the park at Fernbank Natural History Museum, the event will feature good eats, a good cause, and a great auction. If you’ve got the spare coin, attend. If you don’t, tell a friend that might.
And the next time you’re driving through Olmstead Linear Park with a little extra time on your hands, stop and stay for a while. That’s what Frederick Law Olmstead and Joel Hurt would have wanted.