History of the Park
In August 1995, local residents and non-profit organizations joined forces to come up with a strategy to stabilize and rehabilitate the Olmsted Linear Park. The planning process, led by the Olmsted Parks Society of Atlanta, Park Pride, the Druid Hills Garden Club and the Druid Hills Civic Association, incorporated the interests of residents, garden clubs, park advocates and preservationists. The Olmsted Linear Park Master Plan was developed with counsel from public officials and from local and national consultants, including historian Charles Beveridge, editor of the Olmsted Papers.
The major stakeholders of the park, The City of Atlanta, DeKalb County Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs and the Fernbank Musuem of Natural History, adopted a Master Plan in 1997 to establish the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance (OLPA), rehabilitate the park and provide for the park’s ongoing maintenance.
The OLPA Board of Directors include representatives from the Druid Hills community, the Neighborhood Planning Unit and the Olmsted Parks Society of Atlanta along with ex-officio representatives from the City of Atlanta, DeKalb County and Fernbank. OLPA, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, has undertaken the fundraising, restoration and maintenance activities recommended by the Master Plan.
All six park segments have been rehabilitated, work that has included the addition of nearly 6,000 linear feet of paths and the installation of 2,600 new trees and shrubs. The most expensive aspect of the restoration was the burial of utility lines. Approximately 11 miles of conduit and cable lie beneath the period lampposts that ring the park.
The Olmsted Legacy
In 1890 Atlanta businessman Joel Hurt engaged Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., to prepare a plan for developing the area now known as Druid Hills. Olmsted was recognized as the nation’s preeminent designer of parks and public open spaces. His work included Central Park in New York City, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the Emerald Necklace of Boston, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and the nation’s Capitol Grounds. The Olmsted firm submitted a preliminary plan to Hurt in 1893 in which the six-segment Linear Park was first laid out. The firm completed the final plan in 1905, two years after the death of Olmsted, and remained involved with the work until 1908, when the property was acquired by the Druid Hills Corporation. The area was then developed and the Park completed under the leadership of Coca-Cola magnate Asa G. Candler. The design of Druid Hills soon became the standard by which other Atlanta developments were measured. The curving stretches of its landmark greenspace have delighted generations of area residents and the thousands of persons who come and go along Ponce de Leon Avenue every day.
Saving the Olmsted Linear Park
In the 1980’s Georgia Department of Transportation began work on a four-lane highway that would have cut through the Olmsted Linear Park. Concerned citizens banded together to defeat the road saving historic in-town neighborhoods and the park.
Watch this NPR video for more detail.
OLPA Board of Directors
Toby Brooks President
Weslee Knapp, Vice President
Jennifer Richardson, Secretary
John Giegerich, Treasurer
Druid Hills Resident Representative – OPEN
NPU-N – Carol Sleeth
EX OFFICIO DIRECTORS
Jennifer Grant Warner
William (Billy) L. Hall
G. Robert Kerr
Deen Day Sanders
Sandra Stewart Kruger