• A herd of sheep in Boston's Franklin Park, 1916. Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of this park, expressed a distinct preference for using sheep to keep the turf shorn instead of mowers. The presence of sheep also helped achieve the pastoral ambience he strove for in his naturalistic "rural park" design. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.

    More info
    Select an item:
    Franklin Park bridge with sheep in foreground
    • Date
    • 1916
    • Creator
    • Abdalian, Leon H., 1884-1967
    • Description
    • Title from item. Abdalian identifier no. 10055. Date from item.
    • Rights
    • No known copyright restrictions. No known restrictions on use.
    • Partner
    • Digital Commonwealth
    • Contributing Institution
    • Boston Public Library

  • A view of Lester Park in Duluth, Minnesota. This is an example of a park able to take advantage of existing natural beauty rather than having to recreate it. Courtesy of the University of Minnesota Library, Northeast Minnesota Historical Center Collections via Minnesota Digital Library.

    More info
    Select an item:
    Lester Park Views, Duluth, Minnesota
    • Creator
    • Paine, F. Rodney, 1889-1968
    • Description
    • Lester Park bridge crosses the Lester River.
    • Rights
    • It is not necessary to seek permission to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that the Library has made available either online or directly to you from the collections at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library. Thi... more
      It is not necessary to seek permission to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that the Library has made available either online or directly to you from the collections at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library. This applies whether your use is noncommercial or commercial. Click here for more information link updated to: https://lib.d.umn.edu/research-collections/archives-special-collections/using-collections less
    • Partner
    • Minnesota Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library, Northeast Minnesota Historical Collections

  • A couple stroll by a pool in New York's Central Park, 1973. This is an example of a "passive" park activity. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

    More info
    Select an item:
    COUPLE STROLL BY CENTRAL PARK POOL
    • Creator
    • Environmental Protection Agency. 12/2/1970-.
    • Rights
    • Unrestricted.
    • Partner
    • National Archives and Records Administration
    • Contributing Institution
    • National Archives at College Park - Still PicturesNational Archives at College Park - Still Pictures

  • The child using this playground in Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois, is participating in an "active" park use. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

    More info
    Select an item:
    LINCOLN PARK PLAYGROUND
    • Creator
    • Environmental Protection Agency. 12/2/1970-.
    • Rights
    • Unrestricted.
    • Partner
    • National Archives and Records Administration
    • Contributing Institution
    • National Archives at College Park - Still PicturesNational Archives at College Park - Still Pictures

A specific park design makes assumptions about the use and purpose of the park. The designer tries to meet certain perceived needs and create spaces to be used in certain ways.

Park design and use changed over time, particularly in relation to two design elements:

  • Naturalistic versus natural. A naturalistic landscape imitates nature, perhaps recreating an idealized form, rather than preserving the existing, natural, environment.

  • Passive versus active use of parks. Passive recreation often makes use of the open space and scenic aspects of a park in relatively quiet and low intensity ways and might require amenities like paths, benches, and rustic picnic tables. Active recreation often involves cooperative or team activity, might be somewhat noisy and might require facilities like playgrounds, ball fields, swimming pools, or the like.

Attitudes around these elements shifted through time, and their implementation in any particular design was affected by factors like type, size, or location of a park. Parks themselves evolved as needs and preferences changed.