Washington National Cathedral

Black and white of large church in background with trees around and rows of shrubs with grass area
Washington National Cathedral, Job #03297, Washington, D.C.

Olmsted Archives

Quick Facts
Washington, D.C.
Olmsted Designed Landscape
From 1907 to 1927, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. worked on the master plan for the 59-acre Washington National Cathedral. Olmsted’s design created a park-like setting for the Gothic Cathedral, providing open spaces, a native woodland and cultured gardens.

Olmsted designed the arrival to the Cathedral so that “the great sweeping branches of the trees seem to brush off, as it were, the dust of the city, so that one at last reaches the Cathedral cleansed in mind and in spirit.”

Olmsted’s plan included internal roadways, locations for institutional buildings, a series of open spaces and gardens, as well as a path cutting through the existing 5-acre woodland, which was later renamed to Olmsted Woods, honoring the man who had devoted so much time to the surrounding landscape.

In 1919, Olmsted spoke about the “great charm of approaching the Cathedral through and up a wooded hillside, leaving the city far behind and below. Helping one to forget the hurly-burly and busy-ness of a work-a-day world must be taken advantage of to the fullest extent.”

Source: "Washington National Cathedral," The Cultural Landscape Foundation

For more information and primary resources, please visit:
Olmsted Research Guide Online
Olmsted Archives on Flickr
Olmsted Online

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

Last updated: June 12, 2024