Ruins in the Woods: The Abandoned Estate of Frederick Law Olmsted

An entrance gate to the one-time estate of architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

An entrance gate to the one-time home of architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

I can’t remember the name of the place, or even how we got there.

I realize that may dissatisfy some of my readers, but it’s the truth. I wasn’t paying much attention when I drove out to the woods with my cousin and her friend a few weeks ago. I didn’t know there was anything to pay attention to. As far as I’d been told, we were simply killing time by taking a stroll through a beautiful–but otherwise unremarkable–New England nature preserve.

It was only forty minutes into our walk that my cousin’s friend turned to me and asked: “Do you want to see the abandoned mansion?

This was her first time meeting me. Had she known me better, she wouldn’t have needed to ask.

“Abandoned mansion?” I exclaimed, my pupils dilating and my limbs shivering beneath a sheen of adrenaline sweat. “Hot diggity dang!”

Stairway to the abandoned estate

Stairway to the abandoned estate.

As we approached what turned out to be a sprawling complex of overgrown ruins, a neglected signboard informed me that this was once an estate belonging to Frederick Law Olmsted. You may not have heard that name, but you’ve definitely heard of the work attached to it–Olmsted was the designer of New York’s Central Park, among other famous properties. (Full disclosure: Lest you mistake me for some kind of architecture buff, I am duty-bound to inform you that I was an SAT teacher for four years and had to read the same passage about Notorious F.L.O. approximately 87 times. That’s the only reason I know about him.)

 

 

A decapitated angel stands sentry at the foot of the Olmsted estate in Massachusetts.

A decapitated angel stands sentry at the foot of the estate.

Decades ago–cousin’s friend thought it might have been in the 1950’s, but she didn’t know for sure–the mansion caught fire and burned to the ground. I don’t know if this was before or after Olmsted’s descendants donated the land to the public. If it was before, well…thanks for giving us your charred ruins, Olmsted family!

 

Foundations of the Olmsted estate, Massachusetts.

Foundations of the Olmsted estate.

All that remains of the house are the foundation, some stairs, and a spooky little garden up on a hill. The latter includes some kind of grotto with a fountain inside. Previous visitors had taken the time to drape said fountain with a sheer black shroud, which was the very definition of unnecessary.

A black shroud at the Olmsted estate, Massachusetts.

Imagine how hard you’d nope if you were exploring an abandoned property and you found this.

Then there’s the pool surrounded by broken columns, which looks like the remains of some ancient pagan shrine.

An abandoned pool at the Olmsted estate, Massachusetts.

But the creepiest thing we found at the abandoned estate was this message scrawled on one of the walls.

"Reach Inside Me"-abandoned Olmsted estate, Massachusetts.

An entrance gate to the one-time home of architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

When I say “creepy,” I don’t mean cursed human remains; I mean used condom under a pile of dead fliesI’m ninety-percent sure that’s what’s in this crevice.

A few more pictures:

Abandoned Olmsted estate, Massachusetts.

Abandoned Olmsted estate, Massachusetts.

Abandoned Olmsted estate, Massachusetts.

Abandoned Olmsted estate, Massachusetts.

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2 thoughts on “Ruins in the Woods: The Abandoned Estate of Frederick Law Olmsted

  1. Patti Bender

    What a shame, that the place has been so abused. But thanks for sharing these photos. I researched both “FLO” and his son for my biography of Emilie Loring. They accomplished so much from which we have all benefitted.

    Reply

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