Partnering with Vaux, his ground-break-ing integration of parks, parkways and
landscaped circles earned Buffalo global
acclaim and became a national model for
comparable future designs.
Managed by the Buffalo Olmsted Parks
Conservancy, the 850-acre system offers
multiple rental facilities and attracts over
1 million annual visitors. In South Park,
Olmsted co-designed the 1900 Buffalo and
Erie County Botanical Gardens. Inspired
by London’s legendary Crystal Palace, this
national historic site attracts over 100,000
people annually. Rental spaces include the
connecting Victorian greenhouses or full
Olmsted was also instrumental in the
scenic preservation of the nearby Niagara
An hour east of Buffalo, Rochester, the
“Flower City,” also has deep Olmsted roots.
Hired by its Parks Commission in 1888,
Olmsted found harmony for his “pastoral
landscape” vision in Rochester’s gorges and
waterways. His resulting “emerald necklace”
includes Highland Park, site of Rochester’s
annual welcome to spring, the Lilac Festival.
Rochester groups can also enjoy the
event-capable formal gardens at Kodak
founder George Eastman’s former urban
estate, part of the George Eastman Museum. Picture-worthy, too, is Sonnenberg
Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park
in nearby Canandaigua, featuring rare
surviving Lord & Burnham (Olmsted’s
co-collaborators in Buffalo) greenhouses
built between 1903 and 1915.
At Ithaca’s serene Cornell Botanic
Art in Nature
Gardens, event spaces include the LEED
Gold-certified Brian C. Nevin Welcome
Center and F. R. Newman Arboretum.
Inside a museum, architecture, design and
art collaborate—or conspire—to inspire
or provoke distinct reactions. Move art
outside, and the engagement changes
completely. For groups seeking creative inspiration, New York’s en plein air sculpture
gardens and parks can shift the agenda in
unexpected and exciting ways.
Reopened this spring, the Donald M.
Kendall Sculpture Gardens at PepsiCo’s
world headquarters in Purchase, N. Y., offer
a blue-chip agenda booster for Westchester County groups (especially those convening minutes away at IACC-certified,
Benchmark-managed Doral Arrowwood
Hotel Conference Center).
Conceived by PepsiCo’s former namesake chairman of the board and CEO, the
collection, started in 1965, features 46
works by major 20th century artists on exquisitely landscaped gardens and grounds.
The campus is open for free self-guided
weekend visits from April to October.
An hour north of NYC in the lower Hudson River Valley, Storm King Art Center
features 100-plus large-scale outdoor
art installations from the 1950s onward.
Founded in 1960, the 500-acre campus’
five distinct zones include Museum Hill
and the expansive South Fields, both available for outdoor and tented events. Groups
can arrange docent-led tours, rent bicycles, or ramble fields, hills and woodlands
FALLING for NEW YORK
Nature had a major role in New York’s landscape design, including the sculptural hand of water. In the case of Niagara Falls, long a tour de force
attraction, humans were vital partners. While working on
Buffalo’s parks in the 1860s, Olmsted began advocating
for preserving Niagara Falls. He collaboratively saw to New
York’s establishment of the Niagara Reservation—the first
park of its kind created by a state government—which he and Vaux then designed.
Niagara, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse groups have another water-powered
crown jewel in the region—Letchworth State Park. Running 17 miles and spanning
14,000 acres along the Genesee River, the “Grand Canyon of the East” features
three major waterfalls (Upper Falls currently closed as its historic train trestle is
replaced); 66 miles of hiking trails; a conference center; and the intimate 1914
Glen Iris Inn, park founder William Letchworth’s former estate.
Spectacular cascades populate the Finger Lakes region, including 19 falls
within Watkins Glen State Park, and Ithaca’s gushing collection, including mighty
multitier Taughannock Falls.
In the Catskills, two-tier, 186-foot Kaaterskill Falls are the tallest in the state,
with a new viewing platform in place. Water also flows throughout the scenic Thousand Islands region, home of legendary Boldt Castle on Heart Island.
LETCHWORTH STATE PARK GORGE, NEW YORK
DONALD M. KENDALL SCULPTURE GARDENS, PURCHASE