Behind all of Frederick Law Olmsted’s landscape designs is the belief that spending time in a natural environment is good for the health and general wellness of individuals and communities. He was a master at manipulating natural environments to affect the subconscious in a positive way.

One of the greatest appeals of building a home in Western North Carolina, rather than in the bustling society hubs of the northeast, was that George Vanderbilt could invite his friends and family to this rural retreat where they could enjoy the recreation and beauty of the area. When Vanderbilt first visited Asheville, he was said to have found the air “mild and invigorating,” and he enjoyed the rambles that he took in the wilderness.


Frederick Law Olmsted, and his daughter Marion Olmsted, taken ca. 1895 near the French Broad River at Biltmore. Courtesy of the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.


Olmsted, a team of managers, and hundreds of laborers developed Vanderbilt’s estate into an ideal place for riding, hunting, camping, fishing, and other outdoor pursuits.

The French Broad River was a natural feature of the estate that needed no help from Olmsted.

“The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration of the whole system.”

—Frederick Law Olmsted, “Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove: A Preliminary Report, 1865”


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