The largest park in the Emerald Necklace, measuring 527 acres, it was meant to serve as Boston’s “central” park. Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., with John Charles Olmsted, completed the general plan in 1885. In 1905 John considered the park “an illustration of park designing, the plan and report on Franklin Park is probably the best piece of work done by its designer, Frederick Law Olmsted.”
Subdivided into two great sections separated by the depressed cross-park road, Glen Lane, the Country Park portion represents 2/3 of the acreage, with the remainder, known as the Ante Park, set aside for active recreation. This latter portion consisted of a children's play area, termed the Playstead, and a promenade known as the Greeting (now the Franklin Park Zoo). From 1885-1896, John supervised construction, creating a park with a rich variety of landscapes reminiscent of the New England countryside. The design took advantage of existing topography, ledges, and vegetation to strengthen the intended Picturesque character. Although individual passages of scenery, from woodlands to meadows, were often larger than in other Emerald Necklace parks, contributing elements such as the drives, entrances, bridges, walls, steps, overlooks, and site furniture were of a similar palette. As intended from the outset, a golf course replaced the former Country Park Meadow in 1896. It was the first course in the city and the second public course in America. A greater departure from Olmsted’s intent was the Franklin Park Zoo designed by Arthur Shurcliff in 1910. Shurcliff also redesigned the drives at Peabody Circle in 1925. White Stadium was built in the Playstead in 1948, while a thirteen-acre section, known as Heathfield, was deeded to the Commonwealth to build Shattuck Hospital in 1954. Child Associates undertook historic preservation work at the park from 1995-1998, returning a large parking lot at the stadium to recreational lawn, and reinstalling several pathways that had been removed or altered over the years.