Hired by patron Mary Louise Curtis Bok, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. prepared a plan in 1928 for the neglected two-acre hillside between Camden Harbor and the Camden Library. Simultaneously, Fletcher Steele designed the Camden Library Amphitheatre directly across Atlantic Avenue, a unique convergence of work by two of the most important American landscape architects in the 20th century.
Employing strategic grading operations, Olmsted’s design emphasized framing views, especially those of the harbor from the library’s Palladian window, as well as views by boat toward nearby Mt. Battie and Mt. Megunticook. Curved walking paths led from street level to the shore, and generous planting beds concealed views of the backs of contiguous houses and stores. Olmsted proposed numerous native plants such American arborvitae, juniper, and blueberry, along with old-fashioned shrubs such as weigela, lilac, and tree hydrangea.
Much of Olmsted’s plan was carried out. After a period of neglect, both Harbor Park and the Camden Library Amphitheatre were rehabilitated in 2004. Today Harbor Park features lawns for public gatherings, sweeping views, benches fashioned after the original design, and hundreds of trees, shrubs, and groundcovers. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing resource to the High Street Historic District in 1989.