Martin Luther King, Jr. Park

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Buffalo, NY
United States
Martin Luther King, Jr. Park

Named The Parade by Olmsted, Vaux & Co. in their 1869 plan, this park was conceived primarily as a parade ground with an elliptical 20-acre field for military displays and sports. A curvilinear carriage drive connected the field to a playground grove and a public Refectory. The Parade was linked to Delaware Park via Humboldt Parkway, the largest of the Buffalo parkways. Situated at the entrance to the park, Calvert Vaux’s Refectory (also called the Parade House) was a short-lived 300-foot-wide timber structure with open-air two-story verandah wings and an observation tower that offered panoramic views of the city. In 1895 Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot redesigned the renamed Humboldt Park by overlaying a Beaux-Arts plan onto the former Picturesque design. Their design refashioned the grove as a picnic area and replaced the parade grounds with an axial sequence of water features. These included an enormous sunken wading pool, that alternated as a skating rink in the winter, a rectangular aquatic garden and a circular basin with jet spray, all encircled by an oval promenade. A  greenhouse was further added in 1907 and a colonnaded casino in 1926.

Beginning in 1929 with the introduction of the Museum of Science, in the park’s northwest corner, the park underwent a series of alterations that diminished Olmsted’s design intent. In 1970, Humboldt Parkway was dismantled to accommodate the Kensington Expressway, while the 1990s ushered in such changes as a school addition to the museum, new basketball courts (on the site of the circular basin) and an ice hockey rink on the aquatic garden.

Renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in 1976, this L-shaped park comprises 56 acres of gently sloped lawn dominated by a pink concrete wading pool adapted as a splash pad during renovations in 2013. The park, maintained and operated by the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy since 2004, is a contributing feature of the Olmsted parks and parkways listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.