Born in Boston, Dawson studied agriculture and horticulture at Harvard’s Bussey Institution. He apprenticed to the Olmsted firm in 1896 and traveled throughout England and Europe observing the landscape and studying design and plant material. In 1904 Dawson was chosen by John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. as their first associate partner in Olmsted Brothers, Landscape Architects. Dawson spent his entire career with the firm. He supervised projects in Venezuela, Cuba, Canada and Bermuda, as well as throughout the U.S., designing in a wide range of landscape types- arboreta, parks and parkways, expositions, estates, resorts and country clubs, golf courses and subdivisions.
With his mentor, John Charles Olmsted, Dawson made numerous trips to the Pacific coast, developing designs for the parkway systems of Portland, Seattle and Spokane, the Alaska-Pacific-Yukon Exposition, the San Diego Exposition, and the campus of the Washington State Capitol. Private commissions resulted in over 2,700 designs in the Pacific Northwest as well as in Colorado, Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Major development work included projects for Palos Verdes Estates, Lake Wales Land Company, and the British Pacific Properties in Canada. This 4,700 acre West Vancouver site encompassing designs for a highway and suspension bridge as well as residential development was the final work of Dawson’s long and productive career.