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Exploring the Celestial Relationship between a City and its Designers

It is a scientific fact that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes of an impressive character, particularly if this contemplation occurs in connection with relief from ordinary cares, change of air and change of habits, is favorable to the health and vigor… beyond any other conditions that can be offered them. – Frederick Law Olmsted


Relationships are of primary importance in our lives, and the relationship between a City and its designers and architects is no different. Exploring this story by way of the planets, offers a new take and creative depths in its chapters. In the City of Buffalo’s historical timeline, its intersection with landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (Olmsted) is one such relationship we’ll explore in this series of Buffalo Rising articles (see Buffalo as Taurean city).

James Notman, Boston; engraving of image later published in Century Magazine (source)

The City of Buffalo, incorporated or “born” in April 1832, was profoundly shaped by Olmsted, born in April 1822 in Hartford, Connecticut. Both born under the Sun’s passage in Taurus, their identity immediately shares an innate affinity towards nature, establishing environments and structures and delighting the senses. This connection continues beyond the solar reach. By casting a birth chart (chart) to reflect the planetary placements and aspects on the day each of our subjects were born, and then comparing together, we see how far deeper the storied relationship between the two goes. Full of uncanny direct hits and ties, a yield of pleasant curiosities follow.

Olmsted visited Buffalo in the summer of 1868 to identify a site for a “central” park design, which ultimately resulted in his alternative proposal for an integrated park system instead. Most resources identify Olmsted’s visit taking place in August that year, with dates of either August 16 or August 18. Curiously, on August 18 a solar eclipse culminated. Consistent with ancient traditions of many cultures, in astrology a solar eclipse is regarded as a particularly potent aspect indicating a storied new and life-changing event and beginning. Not only did Olmsted’s visit occur under this unusual and generally auspicious event, the zodiacal placement in which it occurred highlighted a close tie that both the City and Olmsted’s charts share.

Both the City and Olmsted were born with an emphasis of Leo in their charts, sharing the astronomically-calculated lunar node placement in this sign.

The August 18 1868 solar eclipse occurred in Leo, the astrological sign ruled by the sun. Both the City and Olmsted were born with an emphasis of Leo in their charts, sharing the astronomically-calculated lunar node (node) placement in this sign. In astrology, the nodes are ascribed weighted significance as reflecting peak events in the native’s life journey that serve as hallmarks and milestones in its definition. Approximately every 18.5 years, nodes return to the same position and are seen as potently charged-times in the life cycle when significant events occur that sweep in and greatly impact our life-path. Node placements in Leo emphasize identity, creativity and play. Curious to find that our paired City and landscaping architect both previously born under a Leo node, meet as the nodes return to Leo and under the auspices of a solar eclipse! As a result, as they remain today, the Olmsted Parks became an integral part of our City’s identity and are places born of, and that foster, creativity and play. These are all hallmarks of the 1868 Leo solar eclipse the “relationship” was born under.

Former flag, 1912–1924 | BuffaloOld.gif

There are yet more uncanny chart commonalities between the two, for example, the story of the moon, the planetary storyteller of mood, heart, spirit and natural instinct in both. The City was born under an industrious, self-made, stiff-upper-lip moon in Capricorn. Olmsted was born under its polar opposite, the moon in Cancer. Their two moons face each other straight on and enjoy a relationship together; Capricorn and Cancer are two sides of the same astrological coin. During Olmsted’s 1868 visit, not only did these moons relate well to each other, but also inspiring creative brilliance in them was another specific astrological event that summer, which occurs about once every 84 years. Uranus was in Cancer during this time and reflected to us the story of a passionate drive being fueled into the “hearts” (moon) of both Olmsted and the City. This storyline heralded a time of ingenuity, innovation, and desire to depart from the norm. As evident in Olmsted’s alternative design proposal, our integrated park system reflects this inventive time and its impact on the heart of our City.

Aquarius | Wikimedia
The astrological symbols/glyphs used in Western astrology to represent the planets in astrology | Wikipedia

As the list continues, the spot-on connections between the two charts spark more curiosity and quizzical head tilts. Like the moon relationship, both the City and Olmsted have the planet which reflects the storyline of passion, drive, energy and motivation (Mars) in signs of polarity as well. The City’s Mars is found in clever and innovative Aquarius and Olmsted’s in Leo. The two Mars facing each other, in the same fashion as did the respective moons, highlighting again the direct relationship and impact the two had upon each other.

A further enrapturing connection is the near-exact placement of the City’s Jupiter and Olmsted’s Venus, both found together in Pisces. Planets and the stories they reflect for us are impacted, strengthened and weakened, by their placements in various signs and aspects made to them by other planets. Because of these qualities, Venus and Jupiter generally reflect themes of connections and relationships and particularly so, when in Pisces. Both planets enjoy great comfort in this sign and signal to us, an ease of relationship and understanding and also, of natural beauty and harmony. This pairing lent a clever astrological underpinning to Olmsted’s “the genius of a place” approach to landscape architecture in Buffalo.

Quite literally, the landscape architect (Olmsted’s Saturn in Taurus) designs a new park system which becomes integral to the City’s identity (City’s Sun in Taurus).

Genius of Place

While yet there are more intimate connections, it is likely the impact that Olmsted’s Saturn in Taurus had on the City’s Taurean Sun remains the singular bellwether of this relationship’s yield. Saturn, the planetary archetype of architecture, design, structure and efficiency reflects a well-placed story in Taurus in our evaluation of this relationship. Quite literally, the landscape architect (Olmsted’s Saturn in Taurus) designs a new park system which becomes integral to the City’s identity (City’s Sun in Taurus).

Born under the auspices of a solar eclipse, the yet-enduring relationship between the City of Buffalo and Frederick Law Olmsted continues to radiate its steadfast shine across the 716. Peering through the stories mirrored by planetary connections and placements, we catch a new glimpse of an old friend.

Stay tuned for more articles as our series continues.

If you like what you’re reading, be sure to visit Starry Wonder online.


Lead image: Courtesy University at Buffalo University Libraries

Written by Elizabeth Ryba

Elizabeth Ryba

Elizabeth Ryba is a local astrologer and launched her business, Starry Wonder Astrology in 2012. Her practice blends both Traditional and Modern astrology techniques and offers various forms of readings and consultations, remediations, classes and group events. Elizabeth’s traditions are rooted in the observable cycles of our surrounding natural world and discerning the stories those cycles reflect.

She began studying astrology in 1998 alongside returning to graduate school for her MBA in accounting. The study of planetary cycles, placements and geometrical aspects had practical intersections with the study and logical order of mathematics and critical analysis. Since earning her MBA, Elizabeth has worked in the accounting/auditing profession. She continued furthering her astrological career with other professional astrologers, eventually leading to the public launch of her own astrology business in 2012.

Elizabeth frequently shares daily reflections, analysis and look-aheads on her Starry Wonder website and social media. She is currently producing an online class library and store, with an anticipated opening in 2020.

To learn more about Elizabeth’s Starry Wonder Astrology, keep up with daily posts, or to book a reading or event, visit StarryWonder.com, or find Starry Wonder on social media.

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