Frank Henry Olmstead was born May 22, 1858, in Ripon, Wisconsin, where he attended public schools. He took part of his civil engineering training at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Later, he became chief draftsman for the Chicago Sanitary District and was assistant hydrographer for the United States Geological Survey.
Mr. Olmstead came to California in 1877 and one of his first tasks was to layout the town of Fullerton and Santa Fe Springs for the Santa Fe Railroad. He also directed the laying out of Billings, Montana. He also had won additional notice and recognition as a civilian member of the United States Army engineers, who conducted flood control work in Louisiana on the Mississippi River. In later years, he directed the selection of the route for the Mexican Central Railway.
Other positions held were Chief Engineer for the Coour d'Alene Railroad in Idaho and Santa Ana & Newport Railroad in California, Construction Engineer for the United Verde Mining Company in Arizona, and Construction Engineer for the Pacific Light and Power Corporation.
He was elected City Engineer on December 51, 1898 and served in this office until December 2, 1900. While in this position, he directed plans and preliminary work on the Third Street tunnel.
In the years following this, Mr. Olmstead maintained offices in Los Angeles, and was at one time a member of the firm of Olmstead and Gillelen, Construction Engineers.
He served as engineer of the United Sugar Companies of Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico. For six years he was a member of the Mexican Commission, having had the expenditure of monies for the American Board of Foreign Missions in Central and Northern Mexico. He also served as contact member from the Directors of the American Society of Civil Engineers in New York to the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
For many years, as a member of the County Flood Control Board, Mr. Olmstead was actively engaged in solving county flood control problems and was one of the firsts to advocate the use of check dams for flood control.
Making his home in Glendale, he was active in civic affairs until his death there at the age of 80 on January 5, 1939.
What was probably the forerunner to today's freeway system was an elevated cycle way for bicyclists built in 1899 to connect Pasadena and Los Angeles during his tenure at City Engineer.