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Andrew Jackson Downing and his Legacy: Downing's Influence

Newburgh native Downing was a pioneer of American landscape architecture and design

Apostle of Taste

"Horticulturist, landscape gardener, and prolific writer on architecture who, more than any other individual, shaped middle-class taste in the United States in the two decades prior to the Civil War. Through his books and the pages of the Horticulturist, Downing preached a gospel of taste that promoted the modern or natural style of landscape design over the formal and geometric arrangements that were the hallmark of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century gardens."

Downing employed, collaborated with or influenced many of the 19th century's most important architects and designers, including Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, the designers of Central Park and countless other major city parks; Alexander Jackson Davis, one of the most influential American residential architects of the 19 century; and Frederick Clarke Withers, renowned for his ecclesiastical architecture including Calvary Presbytarian Church in Newburgh.

Calvert Vaux

Architect Calvert Vaux (December 20, 1824 – November 19, 1895) is best known as the designer of New York City's Central Park, along with his partner Frederick Law Olmstead. Downing went to London to recruit Vaux to come to Newburgh in 1850 to form a partnership. Downing and Vaux's projects included the design of the grounds for the White House and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

The rustic style of houses Vaux designed during their partnership complemented Downing's landscape design. The W.E. Warren House on Montgomery Street in Newburgh is an example of Vaux's designs.

After Downing's death, Crawford partnered with another member of Downing's firm, Frederick Clarke Withers. Vaux's office was in the Crawford House on Montgomery Street, the current home of the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands.

Frederick Law Olmstead

Olmstead was a Connecticut farmer whose writings about public parks were first published in Downing's Horticulturalist monthly journal. Eventually becoming known for his writing, Olmstead became superintendent of Central Park in 1857. A few months later, Calvert Vaux, the English architect whom Downing had recruited to join his firm in Newburgh, persuaded Olmstead to join him in creating the Greensward Plan for the Central Park Competitiion.

Olmstead was the first person to call himself a professional Landscape Architect. In addition to Central Park, he Brooklyn's Prospect Park, Boston's Emerald Necklace, Chicago's Jackson Park, park systems for Louisville, Rochester, Buffalo and many others. He was also instrumental in laying the foundation for the National Park System.


Alexander Jackson Davis

In 1839 Davis began his collaboration with Downing. He designed and drew illustrations for Downing’s widely read books, such as The Architecture of Country Houses (1850) and his journal, The Horticulturist. Together, they popularized the ideas and styles of the picturesque.

Frederick Clarke Withers

Englishman Frederick Clarke Withers (4 February 1828 – 7 January 1901) joined Downing's firm in Newburgh in 1852, just a few month's before Downing's death. Withers and Downing married sisters, Emily Augusta and Caroline Elizabeth DeWindt, The sisters were great-grandchildren of President John Adams, and grandnieces of John Quincy Adams. After Downing's death, Withers Calvert Vaux's assistant.