Alexander Jackson Davis


Not long after completing the Dutch Reformed Church, A.J. Davis became one of the "tastemakers" of mid-19th-century house and garden aesthetics, centered around Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-52) of Newburgh.

Changing quickly from Greek Revival to the picturesque style, Davis provided roughly half the illustrations for Downing's books "Cottage Residences"(1842) and "Architecture of Country Houses" (1850). Through such books and journals, Downing's writings transformed American ideals about the design of small, detached dwellings in harmony with natural surroundings. Not an architect himself, Downing enlisted architects like Davis to give visual expression his vision of the "picturesque" aesthetic.

Link: A visit to Downing's House (1853) and other related material curated by Prof. David Schuyler.

Andrew Jackson Downing
John Thorn on Downing
Calvert Vaux
Downing had enormous influence: he was asked to redesign the Mall in Washington DC, and it was Downing who suggested the scale and placement of Central Park in New York City.
  To help cope with his activities, Downing convinced a young British architect, Calvert Vaux, to move from London to Newburgh in 1850 to join his practice. Two years later, another London architect, Frederick Withers, made the same journey.
   Tragically, however, at the young age of 37, Andrew Jackson Downing died by drowning in the Hudson River while helping others in a steamboat accident in July, 1852.
Frederick Withers

Frederick Law Olmsted

Vaux took over the practice for five years but then moved to New York, where he shortly joined with Frederick Law Olmsted to design Central Park. Withers remained in Newburgh, leaving behind a distinguished body of churches, commercial buildings and houses.
   Davis had just started designing houses for another Downing project, one of the earliest planned garden suburbs at Llewellyn Park, New Jersey. He later moved into one of his Downing-inspired houses and remained there for the rest of his life.
The timeline shows how prematurely Downing's career ended, while his students and collaborators had long careers after the young man's death.