|Calvert Vaux (1824 -
1895) was born in London, England. He apprenticed under London architect Lewis Nockalls
Cottingham. In 1850, Vaux was introduced to Andrew Jackson Downing, a well-known American
designer and writer, who was an architect to
join him in a design and architectural practice he was forming in Newburgh, New York.
Vaux accepted the position, and moved to the United States, and by
1851, Vaux had been named partner. Tragedy struck Downing that next year though, when he
was killed in a fire which destroyed the Hudson River steamboat Henry Clay. Vaux took up
the full reigns of the firm and eventually moved to New York City.
By 1856 he had married, and became a U.S.citizen. During
1857 he published Villas and Cottages, an influential pattern
book. His work as well as the book helped to establish standards for what was to come to
be regarded as "Victorian Gothic" architecture.
In 1858, The City of New York opened a contest to design a new park. Vaux offered to work
with a then little known Olmsted, who was to be the Superintendent of the park.
Eventually, their plan, entitled "Greensward", was chosen as the winner. Much to
chagrin of Vaux, the untrained Olmsted was subsequently named Architect-in-Chief of
Central Park, while Vaux was his assistant, later being named Consulting Architect. The
two men worked on the construction of the park, with few interruptions from 1858 to 1878.
In 1865,Brooklyn leaders invited Vaux to consult on the
preliminary design of what became Prospect Park. Vaux agreed and eventually was
commissioned to design the park itself. He then proposed to Olmsted, who was then in
California managing the mining operation at Mariposa, that he return and work on it as
well. They formed the Olmsted, Vaux and Company partnership. Under this partnership, they
designed one of the first suburbs of Chicago, Riverside, Illinois.
In 1868, the Olmsted and Vaux firm was commissioned to design a major park for Buffalo,
New York. That initial design turned into three major public grounds all interconnected by
a system of parkways. For this project, Vaux designed several structures which were used
to embellish the system.
Vaux dissolved his partnership with Olmsted in 1872. Later, he and architect George Kent
Radfordand formed a new firm, which was expanded in 1880 with Samuel Parsons, Jr. as
associate. This new firm worked primarily in building, rather than landscape, design.
On November 19, 1895, while visiting his son in Brooklyn, Vaux died of drowning.