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A celebration of the life and work of Frederick Law Olmsted, founder of American landscape architecture.

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Calvert Vaux

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.

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