- 1 Early life
- 2 First partnership
- 3 Vaux & Withers
- 4 U.S. citizenship, affiliations, and publishing
- 5 Collaboration with Olmsted
- 6 Death
- 7 Personal life
- 8 Selected architectural works
- 9 Sources
- 10 References
- 11 External links
|Died||November 19, 1895 (aged 70)|
|Spouse(s)||Mary Swan McEntee|
|Buildings||Dr. William A. M. Culbert House|
Daniel Parish House
Halsey Stevens House
W. E. Warren House
Frederico Berreda House
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Buffalo Parks System
Hudson River State Hospital
Samuel J. Tilden House
Calvert Vaux (//; December 20, 1824 – November 19, 1895) was an English-American architect and landscape designer, best known as the co-designer, along with his protégé and junior partner Frederick Law Olmsted, of what would become New York City's Central Park.
Vaux, on his own and in various partnerships, designed and created dozens of parks across the northeastern United States, most famously in New York City, Brooklyn, and Buffalo. He introduced new ideas about the significance of public parks in America during a hectic time of urbanization. This industrialization of the cityscape inspired Vaux to focus on an integration of buildings, bridges, and other forms of architecture into their natural surroundings. He favored naturalistic and curvilinear lines in his designs.
In addition to landscape architecture, Vaux was a highly-sought after architect until the 1870s, when his modes of design could not endure the country's return to classical forms. His partnership with Andrew Jackson Downing, a major figure in horticulture, landscape design, and domestic architecture, brought him from London to Newburgh, New York, in 1850. There, Downing's praise of Gothic Revival and Italianate architecture contributed to Vaux's personal growth as a designer of homes and landscapes. After Downing's sudden death in 1852, Vaux was left with their assistant Frederick Clarke Withers to continue Downing's legacy. He left Newburgh in 1856 to grow his practice in New York City, where he began, received, and completed commissions with Olmsted, Withers, and Jacob Wrey Mould. As a result, Vaux's name frequently overshadowed by other designers, such as Olmsted, yet the contemporary American public still recognized his talents.
Born in London to a physician, Vaux was baptized at St Benet Gracechurch on February 9, 1825. He trained as an apprentice under the architect Lewis Nockalls Cottingham, a leader of the Gothic Revival movement interested in Tudor architecture.  Vaux trained under Cottingham until the age of twenty-six, also befriending George Godwin and George Truefitt during his studies.
In 1850, Vaux exhibited a series of watercolor landscapes that he made while en route to the United States that caught the attention of Andrew Jackson Downing, a noted landscape architect in Newburgh, New York. Rejected in his offer to Alexander Jackson Davis to form a partnership, Downing traveled to London in search of a new architect who would complement his architectural vision.  He believed that architecture should be visually integrated into the surrounding landscape, and wanted to work with someone who was equally passionate. Vaux accepted the opportunity and subsequently moved to the United States.
Vaux worked with Downing for two years and became a firm partner. Together, they designed many projects such as the White House grounds and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Vaux's work on the Smithsonian inspired him to write an article in 1852 for The Horticulturalist, of which Downing was the editor. In his publication, he argued that the government should recognize and support the arts. Shortly afterward, Downing died in a steamboat accident.
Vaux & Withers
After Downing's death, Vaux gained control of the firm. As a partner, he hired Frederick Clarke Withers, who was already working at the company. In two separate periods of partnership, interrupted by the Civil War, their projects included multiple houses in Newburgh, the Hudson River State Hospital, and the Jefferson Market Courthouse.
U.S. citizenship, affiliations, and publishing
In 1856, he gained U.S. citizenship and became identified with New York City's artistic community, “the guild,” joining the National Academy of Design, as well as the Century Club. In 1857, he became one of the founding members of the American Institute of Architects. Also in 1857, Vaux published Villas and Cottages, which was an influential pattern book that determined the standards for “Victorian Gothic” architecture. These particular writings revealed his acknowledgment and tribute to Ruskin and Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as to his former partner Downing. These people, among others, influenced him intellectually and in his design path.
Collaboration with Olmsted
In 1857, Vaux recruited Frederick Law Olmsted, who had never before designed a landscape plan, to help with the Greensward Plan, which would become New York City's Central Park. They obtained the commission through the Greensward Plan, an excellent presentation that drew upon Vaux's talents in landscape drawing to include before-and-after sketches of the site. Together, they fought many political battles to make sure their original design remained intact and was carried out. All of the built features of Central Park were of his design; Bethesda Terrace is a good example.
In 1865, Vaux and Olmsted founded Olmsted, Vaux and Co., which went on to design Prospect Park and Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, and Morningside Park in Manhattan. In Chicago, they planned one of the first suburbs, called the Riverside Improvement Company in 1868. They also were commissioned to design a major park project in Buffalo, New York, which included The Parade (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Park), The Park (now the Delaware Park), and The Front (now simply Front Park). Vaux designed many structures to beautify the parks, but most of these have been demolished. Vaux also designed a large Canadian city park in the city of Saint John, New Brunswick called Rockwood Park. It is one of the largest of its kind in Canada. In 1871, the partners designed the grounds of the New York State Hospital for the Insane in Buffalo and the Hudson River State Hospital for the Insane in Poughkeepsie.
In 1872, Vaux dissolved the partnership and went on to form an architectural partnership with George K. Radford and Samuel Parsons. In that same year he completed work on Olana, the home of artist Frederic Edwin Church, who collaborated with Vaux on the mansion's design.
Famous New York City buildings Vaux designed are the Samuel J. Tilden House, and the original Ruskinian Gothic buildings, now largely invisible from exterior view, of the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to the New York buildings, Vaux also was the architect for The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson, Maryland.
Less familiar are twelve projects Vaux designed for the Children's Aid Society in partnership with Radford; the Fourteenth Ward Industrial School (1889), 256-58 Mott Street, facing the churchyard of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, and the Elizabeth Home for Girls (1892), 307 East 12th Street, both survive and are landmarked.
The last collaboration between Vaux and Olmsted was Downing Park in Newburgh, given to the memory of Downing. Divided into two sections, a hillside landscape and a meadow, the partners handled each differently, connecting them via paths. After Vaux's death, his son Downing completed the grounds, adding a conservatory of his own design. John C. Olmstead completed his father's portion as he had become gravely ill and could not return to Newburgh. 
On November 19, 1895, Vaux accidentally drowned in Gravesend Bay in Brooklyn while visiting his son, Downing. He is buried in Kingston, New York's Montrepose Cemetery. In 1998, the city of New York dedicated Calvert Vaux Park, situated in Gravesend overlooking the bay, to him.
Selected architectural works
Downing & Vaux (1850–52)
- Joel T. Headley House, "Cedar Lawn," New Windsor, NY (1850–51)
- Remodel of Warren Delano House, "Algonac," Balmville, NY (1851)
- Dr. William A. M. Culbert House, Newburgh, NY (1851–52)
- William L. Findlay House, Newburgh, NY (1851–52)
- Daniel Parish House, Newport, RI (1852)
Vaux & Withers (1853–56)
- Nathaniel Parker Willis House, "Idlewild," Cornwall on Hudson, NY (1852–53), independently
- Remodel of Henry Winthrop Sargent House, "Wodenethe," Beacon, NY (1853), independently
- Lydig M. Hoyt House, "The Point," Staatsburg, NY (1853–55), independently
- Halsey R. Stevens House, Newburgh, NY (1853–55)
- William E. Warren House, Newburgh, NY (1853–54), independently
- Bank of New York, New York, NY (1856)
- John A. C. Gray House, New York, NY (1856–57), independently
Central Park Structures (1857–70)
- Bow Bridge (1858), with Jacob Wrey Mould
- Ramble Arch (1859)
- Bethesda Terrace (1862–73), with Mould
- The Dairy (1869)
- Belvedere Castle (1867–71), with Mould
Country Houses (1856–63)
- Remodel of John Bigelow House, "The Squirrels," Highland Falls, NY (1857)
- Peter Chardon Brooks III House, "Point of Rocks," Medford, MA (1859)
- Thomas E. B. Pegues House, "Ammadelle," Oxford, MS (1859–61)
- Frederico Berreda House, Newport, RI (1859–60)
Vaux, Withers & Co. (1863–1871)
- Landscape architecture with Olmstead, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC (1866)
- Landscape architecture with Olmstead, Hudson River State Hospital, Poughkeepsie, NY (1867)
- Consulting, Frederic E. Church House, "Olana," Hudson, NY (1870–72)
- American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY (1872–77), with Mould
- George J. Bull House, Worcester, MA (1874–75)
- Design for New York City Prison, "Tombs," (1874)
Later Career (1869–1889)
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (1874–1880), with Mould
- East Side Boys' Lodging House and Industrial School for Children's Aid Society, New York, NY (1879)
- Raphael Pumpelly House, Newport, RI (1880)
- Garden, Grace Church, New York, NY (1881)
- Remodel of Samuel J. Tilden House, New York, NY (1881–84)
- Edwin Booth House, "Boothden," Middletown, RI (1883)
- Tompkins Square Lodging House and Industrial School, New York, NY (1885)
- Canal Street Park, New York, NY (1887–88)
- Mulberry Bend Park, New York, NY (1895)
- Downing Park, Newburgh, NY (1889), with Olmstead
- Kowsky, Francis R. Country, Park, & City: The Architecture and Life of Calvert Vaux. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
- Kowsky, 15–16
- Kowsky, 12–14, 23
- Ryan, James Anthony (2011). Frederic Church's Olana: Architecture and Landscape as Art. Hensonville, New York: Black Dome Press. ISBN 978-1-883789-28-2.
- New York songlines.com: Mott Street; The Masterpiece next door: Fourteenth Ward Industrial School Archived 2012-04-06 at the Wayback Machine
- Christopher Gray, "Streetscapes: A House of Refuge, With Stories to Tell", The New York Times, 8 June 2008 accessed 15 April 2010; Gray notes some evidence that the design details were the work of Nicholas Gillesheimer, and that in 1930 the Children's Aid Society sold the building to Benedict Lust.
- Kowsky, 317–19
- Calvert Vaux Park, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Accessed September 8, 2007.
- Kowsky, 28–42
- Kowsky, 54–91
- Kowsky, 103–135, 189–94
- Kowsky, 141–48
- Kowsky, 198–251
- Kowsky, 261–319