Though often overlooked due to his association with Frederick Law Olmsted, Calvert Vaux is an important figure in American architecture in his own right. A classically-trained architect, talented artist, and collaborator with landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing, he had already done major projects before working with Olmsted on Central Park, and would continue to design parks and public buildings after their partnership dissolved. To mark Vaux’ 197th birthday, we will examine his 40-year career in New York City, his distinctive architectural style, and his legacy of designing buildings and landscapes for the public good, including museums, parks both large and small, and housing for the poor.>> Continue reading
Join Turnstile Tours and the Friends of Olmsted-Beil House for a virtual panel discussion to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Frederick Law Olmsted’s report for the Staten Island Improvement Commission, a comprehensive plan for the island’s growth and development. We will hear unique perspectives about Staten Island in the late 1800s, Olmsted’s public health recommendations, and his legacy in the greenest borough of New York City. The panel will include Prof. Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, Director of Graduate Landscape Architecture Program at City College’s Spitzer School of Architecture; Jessica Kratz of the Staten Island Greenbelt Nature Center; naturalist Ed Johnson, emeritus curator of science at the Staten Island Museum; and moderated by Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours.>> Continue reading
Built in 1874, the Concert Grove Pavilion is a stunning example of Prospect Park co-designer Calvert Vaux’ colorful and decorative style. Earlier this year, the Prospect Park Alliance completed a $2 million restoration of the pavilion, which was last restored in 1988. Joined by Prospect Park Alliance Assistant Architect Sheena Enriquez, we will look closely at the pavilion’s beautiful details, including its cast iron columns that contain motifs borrowed from Hindu, Chinese, Moorish, and Egyptian architecture, its elaborate roof finials and eaves, and its newly-illuminated stained glass ceiling. Sheena will share how the restoration team did extensive archival research, conducted color testing to match the pavilion’s original design, and repaired and recreated damaged or missing pieces.
- WATCH Restoring the Endale Arch
- “Return to Splendor” (Architectural Record)
- Become a Prospect Park Alliance member
Photo by Paul Martinka
Did you know that Prospect Park has a piece of Gettysburg’s famed Little Round Top? And one of the oldest statues of Abraham Lincoln in America? While memorials to the Civil War are prominent features of the park, the war itself also shaped its design. Co-designer Frederick Law Olmsted spent the war directing the US Sanitary Commission, which provided medical care to the Union Army, and that experience influenced his ideas on public space and public health. On this virtual tour, we will explore the park’s many Civil War connections, from Grand Army Plaza to the Parade Ground.
- WATCH Exploring Staten Island’s Olmsted-Beil House
- WATCH Progressivism and Purified Air: Frederick Law Olmsted’s Living Machines
- Olmsted’s report on the Battle of Bull Run (NIH)
- Olmsted, Hospital Transports: a Memoir of the Embarkation of the Sick and Wounded from the Peninsula of Virginia in the summer of 1862
- “Frederick Law Olmsted’s War on Disease and Disunity” (The New Yorker)
- “In Brooklyn, Grand Army Plaza Gets an Intervention” (New York Times)
- “Anna Hyatt Huntington and Equestrian Lincoln” (Columbia University Libraries)
Join us for a special panel discussion and virtual tour of Staten Island’s landmark Olmsted-Beil House, an historic farmhouse and museum where landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted began his monumental career. While Central Park, Prospect Park, and countless other parks across America display Olmsted’s genius, beginning in 1848, this farmstead is where he developed his professional interest in landscape design. Here he learned horticulture, experimented with different plants and landscape forms, and wrote about his travels to public parks in Europe. On this program, we will explore the property grounds with historian and Friends of the Olmsted-Beil House board member Patricia Salmon, and we will be joined by Justin Martin, author of Olmsted biography Genius of Place.
April 26 is Frederick Law Olmsted’s birthday, and for his 199th, the National Association of Olmsted Parks is kicking off a yearlong celebration as we approach his bicentennial in 2022. The first event is a panel discussion of Rebecca Messner’s 2011 documentary Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks (which prominently features Prospect Park) with TIME Magazine’s Justin Worland; Dr. Thaisa Way, Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington; Happy Haynes, Executive Director of Denver Parks and Recreation; and Justin DiBerardinis, Director of Philadelphia’s FDR Park. When you sign up for the free panel discussion, you will receive a link to watch the documentary for free at your convenience on April 24 or 25.
Prospect Park Alliance recently completed the restoration of the Endale Arch, one of the original portals to the park designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted. Get an insider’s look at the restoration process, which required years of research, incredibly skilled craftspeople, and painstakingly detailed work to bring the arch back to its original splendor. We will be joined by Sarena Rabinowitz, Assistant Architect, Design & Construction at the Alliance about the years-long, multi-phase process to restore the full arch, and Curtis Barnhart of Barnhart Restoration & Design, which did the restoration work on the stunning interior. We will also go live to the arch itself to see these wonderful details up close. This program is offered in partnership with the Prospect Park Alliance, and the arch restoration was generously funded by the Tiger Baron Foundation, with additional support from Council Member Brad Lander through District 39 participatory budgeting.
Join us for a virtual exploration of Prospect Park’s waterways. We will look closely at the ingenious drainage system and chain of manmade streams and ponds that terminate in Brooklyn’s largest lake, follow the park’s scenic watercourse, and go inside one of the most unique features of the park: the 1869 Wellhouse, the park’s last remaining building by park designer Calvert Vaux, which once housed the machinery that fueled the watercourse and was recently restored by the Prospect Park Alliance and converted into the first composting restrooms in a NYC park.
Join our conversation with Sara Carr, Assistant Professor of Architecture, Urbanism, and Landscape at Northeastern University, who will discuss Frederick Law Olmsted’s origins in public health, and how his background in the US Sanitary Commission during the Civil War, and his journalistic advocacy inspired his designs of Central Park and Prospect Park. Olmsted’s prolific writings give us an insight into how he thought about the intersection of human, ecological, and societal health, which resonate strongly in our pandemic era. But as his living legacies face unprecedented urban challenges, we must also think about how they can sustain and at times even transform for a just and sustainable future. This program is presented in partnership with the Prospect Park Alliance.
- Emerald Necklace Conservancy
- NYC Health, “Active Design Guide for Community Groups”
- National Association for Olmsted Parks
- Discover Seneca Village
Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted are best known for designing landmark landscapes in New York City and across the country, most notably Prospect Park and Central Park. Both men had wildly different lives and careers before their collaboration began, and yet they found incredible chemistry and creative energy together, though later their lives again diverged. This program will look closely at the biographies of both men and how their life experiences and outlooks are reflected in the spaces they created together.
- Frederick Law Olmsted Papers in the Library of Congress
- National Association for Olmsted Parks
- Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted (2012)
- WATCH: Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America (PBS)