Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY
1865 - 1872

Olmsted, Vaux & Co.


This partnership between landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., and architect Calvert Vaux derived from their earlier collaboration on New York’s Central Park, beginning in 1857. Olmsted left that project to head the United States Sanitary Commission during the Civil War, later sojourning west where he served as the manager of the Rancho Las Mariposas goldmine in California and drafted early management and interpretation strategies for Yosemite Valley, some 25 years before the national park was established. After the mine failed, Vaux convinced Olmsted to return to New York and help him lead the budding urban park movement, which had emerged in part because of Central Park’s success. The partnership’s first commission was the 585-acre Prospect Park in Brooklyn in 1866. Drawing inspiration from the grand parks and boulevards of such European cities as Berlin and Paris, the pair developed the nation’s first park and parkway systems in Brooklyn and Buffalo. The partnership’s subsequent projects continued to set new precedents, including one of the country's first major suburban residential communities in Riverside, Illinois. The firm developed the initial plans for Chicago’s South Park System in 1869, which included both Washington and Jackson parks, and the Midway Plaisance. Many of these projects would later be improved by Olmsted, Sr., in partnership with other landscape architects, including his sons John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., as well as Henry Codman, architect Daniel Burnham, and others. In 1872, after seven years of collaboration, Olmsted and Vaux dissolved their partnership, although it would not be the last time they worked together. They reunited in 1887 to design the Niagara Reservation, and again two years later in Newburgh, New York, to create Andrew Jackson Downing Memorial Park (now Downing Park).  The latter project was developed pro bono in collaboration with their sons, Downing Vaux and John Charles Olmsted, to honor Andrew Jackson Downing, a progenitor of American landscape design and a former colleague of Calvert Vaux.