Calvert Vaux, Olmsted’s (Oftentimes Forgotten) Partner
It’s hard to justify history giving second billing to Calvert Vaux, Olmsted’s partner in the creation of Central Park, but that’s exactly what happened, at least in the 19th century.
Vaux approached Olmsted, asking if he would partner with him in submitting a design for the contest. In addition to collaborating with Olmsted, it was Vaux who was in charge of all of the park’s architectural elements–the thirty-six bridges (each one completely different from the others), the magnificent Belvedere Castle, the Sheepfold (now The Tavern on the Green), the gothic Dairy, and most important, the Mall and the Terrace that overlooks the Ramble.
Maybe his somewhat diminished status was because he was humble enough (or wise enough) to let architecture assume second place to the focal point of the park which is nature herself, but it strikes me that it might have had just as much to do with certain prejudices of his time.
At just over five feet tall, he was an unassuming man. He was also prone to stuttering. And, perhaps most significantly, he wasn’t a native-born American but emigrated from Great Britain…Three strikes and you’re out!
Whatever the reasons for his being relegated to second billing behind Olmsted, he was a genius of an architect and should be afforded his rightful place as Olmsted’s tried and true partner in the creation of one of the most amazing parks in the history of the world.
In Central Park Story, I made Christopher Middleton’s friend, Jennifer, very much an outsider like Vaux himself, his great (times three) granddaughter, to emphasize the point that everyone deserves to be appreciated for who they are.