The last collaboration between Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., and Calvert Vaux, it is also the only known commission that included their sons, stepson John C. Olmsted and Downing Vaux. The pro bono work was done to commemorate their mentor (and Vaux’s former partner), Andrew Jackson Downing. The 35-acre park was named Andrew Jackson Downing Memorial Park, in honor of Newburgh’s native son.
Construction began in 1894. It opened three years later with many signature Picturesque elements: a great lawn, a significant water feature (Polly Pond), scenic woodlands, meandering walks, meadows, and appropriate architectural embellishments. An observatory designed by Downing Vaux crowned a scenic hilltop and a band shell was constructed to offer panoramic view of Downing’s beloved Hudson River, in addition to a farmhouse predating the park’s construction. (These do not survive today.) Planting of the park was guided by Warren H. Manning, Superintendent of Planting in the Olmsted office. Many of the trees survive today.
Beyond the Olmsted era, the park received a pergola designed in 1908 by Frank Estabrook (on the foundation of the former-farmhouse), a shelter house by local architect Gordon Marvel in 1934, and several memorials including the Volunteer Fireman’s Memorial added in 1910 and a Civil War monument dedicated in 1934.