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1867 Vaux and Olmstead Map or Plan of the Natural History Museum Grounds, New York City

Design for laying out The ground, West of Eight Avenue, and for the arrangement thereon of the principal buildings required to accommodate The Zoological Collection.

1867 Vaux and Olmstead Map or Plan of the Natural History Museum Grounds, New York City




Design for laying out The ground, West of Eight Avenue, and for the arrangement thereon of the principal buildings required to accommodate The Zoological Collection.
  1867 (undated)    8.5 x 9 in (21.59 x 22.86 cm)     0.930555556


This is an extraordinary 1867 hand colored map or plan of the grounds that today house the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It depicts from 77th Street north to the intersection of 81st Street and 8th Avenue (Central Park West), including part of Central Park, and shows the ground layout of Manhattan Square, and the arrangement of the principal buildings of the zoological collection.

Manhattan Square, part of the Central Park's land since 1864, was originally planned to be home to the zoo. Prior to the construction of the present site which houses the American Museum of Natural history, the museum's collections were housed in the Central Park Arsenal, on the eastern side of Central Park. The collections quickly outgrew the Arsenal and secured Manhattan Square for a bigger complex. In spite of fund being limited to allow a relatively modest building to house the collection, architects Calvert Vaux and J. Wrey Mould prepared a colossal plan covering the Manhattan Square site in its entirety, from Central Park West (8th Avenue) to Columbus Avenue (9th Avenue) and from 77th Street to 81st Street. Their plan would also house the largest museum in the world. The museum today covers only half the site.

This map identifies the locations of the Museum of Natural History building, the building for living specimens, the building for carnivorous specimens, a yard covered by barn, various roads, lawns, pools, walkways, entrances and arenas.

This map was prepared and printed for inclusion in the 1867 Tenth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Central Park.


Calvert Vaux (1824 - 1895) was a British architect and landscaper who is best remembered for his co-design, with Frederick Olmstead, of New York City's Central Park. Born in London in 1824, little is known of his early life, though it is recorded that, at 9 he was apprenticed to London architect Lewis Nockalls Cottingham, a proponent of the Gothic Revival Movement. Vaux worked for Cottingham until he was 26 years old, honing his skills and building a reputation as a skilled draftsman. During an exhibition of his watercolors in 1851, Vaux caught the attention of landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing. Downing was looking for a partner to fulfill his revolutionary vision of urban architectural-landscaping. Dowing recruited Vaux to design buildings, bridges, and structures, while he focused on the overall landscape design. Vaux accompanied Downing to the United States where, in 1854, he gained U.S. citizenship and founded the American Institute of Architects. Vaux's partnership with Downing lasted approximately two years and resulted in a number of significant works, including the grounds of the White and Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. In 1852 Downing passed away in a tragic accident. At the time Downing was working on a landscape design for New York City's Central Park. In a decision that would forever change the American urban landscape, Vaux called in the fledgling landscape designer Frederick Olmstead to fill Downing shoes. Though Central Park was their first joint project, Vaux and Olmstead proved a magical combination, creating what many consider to be the finest planed urban recreation area in the world. Following the completion of Central Park, Vaux and Olmstead formed an official business partnership and went on to design Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Morningside Park in upper Manhattan. They planned one of the first suburbs in Chicago, Riverside, and were commissioned to design parks for Buffalo, NY, Milwaukee, WI, and Rockwood Park in Canada, among others. Vaux ended the partnership in 1872 and went on to collaborate with George Kent Radford and Samuel Parsons. However, in 1889 he again joined forces with Olmstead to design Downing Park, as a memorial to his mentor. Vaux tragically passed away on November 19, 1895, when he drowned in Brooklyn, NY.

Frederick Law Olmsted (April 26, 1822 - 1903) was an American journalist, landscape designer, and forefather of American landscape architecture. Born April 26, 1822 in Hartford, CT, Olmsted never attended college, instead taking work as a seaman, merchant, and journalist until 1848, when he settled at Tosomock Farm in Staten Island, New York. On June 13, 1859 Olmsted married Mary Cleveland, the widow of his brother John and adopted her three children. Olmsted’s fateful introduction to landscape design occurred in 1850, when a journalism assignment took him to England to visit public gardens. Inspired by Joseph Paxton's Birkenhead Park, he went on to write and publish Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England. This led to additional work with the New York Daily Times (The New York Times) who sent him on an extensive tour through Texas and the American South from 1852 to 1857. It was after this trip that Olmsted wrote his popular criticism of slave economies, A Journey Through Texas. In 1858, Olmsted, along with his design partner, the architect Calvert Vaux, entered and won New York City's Central Park design competition. Though it was their first major landscape design project, the construction of Central Park from 1857 to 1866, created what many consider to be the finest planned urban recreation area in the world. They continued collaborating on such projects as Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Chicago's Riverside Park, the Buffalo park system, Milwaukee's Grand Necklace, and the Niagara Reservation. These were not just parks, but entire systems of parks and interconnecting parkways (which they invented) linking cities to green spaces. In 1883, Olmsted founded the Brookline, MA based Fairsted Company, the first landscape architecture firm in the United States. It was from this office he designed Boston's Emerald Necklace, the campus of Stanford University, the University of Chicago, the 1893 Columbian Exposition, and many other public areas. In 1895 Olmsted retired to Belmont, Massachusetts. Three years later, in 1898, he was admitted McLean Hospital, whose grounds he had designed several years before. He remained a resident and patient there until he passed away in 1903. Olmsted is buried in the Old North Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut.

Napoleon Sarony (1821-1896), Henry B. Major and Joseph Fairchild Knapp (1832-1891) founded the Sarony, Major & Knapp publishing firm in 1857. The firm specialized in portraits, government reports, book illustrations, and architectural and scientific plates. Sarony, Major and Knapp remained in business for ten years finally closing its doors in 1867 when Napoleon Sarony left the firm to follow his interest in photography. In addition to their public sector business, the firm also printed most official maps of New York City, including, between 1860 and 1867, some of earliest maps of Central Park.


Tenth Annual Report of the Commissioners of the Central Park, (New York) 1867.    


Very good. Original fold lines visible. Professionally flattened and backed with archival tissue. Blank on verso.
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