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High School Students Volunteer Time to Beautify Downing Park
High school students from Ms. Jeanine Sileno's ENL class took time on a Saturday morning to volunteer in Downing Park. The group of students, joined by Mrs. Ginny McCurdy, took part in the larger project aimed at planting 500 daffodil bulbs by the amphitheater and 100 iris bulbs on the edge of the Polly this fall. The overall project is coordinated by the Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess Counties. The group recently received a $10,000 grant to repair and restore Downing Park. The Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess Counties is in the process of restoring and replanting various trees and other plants in Downing Park in conjunction with the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted, the celebrated landscape architect, with the Downing Park Planning Committee.
Downing Park was first opened in the year 1897 and was named after the late landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing of Newburgh. The park itself was created by the late Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, who are most commonly known for the creation and design of Central Park in New York City, the website states.
Downing Park itself was the last park that was ever commissioned and created by Vaux and Olmsted.
The Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess Counties is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening and flower arranging to promote education in conservation, to aid in the protection of native plants and birds, to foster the interested and education of young people in nature, and to support the work and policies endorsed by The Garden Club of America.
The park was named after Newburgh's native son Andrew Jackson Downing, eminent horticulturist and pioneer of the public park movement. Downing had advocated for the creation of Central Park, and he was designing the Mall in Washington, D.C., at the time of his accidental death at 38 in 1852. Downing recruited Calvert Vaux in 1850 from London and brought him to Newburgh, where the two ran an architectural practice until Downing's death.
Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted had worked together for many years on Central Park and other projects when the City approached them about the park in Newburgh. In 1889 they agreed to the commission, offering to give the park design to the City if the park would be named after their late mentor.
As it happened, Downing Park was the last collaborative effort by Olmsted and Vaux — as well as the only project that included both their sons, John Olmsted and Downing Vaux.
Downing Park was designed to be a passive, contemplative environment, a place of refuge in the center of bustling city.
Opened in 1897, the park became a place where people could stroll along the paths, admire the many gardens and scenic vistas created to experience an "unbending of one's faculties" (Commissioner's Report 1897). Concerts were held here, and the park was a favorite meeting place for sweethearts. Families picnicked on the rolling hillsides and watched the children play in the grassy meadows.
During the winter months, ice skating and sledding were popular pastimes. Many local artists have memorialized skating parties on the Polly Pond in paintings and prints.
All photos from this event can be viewed and downloaded for free here.
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