Villas & Cottages
by Calvert Vaux

Villas and Cottages: Calvert Vaux (Dover Publications)

The Great Architectural Style-Book of the Hudson River School

Dover Publications (1970). Unabridged, unaltered republication of 2nd revised (1864) edition. 370 illustrations. xxiv + 348 pp. 5/375 x 8.5 inches. Paperbound. ISBN-10: 0-486-22009-5.

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From the Book Cover

The English-born architect Calvert Vaux (1824-1895) came to America in 1850, and within 20 years won a reputation as one of America's greatest landscape architects. Co-designer (with Frederick Law Olmstead and others) of a number of New York City's principal parks (Central Park, Morningside and Riverside Parks, Prospect Park in Brooklyn), South Park in Chicago, and the Metropolitan and Natural History Museums in New York City, Vaux was a major influence in the development of a national architecture in America.

Villas and Cottages (1857), his only book, forms a record of his early work, in collaboration with Andrew Jackson Downing and others, in the field of domestic architecture. It contains 39 designs for well-styled, efficient and low-priced houses — rural and suburban cottages villas and town houses built in the Hudson valley during the 1850's. Each design is supplemented with detailed floor plans, perspective views, a lively commentary, and vignettes illustrating various details; front and side elevations are included in many cases. Each house admirably reflects Vaux's dictum that a house should be “comfortably planned, pleasantly designed, and soundly constructed”: close attention is paid to every aesthetic and practical detail, from ventilation and drainage to the colors and lines suggested by the surrounding landscape.

In a lengthy introductory section (more than one third of the book) Vaux discusses such problems as the temperature, light and color in the locality; the relative uses of the various materials (wood, brick, stone) and modes of construction; roofing, shingling, cementing; arranging the joints in wall construction; and such features of detail as the porch, hall, library, dining room, ornamental ceiling, panelling, chimney-pieces, floors, staircases, bathrooms, bedrooms, attic space, roofs and gables dormer-windows, bay-windows, side-lights, shutters, finials, rain-water pipes, ventilators, hoods to windows, recessed arches and verandas. Throughout, he stresses that design is always adapted to the location, and that ornament, although essential, is secondary to construction.

Vaux was one of the most seminal influences in 19th-century architecture — and consciously so. He deplored the conventional American homes of his time, with their basement dining-rooms and stuffy guest-rooms. As a defender of good taste and cultural progress, he reveals himself in this book as not only a great architect, but also an eloquent and thought-provoking writer who shows admirable sense and geniality in every new suggestion.

Cover design by Edmund Gillon. The cover depicts a house in the Vaux style, Milford, Massachusetts.

(The above commentary is provided by Dover Publications, Inc.)

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