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Lecture / Discussion  |  Best Planned City in the World : Olmsted, Vaux and the Buffalo Park System ( Designing the American Park ) by Francis Kowsky

Sunday, February 2, 2014, 3–5 pm

Conference Room 227  

The Burchfield Penney Art Center Book Club is open to all. Admission to the Center is free to Members.

Please join us Sundays at 3:00 on the dates listed. We begin with a brief docent led tour of the Center, followed by a discussion of the chosen book.

Please check the Museum Store for book availability at 716-878-3595. Please contact Joseph Lonzi at with any questions. 


Beginning in 1868, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux created a series of parks and parkways for Buffalo, New York, that drew national and international attention. The improvements carefully augmented the city’s original plan with urban design features inspired by Second Empire Paris, including the first system of “parkways” to grace an American city. Displaying the plan at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Olmsted declared Buffalo “the best planned city, as to its streets, public places, and grounds, in the United States, if not in the world.”

Olmsted and Vaux dissolved their historic partnership in 1872, but Olmsted continued his association with the Queen City of the Lakes, designing additional parks and laying out important sites within the growing metropolis. When Niagara Falls was threatened by industrial development, he led a campaign to protect the site, and in 1885, succeeded in persuading New York to create the Niagara Reservation, the present Niagara Falls State Park. Two years later, Olmsted and Vaux teamed up again, this time to create a plan for the area around the Falls, a project the two grand masters regarded as “the most difficult problem in landscape architecture to do justice to.”

In this book, Francis R. Kowksy illuminates this remarkable constellation of projects. Utilizing original plans, drawings, photographs, and copious numbers of reports and letters, he brings new perspective to this vast undertaking, analyzing it as a cohesive expression of the visionary landscape and planning principles that Olmsted and Vaux pioneered. (from

Read about the book in the Buffalo News.

Francis R. Kowsky is SUNY Distinguished Professor of art history at Buffalo State. He has written articles and books on 19th-century American architects, including Frederick C. Withers, H. H. Richardson, and A. J. Davis. In 1998, Oxford University Press published his book Country, Park and City: The Life and Architecture of Calvert Vaux. The New York Times called it "a handsome effort to rescue from comparative oblivion the architect who shared-sometimes more than equally-with Frederick Law Olmsted in the design of Central Park and other New York amenities." The book was reissued as a paperback in 2003 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the creation of Central Park. Professor Kowsky has also been a member of the NY State Board for Historic Preservation and is currently a trustee of the National Association for Olmsted Parks.

Participation is free for Burchfield Penney members; general admission applies to "not yet" members.