Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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DOWNING, Andrew Jackson, horticulturist, born in Newburgh, New York, 20 October 1815; drowned in the Hudson, near Yonkers, 28 July 1852. From an early age his tastes were directed to horticulture, botany, and the natural sciences, which the occupation of his father, a nurseryman, gave him opportunities to cultivate. His education was acquired chiefly in the academy of the neighboring town of Montgomery. At the age of sixteen he joined his brother in the management of the nursery, and began a course of self-education. He soon formed the acquaintance of Baron de Liderer, the Austrian consul general, and other men, whose fine estates he visited, cultivating his taste for landscape gardening, and writing descriptions of the scenery for the New York "Mirror " and other journals. In June 1838, he married the daughter of John Peter de Wint, and in that year built an elegant mansion upon his estate, in the Elizabethan style, which was his first practical illustration of what an American rural home might be. His career as an author began with the publication of the "Treatise and Practise of Landscape gardening" (New York, 1841), which was highly successful, orders for the construction of houses and decorations of grounds following the orders for copies of the book to his publishers. His "Cottage Residences" (1842) was received with equal favor, and established him as the chief Amerlean authority on ruralart. "Fruit and Fruittrees of America" was printed simultaneously in London and New York in 1845, and a second edition with colored plates in 1850. In 1846, Mr. Downing became editor of the Albany " Horticulturist," for which he wrote an essay each month until his death.
In 1849 he wrote "Additional Notes and Hints to persons about Building in the Country," for an American reprint of Wightwick's " Hints to Young Architects." The summer of 18,50 he spent in England, visiting the great countryseats, of which he wrote descriptions, and in that year published his "Architecture of Country Houses, including Designs for Cottages, Farmhouses, and Villas." His remaining work is an edition of Mrs. Loudon's " Landscape gardening for Ladies." In 1851 he was commissioned to lay out and plant the public grounds of the Capitol, the White House, and the Smithsonian buildings. He was employed in these and other professional labors, when he set out for Newport, leaving Newburgh on 28 July 1852, in the steamer "Henry Clay." The boat entered into a contest with the " Armenia,," and when near Yonkers was discovered to be on fire. Mr. Downing perished in his efforts to save other passengers. His "Rural Essays" were collected and published in 1853, with a memoir by George William Curtis, and a " Letter to his Friends" by Frederika Bremer, who was Mr. Downing's guest during a portion of her visit to the United States, and an enthusiastic admirer of the man and his works.
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