It may be one of the shortest streets in Riverside, but it is one that has gone through many changes in the past few years. You could almost say Downing Road is “coming down.”
A number of residences on the street have become teardowns to make way for new homes, some designed to give a Victorian look to the street. One can only wonder what the street’s namesake would think about the changes that have occurred.
So who was Downing? While Andrew Jackson Downing did not have a direct part in the history of Riverside, he had a connection with those who did play an important part in the designing of Riverside, namely Olmsted and Vaux.
Born in Newburgh, New York in 1815, Downing was a rural architect, landscape gardener and American horticulturist. He came by his profession at an early age when he worked at his father’s nursery, which he eventually took over, working closely with his brother Charles.
His knowledge on the subject of horticulture became well known as he wrote numerous books dealing with the subject. While on a trip abroad he met Calvert Vaux and encouraged the London-born architect to come to America and join him in an architectural firm he was forming in Newburgh.
The two men collaborated on designing homes and country estates along the Hudson River. Their creativity was put to use in the planning of the grounds of the Capitol building, the White House and the Smithsonian Institute.
It was Downing who introduced Calvert Vaux to his friend Frederick Law Olmsted. Eventually, Olmsted and Vaux became partners following the death of Downing in a steamboat fire in 1852. It is Olmsted and Vaux who are credited with the designing of Riverside, and there is the connection Downing has to Riverside.
Downing Road has seen previous changes. At one time, part of the Babson Estate was situated on land on Downing and Longcommon roads. The main house was on Longcommon Road. The estate was offered to the people of Riverside for a possible community center, but it was turned down by a vote of the people and sold to Riverside resident Walter Baltis, who developed the land as we know it today.
A good Joe
We would be remiss in not mentioning the passing of Joe Petrzilka of Ivins Funeral Home. Joe was loved by his family and friends and will be missed. His efforts for the village, particularly through the Chamber of Commerce, and the Riverside Township Lions Club were recognized when the two groups named him as their Man of the Year in 1991.
His sense of humor, his smile and his plaid jacket, which he would wear to the Chamber of Commerce holiday party, and his compassion as a funeral director are just a few of the things Joe will be remembered for.
He knew the meaning of the word “friend” and knew how to be one and was a man who will not be forgotten. Our condolences to his family.