History

Davis Self Portrait
A. J. Davis, c. 1845 (Avery Library, Columbia University)

Architect A. J. Davis

Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892) was one of the best known American architects of the 19th century. He designed both domestic and public architecture in virtually all the eclectic styles of the Victorian era. His drawings and illustrations were widely published and admired.

Scholars and Davis enthusiasts gathered in 2003 for the architect's birthday:
The Temple and the Villa: A Weekend Celebration of A. J. Davis in His 200th Year.

From 1829 to 1835 he was a partner with architect Ithiel Town of New Haven. Town & Davis designed many public buildings, including the state capitols of Indiana, North Carolina, Illinois and Ohio.

Customs House
Town & Davis, US Customs House, New York, 1833-40
Davis' design for the US Customs House (now the Sub-Treasury) on Wall Street, New York City, shows a severe, classically correct Doric portico with shallow pediment. As on any Greek temple, the columns do not have bases, and decoration is confined to the metopes (panels) in the frieze.

Davis designed the Dutch Reformed Church in 1835, the year he left Town and began his own practice (initially in partnership with Russell Warren). For Newburgh, he retained the Grecian style but adopted the softer lines and lighter proportions of the Ionic style.
Gothic Revival House
A. J. Davis, Gothic Revival house, Eagle Rock, NJ (Avery Library, Columbia University).

Although a master of the Greek Revival style, Davis was better known - especially in houses - for Gothic Revival, Italianate, bracketed and other such "picturesque" styles. Perhaps his grandest Hudson villa was Lyndhurst (1838-42) in Tarrytown.

Davis was a friend of Andrew Jackson Downing, Newburgh's celebrated tastemaker in suburban architecture and landscaping. Davis contributed numerous drawings to Downing's books and designed houses for the Downing-inspired Llewellyn Park (West Orange, NJ), the first planned garden suburb in the U.S.

Davis' career declined after tastes changed in the 1860s. He retired in the 1870s, lived out of the public eye in West Orange, and died in 1892.