The legacy of 19th century landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing is largely viewed in conjunction with his contemporaries, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. One of his most enduring works, however, is the 20-acre Springside estate in Poughkeepsie, which he developed during the mid-1800s for Vassar College’s founder, Matthew Vassar. After weathering years of neglect, fires, and several close calls with the wrecking ball, Springside was awarded National Historic Landmark status. This designation did not immediately turn the property around, and by 1986 a small group of preservationists formed Springside Landscape Restoration (SLR) to promote the historical and cultural significance of the site, preserve the remnants of the original Victorian landscape, and accurately restore one of Downing’s final works.
In 2014, SLR used a $2,400 Parks & Trails New York Growing the Grassroots grant to develop an up-to-date and flexible website that will help grow the organization’s membership and donor and volunteer bases, and support its efforts to protect and restore Springside. The website launched in March and will also serve as the “go-to” source for Andrew Jackson Downing. In addition to providing access to photos, history, and donation and membership forms, the website includes an audio tour visitors can access on their smartphones when touring Springside. The website has also caused SLR to test the waters of social media and electronic outreach in other ways, including launching their first electronic newsletter. Since the website’s launch, they have seen a 21% increase in newsletter subscribers and their Facebook page likes increase by 26%. They have also received high praise for the website, with author and landscape architect Robert Toole describing it as a “handsome and informative site.”
Springside Landscape Restoration is “extremely grateful. We are especially pleased that Parks & Trails New York recognized the importance of our [website] to the organization,” remarked President John Mylod. “We hope that we can continue to take steps like these which will help us toward our goal of sustainability.”