Judith K. Major, professor of architectural and landscape history from the University of Kansas, lectured in Taylor Hall on "To Live in the New World: A.J. Downing and American Landscape Gardening."  Professor Major’s book To Live in the New World: A. J. Downing and American Landscape Gardening (1997) traced the evolution of the work and thought of the first American landscape architect, Andrew Jackson Downing, emphasizing his contribution to the definition of a distinctly American cultural landscape.

A native of Newburgh, NY, Downing published A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America in 1841, and the following year he collaborated with Alexander Jackson Davis, the pioneer of American Gothic Revival and Hudson River Bracketed architecture, on Cottage Residences.   In 1850, Downing accepted a commission from Matthew Vassar to design the buildings and the setting for his country home “Springside,” the design and construction of which were underway when Downing and his family died in the fire and explosion of the steamer Henry Clay on the Hudson River on July 28, 1852.