Jacob Wrey Mould
From: Alfred Kohler
Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2003 2:28 AM
Subject: Jacob Wrey Mould died in New York on June 14, 1886
July 21, 2003
Wrey's obituary appears in the New York Times of June 16, 1886. Consult the New York Times on microfilm, available in many large libraries, to get this. He was born in Chiselhurst, England on August 7, 1825. I checked the DAB ("Dictionary of American Biography") but found no listing for him. I have no access to the British DNB ("Dictionary of National Biography"). If you're going to create a Web site for him, please send me the Web address so that I can visit the site.
July 17, 2003
Mould was born in England; I was a little surprised to learn that you lived in Australia.
July 18, 2003
From: Alfred Kohler
Sent: Sunday, July 27, 2003 1:40 AM
Subject: Mould's work in the design of Central Park is greatly undervalues
While Vaux designed the architectural concept of the Terrace and Arcade, the details of their embellishment were provided by Jacob Wrey Mould. Like Vaux, Mould was an Englishman but there any resemblance ends. Vaux was modest and self-effacing to a fault, to such an extent that very little of his personal record survives. Mould was a swaggering cosmopolitan with, in his later years, a reputation for shady business practices. A contemporary assessment is found in the wickedly candid diary kept by George Templeton Strong, a brilliant New York lawyer who served as secretary of the Sanitary Commission which Olmsted directed with selfless dedication during the Civil War. Strong made a note of meeting "that ugly and uncouth but very clever J. Wrey Mould, architect and universal genius." The last characterization was not intended as sarcasm: Mould indeed had an almost incredible range of talents. While he was particularly noted for designing churches, for which purpose he was brought to this country in 1853, he also composed songs and made English translations of Italian and German operas.
Mould could work with equal facility in metal, brick, and stone. His bandstand, a polychrome confection in wrought iron, has vanished from the Mall, to be replaced by a hulking mass of concrete and waves of tree-smothering asphalt. However, his Ladies Pavilion, originally placed at 59th Street and Eighth Avenue to shelter people waiting for horsecars, was moved to the Hernshead where it stands after extensive restoration as an endearing example of mid-nineteenth century fantasy.
The Cooper-Hewitt Museum's exhibit of original drawings of Central Park structures brought Mould's mastery to public awareness in 1980. His renderings of purely utilitarian buildings such as the sheepfold and the stables on the 86th Street transverse are drawn and colored with the exquisite detail, taste, and precision thai might have been expended on a tycoon's mansion on Fifth Avenue.
It may seem that Mould is given more space in this account of the building of Central Park than the scope of his contribution warrants. The reason is that, of the original designers, he is the only one whose work survives to a substantial degree. Much of the flowing Olmsted and Vaux design has been mutilated or obliterated by encroachments. The Wollman rink, the Naumberg bandshell and its surrounding shroud of asphalt, the Lehman mausoleum, the garish Lasker sitzbath, and the baseball fences that bar the general public from the use of North Meadow have all defaced the original pastoral landscape and turned it into a landlocked Coney Island. Similarly, Pilat's celebrated plant groupings have long ago succumbed to official neglect and incompetence, notably by the failure to clear groves and open meadows of self-sown saplings, and culminating more recently in the scandalous fiasco of planting around the Pond in the southeast corner. Only Mould's artistry stands as evidence of the commitment to beauty, to quality, and to excellence that once motivated all those who created or maintained Central Park.
Clarence Cook, an art critic much feared for his scathing pen, wrote A Description of the New York Central Park in 1869. It is the most complete if not the earliest commentary on the park in the first stage of its development. . . . The text is augmented by charming wood engravings of the park landscape, peopled by mannerly