The American taste for romantic design and picturesque landscape grew out of the influential writings of Newburgh's A. J. Downing.
In his best-selling books, Downing articulated a new aesthetic of informal home design in harmony with nature. Collaborating with architects A. J. Davis and then Calvert Vaux (whom he brought to Newburgh from London), Downing published exemplary designs that inspired hundreds of country homes and landscapes throughout the country. His influence can be seen in numerous buildings and landscapes in the area.
Downing's monthly magazine, the Horticulturist, published in Newburgh, carried his sentiments on a variety of topics about the emerging American republic. His ideas attracted European visitors and inspired the formation of a local organization for debate and discussion known as the Newburgh Lyceum.