Samuel Tilden (an eminent lawyer, reformer and governor of New York State
[1875-6]) commissioned Calvert Vaux (Frederick Law Olmsted's collaborator
on Central Park) to combine and remodel two adjacent
row houses facing the park.
A proponent of the High Victorian Gothic style, which was influenced
by Ruskin's theories on architecture, Vaux transformed the building's
facade into a complex, asymmetrical composition with
historical details, polychromy and botanical ornament. Sculptural busts of
Shakespeare, Milton, Franklin, Goethe and Dante project from the facade
and allude to Tilden's library--books that would eventually become part
of the New York Public Library's core collection. Today, the building
houses the National Arts Club.