Central Park

Around 1849, a group of wealthy New Yorkers who admired the public grounds of London and Paris were lead by merchant Robert Minturn to began advocating for the first landscaped public park in the United States. They believed such a park in New York would give the city an international reputation, offer their families an attractive setting for carriage rides and provide workers with a healthful alternative to the saloon. Quietly, they also knew it would substantially increase the value of their uptown land holdings and discourage the development of lower-class communities in their midst.

After years of contentious debate over the location, size and cost of the park, the state legislature authorized the city to use the power of eminent domain to acquire a parcel of more than seven hundred acres in the middle of Manhattan. A site bounded by 106th Street, Fifth Avenue, 59th Street and Eighth Avenue was chosen (later expanded northward to 110th street). The irregular terrain of swamps, bluffs and rocky outcroppings made the land undesirable for private development, although the area included low-income neighborhoods with a significant number of private homes.

In 1857 the politically charged Central Park Commission held a design contest won by the park superintendent, Frederic Law Olmsted, and Calvert Vaux. Their "Greensward Plan" called for a combination of the pastoral (open, rolling meadows), the picturesque (the Ramble), and the formal (the dress grounds of the Promenade and Bethesda Terrace) in the English romantic tradition.

Construction commenced with surveying work in the summer of 1856 and was largely completed by 1866. The park has undergone numerous modifications over the years, most notably with the addition of playgrounds and recreational ballfields in the 1930s by parks commissioner Robert Moses using WPA funds. During the 1970s security and maintenance in the park declined considerably with the fortunes of the city until care of the park was taken over by the Central Park Conservancy, a public/private partnership. But through all these changes, the fundamental design and purpose of the park has remained constant, serving the city as an oasis of green and a respite from the canyons of concrete and steel.

The triumph of Vaux and Olmsted's design had been to turn a swampy and rocky 'wasteland' into a beautifully composed pastoral landscape. The triumph of the New Yorkers who visited the park was to remake it in a way that realized the democratic implications of Vaux's vision of it as a 'many-sided, fluent, throughly American high art work.'
(Rosenzweig pp 339)

ASPCA Horse Trough
Autumn, 2008
Basswood Trees
Belvedere Castle / Turtle Pond
Central Park Bridges
Bridle Path
Center Drive
The Lake
Central Park Precinct
Central Park South
Cherry Hill
The Children's District
Cleopatra's Needle
Conservatory Garden
Conservatory Water
Delacorte Theatre
East Green
East Meadow
Ginko Trees
The Great Lawn
Hamilton Meadow
Harlem Mere
Heckscher Playground / Ballfields
Ladies' Pond
Lasker Rink / Pool
Lawn Sports
The Mall
Central Park Monuments
Mount St. Vincent
Naturalist's Walk
North Meadow
North Woods
Northern Forts
Park Drives
The Pond
The Pool
The Ramble
Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
Rumsey Playfield
Central Park: Seasons
Shakespeare Garden
The Sheep Meadow
Strawberry Fields
Swedish Cottage
Tavern on the Green
Tennis Courts
Wollman Rink
Central Park Zoo

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