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Thread: Central Park turns 150

  1. #1

    Default Central Park turns 150

    Happy birthday: Central Park, the nation's first designed urban park, turns 150 this year.

    Central Park turns 150

    By Jerry Shriver, USA TODAY

    NEW YORK — Long before this metropolis became famous for skyscrapers and neurotic citizens, civic leaders declared the need for an accessible pastoral refuge — a "central park" — where the wealthy could promenade in carriages, urchins could breathe clean air and the masses could just relax under the elms.

    That was in 1853. Eventually, when all of the political wrangling, land grabbing, swamp dredging, bench building, tree planting and grass seeding was done, the result was 843-acre Central Park, the nation's first designed urban park. It celebrates its 150th birthday this year.

    At a news conference April 29, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and possibly first lady Laura Bush are scheduled to announce a seven-month slate of special events to be highlighted by a birthday party July 19, a film fest and several concerts (details at Bloomberg has called the celebrations "a tribute for the ages."

    "We're going to have something for everyone to do, and we anticipate lots of New Yorkers will celebrate the park that means so much to them," says Regina Peruggi, president of the Central Park Conservancy.

    Park experts from around the world also will join in. They're coming for a conference in June that will explore how the private, non-profit Conservancy has teamed with the city to run and finance the park and implement $300 million in improvements since 1980.

    That partnership is widely credited with rescuing the park from its crime-ridden days of the mid-1900s and turning it into a showcase that is visited by 25 million people a year.

    "We concentrate on the fact that this is a very fragile place, and unless it's kept up, it could easily deteriorate to where it was," Peruggi says.

    Today the masses are lured by the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Tavern on the Green, the country's top-grossing restaurant; an outdoor theater offering Shakespearean plays; a zoo; band shells blasting world-music beats; and dozens of memorials honoring personalities as diverse as John Lennon and Beethoven and a sled dog named Balto.

    But they also still come to promenade, breathe deeply and soak up the enduring landscape of lakes, meadows and forests laid out by architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in their 1857 "Greensward Plan."

    And to fall in love.

    Says Michael Patrick King, executive producer of HBO's Sex and the City, which has filmed several memorable scenes at the park: "Central Park is a soft, natural oasis in the center of this concrete and steel city. It represents the romantic heart that still beats inside our big-city girls."

    By the numbers:
    Annual visitors: 25 million.
    Total acres: 843, including 136 acres of woodlands, 150 acres of water and 250 acres of lawns.
    Perimeter: 6 miles.
    Miles of trails: 58 miles of pedestrian paths, 4.5 miles of bridle trails, 6.5 miles of Park Drive.
    Benches: 6,000, which would stretch for 7 miles laid end-to-end.
    Cost of "adopting" a bench: $7,500 to $25,000.
    Cost of "adopting" a tree: $1,000 to $100,000.
    Original construction cost: About $14 million from 1858-73 ($200 million in today's dollars).
    Restrooms: 17.
    Hot dog/ice cream vendors: About 50.
    Horse-drawn carriages: About 70 in the city, most in Central Park.
    Playgrounds: 21.
    Endowment of the Central Park Conservancy: $72 million.
    Feeding times for penguins at the zoo: 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.

    The Bow Bridge, completed in 1862, is Central Park's most famous -- and picturesque -- bridge. Located in the middle of the park, it spans 60 feet and links Cherry Hill with the Ramble.

    As you can see, little has changed since people walked across the Bow Bridge for the first time 141 years ago. It has been the backdrop for many movie shoots and countless wedding pictures.

    An estimated crowd of 125,000 attended a Mass given by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

    A man with friends in slightly lower places, Garth Brooks packed them in for a 1997 concert. Other high-profile acts to play free shows in the park include Simon and Garfunkel, Diana Ross and Luciano Pavarotti.

    The kids took over the Great Lawn in 1995, when approximately 100,000 people gathered to watch "Pocahontas" at what is thought to be the largest movie premiere in history.

    The Central Park Zoo began in the 1860s with the donation of a handful of swans and a bear cub. One hundred and fifty years later, it boasts 1,400 animals of more than 130 species.

    The open-air Delacorte Theater has presented free summer performances in Central Park since 1962, with at least one Shakespeare production each year.

    A young girl in a goat cart demonstrates the best way to get around Central Park in the early years.

    The goats have been replaced by horses in front of this hansom cab, but Central Park's primary mode of transportation hasn't changed much over the last 100-plus years.

    One of the more somber moments in Central Park history took place on Sept. 11, 2002, when a candlelight vigil marked the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

    Ice skating was so popular in the 19th century that New York newspapers regularly reported the condition of the park's ice-covered ponds, according to the official Central Park Web site.

    Central Park's first carousel opened in 1871 but was destroyed by fire in 1954. The park replaced it by acquiring this 1908 treasure from Coney Island.

    It's not often that you see farm animals grazing in the shadows of skyscrapers, but this 1930 photo demonstrates the origin of the name of Central Park's Sheep Meadow.

    While the Sheep Meadow itself hasn't changed much, the animals inhabiting it sure have.

  2. #2

    Default Central Park turns 150

    Happy birthday Central Park.
    We are lucky.

  3. #3
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    New York City

    Default Central Park turns 150

    Happy 400th post, Zippy!

    This thread now celebrates two anniversaries, hehe.

  4. #4

    Default Central Park turns 150

    Annual visitors: 25 million

    I expected more.

  5. #5

    Default Central Park turns 150

    400! I should shut down the computer and check the family for mileposts.

    How do they know it's 25 million? They probably made it up.
    They could have said 15 million or 50 million, and I would say, "Yup, sounds about right."

  6. #6
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Manhattan - South Village

    Default Central Park turns 150

    150 years ago all the trees were saplings. Now they have finally matured into what Olmstead and Vaux envisioned, and the park has never looked better.

  7. #7

    Default Central Park turns 150

    Except for the rock outcroppings, the terrain is artificial,
    yet it looks like it was carved out of what we think Manhattan looked like.

    Even in good times, NYC allocates 0.5% of budget to Parks Dept. I think in Paris it's about 8%. Groups like CP Concervancy make all the difference.

  8. #8

    Default Central Park turns 150

    150 years ago all the trees were saplings. Now they have finally matured into what Olmstead and Vaux envisioned, and the park has never looked better.
    I agree.
    However, not only the trees, but also the magnificent skylines of Central Park West & South, that didn't exist 150 years ago, have an important contribution to the beauty of the park.

    (Edited by Fabb at 1:40 pm on April 29, 2003)

  9. #9

    Default Central Park turns 150

  10. #10
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI

    Default Central Park turns 150

    King of all Parks... end of story.

  11. #11

    Default Central Park turns 150

    The only oasis bordered by a mirage.

  12. #12

    Default Central Park turns 150

    New York Times
    May 15, 2003
    Birth of Central Park Holds Parallels With Ground Zero

    What vast Manhattan architectural and public works project, the likes of which New York City had never seen before, was begun in a time of economic crisis and changed the city forever?

    Hint: Stakeholders ranging from real-estate moguls to state and city politicians exerted intense pressure. Republicans stepped in to bigfoot the process. Initial, ho-hum plans were rejected. In the hard-fought design competition that followed, a showdown led to the choice of the Republicans' favorite. The winning and losing designs were placed on display for all to see. Immediately, then, the winning design was altered by powerful competing interests.

    Another hint: Think way before ground zero.

    The project was Central Park, and there are many eerie parallels between that effort and the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. "The creation of Central Park, one of the greatest works of art in America, is an epic story," said Morrison H. Heckscher, Lawrence A. Fleischman chairman of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "And the dynamic hasn't changed all that much through the centuries."

    Today the museum is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the park it has inhabited since 1880 with the opening of "Central Park: A Sesquicentennial Celebration." The exhibition, curated by Mr. Heckscher, traces the design and building of the first great public park in America. The show features the original presentation plans and drawings by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, who won an 1858 design contest that was curiously echoed in the ground zero competition decided last February.

    On July 21, 1853, the State Legislature designated as "a public place" the lands that were to become Central Park, accomplishing the unheard-of removal of 17,000 potential building sites from the real-estate market.

    "It's appropriate to celebrate the year of the Legislature's decision rather than, say, the design competition in 1858," said Sara Cedar Miller, the historian and photographer for the Central Park Conservancy, which helped to organize the Met exhibition. "The vision to take so much land for a city park was unprecedented in the history of this country."

    The show's 60 original maps, drawings, watercolors, lithographs, engravings, paintings and photographs include rare stereograph views of the park from the museum's collections as well as those of the New York City Municipal Archives, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the New-York Historical Society.

    In the exhibit, the genesis of Central Park can be seen in an 8-foot-by-2.5-foot original engraving on heavy paper — decorated with a blue and green wash — of the famous April 1811 commissioners' plan that established the grid pattern for Manhattan. It delineated 12 north-south avenues, 155 east-west streets and a planned public park called the Parade, a 229-acre tract between 23rd Streets and 34th Streets.

    As demonstrated by the subsequent 1836 Colton Map (a rare section of an early engraver's test print is on view in the show), the Parade succumbed to real-estate speculation before it could be built. The ensuing clamor for a large public park ended in the election of Mayor Ambrose C. Kingsland, who in 1851 proposed the creation of just such an amenity.

    "The rich wanted New York to be a major metropolis, and a park was de rigueur, as in Paris and London," said Ms. Miller, author of "Central Park, an American Masterpiece" (Harry N. Abrams, 2003, $45). "And visionaries saw the park as an outdoor classroom in urban reform. They thought immigrants would witness the fine clothes and the carriages and would want to work hard to be part of the American dream."

    In addition, as at ground zero, Mr. Heckscher said, "there certainly was pressure to make a decision on the use of the land."

    The city's parks at the time were largely decorous and enclosed, often privately maintained, like Gramercy Park. And although City Hall Park was open to the public, those hungry for nature had to cross the Hudson or head to the dead at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

    The State Legislature finally stepped in to check the corruption of Tammany Hall, Ms. Miller said, and it voted to create a park from 59th to 106th Streets, later expanded to 110th Street in 1863. Many of the great 19th-century public parks of England and France had once been royal hunting grounds given over to the people, "which makes the vote of the Legislature to create a park even more unique," Ms. Miller said.

    The Central Park tract was swampy, scrubby, rocky and not easily farmed. Another of the treasures on view is the original 1855 drainage plan of Egbert Ludovicus Viele, who was hired in 1854 to be the park's chief engineer. He had come up with a design that, though lackluster, was at first accepted by park commissioners in 1856. That workmanlike plan — also presented in the exhibition — so appalled Vaux that he politicked to throw the choice open to a competition.

    Vaux had been a partner of Andrew Jackson Downing, the nation's foremost landscape gardener, and he entered the competition with Viele's gifted park construction superintendent, Olmsted. After toiling at his day job in the park, Olmsted would travel to the town house of Vaux, helping to design the park during the winter of 1857-58. Their hand-drawn original 11-foot-long-by-3-foot-wide presentation drawing is one of the stars of the exhibition.

    Also part of the exhibition are eight of the original 11 presentation boards created by Olmsted and Vaux to hawk their plan. The boards feature black-and-white "before" pictures of the existing parkland, taken by the studio of the photographer Matthew Brady (some possibly by Brady himself), as well as oil renderings of the park that would be, some by Vaux. Alone among all the entries, the Olmsted and Vaux plan (they called it Greensward) called for submerged road cuts, isolating the park from crosstown traffic.

    The park, Mr. Heckscher said, "was to be a place for passive entertainment, and for the appreciation of nature — a public living room for people of all classes, who were supposed to be on their best behavior."

    In all, there were 33 competing design proposals, compared with seven in the final round at ground zero. In the end, the park battle narrowed down to two plans, as in the recent drawdown between Daniel Libeskind and Rafael Viñoly.

    The exhibition presents two new discoveries: the runner-up design in the competition by Samuel J. Gustin, as well as an exuberant original ink-and-watercolor entry by John Rink. They have not been on public display since the competition, and both were discovered by Ms. Miller.

    Though the Gustin plan was originally the betting favorite (not unlike the Viñoly plan after a key planning committee supported it at the 11th hour in the February ground-zero smackdown with Mr. Libeskind), the Republican-backed Greensward plan was victorious. The final 1858 commissioners' tally presaged the vote in 2003, when Republican Gov. George E. Pataki threw his weight behind the Libeskind design.

    Shortly after it was accepted, the Greensward plan was modified to accommodate wealthy New Yorkers' demand for carriage drives and riding trails, adding to the pedestrian paths originally envisioned. An attempt to shrink the size of the park was beaten back by Mayor Fernando Wood, "which was the best thing — and possibly the only good thing — he ever did," Ms. Miller said, noting that Wood was an otherwise undistinguished politician. In the end, admirers of Central Park inspired the movement for state and national parks. And, even then, imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. "Every city in the country," Ms. Miller said, "wanted its own Central Park."

    (Edited by ddny at 11:48 am on May 15, 2003)

  13. #13

    Default Central Park turns 150

    Going to the Zoo

  14. #14

    Default Central Park turns 150

    That's great art!

  15. #15

    Default Central Park turns 150

    those were great pictures, i have always dreamed about skiing in the park

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