Central Park Essay

1015 Words 5 Pages
Central Park

Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the United States. Advocates of creating the park – primarily wealthy merchants and landowners – admired the public grounds of London and Paris and urged that New York needed a comparable facility to establish its international reputation. A public park, they argued, would offer their own families an attractive setting for carriage rides and provide working-class New Yorkers with a healthy alternative to the saloon. After three years of debate over the park site and cost, in 1853 the state legislature authorized the City of New York to use the power of eminent domain to acquire more than 700 acres of land in the center of Manhattan. An irregular terrain of swamps
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After a new city charter in 1870 restored the park to local control, the mayor appointed park commissioners. In 1857, the Central Park Commission held the country’s first landscape design contest and selected the “Greensward Plan,” submitted by Frederick Law Olmsted, the park’s superintendent at the time, and Calvert Vaux, an English-born architect and former partner of the popular landscape gardener, Andrew Jackson Downing. The designers sought to create a pastoral landscape in the English romantic tradition. Open rolling meadows contrasted with the picturesque effects of the Ramble and the more formal dress grounds of the Mall (Promenade) and Bethesda Terrace. In order to maintain a feeling of uninterrupted expanse, Olmsted and Vaux sank four Transverse Roads eight feet below the park’s surface to carry cross-town traffic. Responding to pressure from local critics, the designers also revised their plan’s circulation system to separate carriage drives, pedestrian walks, and equestrian paths. Vaux, assisted by Jacob Wrey Mould, designed more than forty bridges to eliminate grade crossings between the different routes. The building of Central Park was one of nineteenth-century New York’s most massive public works projects. Some 20,000 workers – Yankee engineers, Irish laborers, German gardeners, and native-born stonecutters – reshaped the site’s topography to create the pastoral landscape. After blasting out rocky
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