Detail of 1870s Central Park map

Hey all, I am sorry about the lack of posts recently. The semester has been in full swing and I have been involved in a number of different projects. In a few minutes I am headed to Grand Central Station to catch a train to Yonkers with a small group of others to show the World War One film we completed last November. We will be at the Yonkers Historical Society. It feels good to begin to the city from where our doughboy came. Today is an important and probably much overlooked day in New York City history: it wagon April 28, 1858–160 years ago today–that the Central Park commissioners awarded first prize to Plan Number 33. This was Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Greensward Plan, the template for what became Central Park.

The original law creating a park for Manhattan was passed in 1853. As I point out in the manuscript of my book, we are all fortunate that no progress ensued because Olmsted in those years was touring the South and writing about his experiences witnessing slavery and Southern society. Had construction began then, his and Vaux’s vision for a “central” park would never have been realized, at least not in New York City. It is a theme I come back to with students and others often, but when we are in Central Park or other parks such as Prospect here in Brooklyn we get the impression landscape architects put a stone wall around nature and left it at that. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are fully realized man-made spaces, just like a building, a sculpture, or what have you.

Hopefully today when the many thousands of people are enjoying Central Park on this spring day, a few will pause and appreciate that the process of creating what they are experiencing started on this date all those years ago.