The winners of the design contest, called the "Greensward Plan" were the park superintendent, Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux. The New York State legislature initially acquired 778 acres of land and construction work began in 1857. It was the first landscaped public park in the United States.
Central Park History for kids: Fast Fact Sheet
Location: Central Park, Manhattan, New York, United States
Idea Promoter: Anna Minturn and the high society of New York City
Construction start date of Central Park: 1857
Initial land acquired: 778 acres. 2.5 miles from 59th Street to 106th Street and half a mile from Fifth Avenue to Eighth Avenue.
The initial cost of land? £5 million dollars for Central Park
Name of the Designers: Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux
Date Central Park was opened: November, 1858
Ice Skating: By December 1858 New Yorkers were skating on the 20 acre lake south of the Ramble in Central Park
How big is Central Park now? The size of Central Park has been extended to cover 842 acres - 1.3 sq miles.
Facts about the Central Park History: Fun Facts for Kids
The original design plan for the streets of Manhattan was established by the Commissioners Plan of 1811 put in place the grid plan for Manhattan but as Central Park was not envisioned until 1853 it was never included in the original design.
Landscape gardener, Alexander Jackson Downing, proposed some initial plans in 1850
Anna Mary Wendell Minturn, the wife of a wealthy merchant called Robert Bowne Minturn, worked to gain support for the idea of a great "Central Park" from the high society in New York City.
The reasons for the Central Park project were to show the countries of Europe that the new, emerging cities of the United States were becoming culturally refined and aware of their civic duties to their citizens. For additional facts refer to the History of Urbanization in America
The vision for Central Park was to create an area for recreational activities and the opportunity to socialize. Fine, sweeping landscapes with a variety of unusual trees, plants and flowers would bring beauty to the city based on the a pastoral landscape like that of English romantic gardens. Classic, architecture, elegant fountains and expensive statues of famous, prestigious people to bring culture to New Yorkers.
In 1853 the state legislature granted the city the right to buy lands in the vicinity of 59th and 106th streets, and Fifth Avenue and Eighth Avenue.
778 acres of land was acquired, at the cost of $5 million dollars, which was equivalent to 6% of Manhattan's total acreage.
Over 1,600 residents were displaced when the land was acquired for Central Park. 6 percent of Manhattan's total acreage.
The first Central Park Commission was formed and the commissioners initiated a design competition for the project which was published on October 13, 1857.
The commissioners specified there should be sites for an exhibition or concert hall, a prominent fountain, a flower garden, a winter skating lake, playgrounds for healthy exercise, and a parade ground for militia drills
The winners of the design contest, called the "Greensward Plan" were park superintendent, Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux.
The New York State legislature initially acquired 778 acres of land of what would be the first landscaped public park in the United States of America
The Central Park site needed a significant amount of work. Nearly 3 million cubic yards of soil was needed, swamps were cleared and replaced by lakes and a curved reservoir was also added to the site.
The Central Park site was planted with 270,000 shrubs, plants and trees. The site included seven water features totaling 150 acres, fountains, 136 acres of woodlands and 250 acres of lawns. There were 4.25 miles of bridle paths.
$14 million was spent on developing the land and construction works for Central Park.
Bridges and Arches: There were a total of 11 decorative bridges and 22 arches.
The first visitors were generally from the middle and upper classes who had the free time to socialize and take carriage rides. The lower classes worked 6 days a week only leaving Sundays to make the trip. It wasn't until the early 1900's that this trend changed
There were restrictions in relation to some activities in early Central Park history, for instance group picnics were forbidden and tradesmen were banned to use their trade wagons for family excursions. Ball games were also restricted.
The Geographical features of Central Park include the Pond and Hallett Nature Sanctuary, The Ramble and Lake, Conservatory Garden, Conservatory Water, Great Lawn / Turtle Pond, Cedar Hill, Cherry Hill, Harlem Meer, The Lake, Onassis Reservoir, Rat Rock, Seneca Village, Sheep Meadow and Vista Rock
Over the years many additional recreational facilities were added for people to visit in Central Park. The history continues below with facts and history about the places of interest together with the famous people who are remembered in the form of fine statues and sculptures.
The Ladies Pavilion was built in 1903 to shelter ladies waiting to change streetcars at the Columbus Circle corner of the park - it went rusty over the years and was restored in 1979.
Over 230 different species of birds have been spotted over the years in Central Park.
Calvert Vaux's design of Bank Rock Bridge, also called Cabinet Bridge, was made of carved white oak with decorative cast-iron panels and pine decking. It was restored in 2007
Cleopatra's Needle in Central Park: The famous red granite obelisk referred to as 'Cleopatra's Needle' dates back to the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III in 1450 BC. It is one of a pair - the other is by the River Thames in London. Cleopatra's Needle was erected on February 22, 1881. It is 21 metres (69 ft) high, weighs about 224 tons and is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Christopher Columbus: The bronze sculpture of Christopher Columbus by Jeronimo Sunol was created in 1892 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the Americas and was unveiled on May 12, 1894.
Daniel Webster: The bronze sculpture of Daniel Webster, the great American statesman, was made by Thomas Ball and erected in 1876.
The 107th Infantry Memorial is a bronze sculpture and memorial by sculptor Karl Illava that was dedicated on September 27, 1927
Eagles and Prey is the oldest known sculpture and was installed in 1863. Eagles and Prey is in bronze by the sculptor Christophe Fratin. It was a gift given to the City by Gordon Webster Burnham (1803-1885).
The Falconer by English sculptor George Blackall Simonds depicts a man in Elizabethan clothing releasing a hunting falcon. The bronze statue was erected in 1875.
The Indian Hunter: The Indian Hunter is a bronze sculpture by John Quincy Adams Ward, and first sculpture erected in Central Park by an American artist. It was dedicated on February 4, 1869.
Robert Burns (1759 – 1796): The bronze depiction of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns is by John Steell and one of four versions, the others being in Dundee, London and Dunedin. It was dedicated on October 2, 1880.
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616): The tribute to the great English playwright William Shakespeare is by John Quincy Adams Ward and was unveiled in 1872.
Frances Hodgeson Burnett Memorial Fountain: A memorial to Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849 – 1924) that was dedicated in 1936. Frances Hodgeson Burnett was an English playwright and author famous for her children's stories including Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Secret Garden.
The Seventh Regiment Memorial by John Quincy Adams Ward honors the 58 men of the 7th Regiment who died defending the Union during the Civil War. It was erected in June 1874.
Samuel Morse: The bronze depiction of the famous inventor of the telegraph, Samuel Morse, is by Byron M. Pickett and was dedicated on June 10, 1871.
Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832): The bronze portrait statue of Walter Scott, the great Scottish author and poet, is by John Steell, and was dedicated on November 27, 1872, donated by Scottish-Americans of New York.
Romeo and Juliet: The works of William Shakespeare are remembered in the modern bronze depiction of Romeo and Juliet by American artist Milton Hebald. It is located in front of Delacorte Theater and was donated by philanthropist George T. Delacorte, Jr. in 1978.
King Jagiello (1386 - 1434): The King Jagiello Monument depicts the ancient Polish king on horseback. It is by the Polish sculptor Stanisław K. Ostrowski (1879-1947) and was erected in July 1945.
Giuseppe Mazzini: The bronze bust of Giuseppe Mazzini, the famous Italilian revolutionary, is by Giovanni Turini. It was commissioned by a group of Italian-Americans and was dedicated in 1878.
Fitz-Greene Halleck: The bronze statue of the American poet Fitz-Greene Halleck is by James Wilson Alexander MacDonald and installed on May 15, 1877. It was the first statue in Central Park to depict an American and nearly 10,000 people attended its dedication.
Victor Herbert: The bronze bust of composer Victor Herbert is by Edmund Thomas Quinn. The memorial was commissioned by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers and dedicated in 1927.
Untermyer Fountain: Untermyer Fountain in Central Park features a bronze cast of Walter Schott's Three Dancing Maidens, and is named after American lawyer Samuel Untermyer. The Untermyer fountain was donated by his children, following his death in 1940.
The Arsenal in Central Park: The Arsenal brick building was built between 1847 and 1851 as a storehouse for arms and ammunition for the New York State Militia.
Belvedere Castle: Belvedere Castle in Central Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and built in 1869 as a Victorian Folly (an extravagant building built primarily for decoration).
Bethesda Terrace: Bethesda Terrace was the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux to create a sweeping Promenade (the Mall) leading to a grand terrace overlooking the Lake. It was constructed in 1859-64. The Bethesda Fountain is a great feature on the lower level of the terrace depicting an 8 foot female winged angel and 4 four-foot cherubs representing Temperance, Purity, Health, and Peace.
The Carousel in Central Park: The original 1871 Central Park carousel was powered by a mule or horse under the carousel's platform. The current carousel (the fourth) has 57 hand-carved horses and two chariots.
Delacorte Theater: The Delacorte Theater in Central Park is an 1,800-seat open-air theater named in honor of George T. Delacorte, Jr who donated the money for the construction. It is leased by Shakespeare in the Park and was opened in 1962.
During the Great Depression of the 1930's homeless people set up camp in Shantytowns and Hoovervilles. One such shanty town sprang up in an empty reservoir - now the Great Lawn in Central Park. The Central Park shanty town was called "Hoover Valley" and the shacks were referred to as "Depression Street". It was demolished in April 1933 when work on the reservoir landfill resumed.
John Lennon: Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park is a 2.5-acre landscaped section that is dedicated to the memory of Beatles member John Lennon and named after the Beatles song "Strawberry Fields Forever". It was designed by Bruce Kelly and dedicated on October 9, 1985. The Diana Ross playground was opened in 1987 and features various swings and slides.
Central Park Zoo: The Central Park Zoo was opened in 1864 as the menagerie. It the second publicly owned zoo to be established in the United States, after the Philadelphia Zoo. The zoo is part of an integrated system of four zoos and the New York Aquarium and covers 6.5 acres of Central Park.
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