In the past year and a half (and particularly the past 8 months), I definitely spent more time indoors than I had planned. Admittedly, I would have liked to get to know NY in its former roaring glory, but life had planned to give me a different type of lemons – and lemonade I made!
As my NY adventure is approaching to an end, I am reflecting more and more on the places that really left a mark on me and the experience of daily life, and the first place that pops to mind and heart is definitely Central Park. My quarantine experience would have been a lot more depressing and, frankly, unbearable without this wonderful oasis of fresh air and nature close by. I know I have written about it in the past, but this time I would like to share some lesser-known facts about the park’s history:
- The park was established to increase the value of the surrounding real estate. Because of the rocky terrain, considered by weather experts to be “impossible to dynamite,” for most of the 19th century, the site was not used until, in 1853, the New York State legislature decided that the land should become a park. Thus, the prices of the surrounding properties would increase dramatically in the following decades.
- A newspaper director was the one who came up with the idea of setting up the park. William Cullen Bryant, poet and editor of the New York Evening Post started promoting the idea of establishing a new park in the newspaper in 1844.
- The design was chosen following a competition open to the public in 1858. Thirty-three teams joined the competition, and the winners Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux won the right to define what the future Central Park would look like.
- Sheep Meadow had really been a place for grazing, in the beginning. At the insistence of Olmsted, who wanted a park as authentic as possible, in the area called Sheep Meadow, sheep were really walking. They slept in a nearby barn and were taken out into the meadow twice a day.
- The design reflects the configuration of New York State. Thus, the southern area is more carefully arranged, according to the typical European parks, in order to evoke the location of the metropolis in the southeast of the homonymous state. The northern part – dotted with clumps of trees, hills and rustic gazebos – reflects the rural parts of the state.
Stay tuned for more fun facts in the next post!