A Brief History of Central Park in New York

New York’s Central Park is one of the biggest urban parks in the world, and it is the largest urban park in New York. With 843 acres, Central Park contains several artificial lakes, huge tree-dense areas, waterfalls, meadows, and lots of flat grass to hold picnics.

By the 1850s, the population of New York had grown rapidly, and the leaders began to brainstorm ways to ease the fast-paced urban nature of New York. To do this they decided to create a park where there would be large and free acres of land for recreational activities as well as making space for nature. New York has always been a densely populated city, and that has not changed, hence the necessity of urban and municipal parks.

In 1811, the Commissioner’s Plan had detailed an outline for Manhattan’s more modern street grid. This plan included smaller open spaces for recreation; however, it did not contain plans for Central Park. However, by the 1840s, some members of the elite of New York were requesting the construction of a larger recreational park in Manhattan. A few different sites were considered to be the location for Central Park. Jones’s Wood, which is 160 acres on the Upper East Side was rejected for several reasons—its location, cost, and small size. They still tried; however, the bill put forward to acquire Jones’s Park was deemed unconstitutional, and it was rejected. Nicholas Dean, a Board President on Croton Aqueduct then proposed a 750-acre tract of land which was known as ‘the Central Park.’

Nicholas Dean chose this location for several reasons, but the main reason was to ensure Croton Aqueduct’s gallon collecting reservoir would be in the park’s center. The location was accepted, and in July 1853, the purchase of the site was authorized by the New York State Legislature in what is known as the “the Central Park Act.”

In 1856, a design competition was held after Egbert Viele’s plan was rejected. Thirty-three firms submitted their designs, and in 1858, the commissioners selected Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s plan called the “Greensward Plan” as their chosen design. Alongside a team of over 5 designers and many workers, the construction of Central Park began. An area known as Seneca Village was taken through eminent domain to make room for the park.

The general construction of Central Park was difficult because the land was rocky, uneven, and swampy. The soil was also not fertile enough to accomplish the original flora designs in the Greensward Plan. Over 20,000 people were employed during the construction of the park to minimize the chances of casualties. Unfortunately, five laborers died during construction.

Central Park cost around $7.39 million (over 200 million dollars in 2020) to create, and the building process lasted 15 years. After securing steady funding, the building process was accelerated and underway even during the Civil War. Finally, it was completed in 1876 after years of toil. With over 30 million visits yearly, it is certainly a very successful public park.