Between 1821 and 1855 New York nearly quadrupled in population. As the city got more and more densely populated, citizens of Manhattan decided they needed breathing clean air space and quietness from the noise and pollution of the city, so they often went to a nearby cemetery. William Cullen Bryant and Andrew Jackson Downing started to attract attention to the government that they needed to be a park in the city, like Paris and London. An area was partitioned between 59th street and 106th streets in Manhattan for the creation of the park.
The development of this park started when the Central Park Commission took charge of the development effort. The Central Park Commission had a contest for the best design for the Park. Writer Fredrick Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, an architect won the contest with its Greensward Plan and won the contest.
Central Park was the first Park to be set aside for the ordinary public to enjoy. In places such as Copenhagen, Paris and London, parks were built only for the enjoyment of the monarchs to entertain their noble company. Nowhere else could the public enjoy the tranquility of a park. Free public use of this land for pleasure gave other states in the United States no excuse to not build their own for free use.
Frederick Olmstead was very serious about the art in Central Park. He proclaimed a declaration; “The park is a single work of art, namely that it shall be framed upon a single, noble motive to which the design of all it’s parts, in some more or less subtle shall be confluent and helpful” (writer, p.11) Central Park was a symbol of American art, and therefore Americans didn’t have to feel ashamed they didn’t have national treasures and monuments of Greece, England, Italy or France.
The art of the Park starts with the bodies of water inherent in the mass of land prior to the park construction. In 1857, all the water bodies in Central Park were swamps. The art lies in how the swamps were sucked dry of the swampy dirtiness and filled by canals of fresh water from the city’s water supply. The park’s artificial nature was life like with an amazing aestheticism. Large boulders of rock carefully and artistically camouflage the concrete structure used to keep the bodies of water in place.
In the Greensward Plan, other ideas were put into to place to beautify the park. It was to have a flower garden among one of the most important things. Flowers and soil imported from all over the world were put into the Olmstead flower garden. Central Park was the first center in Manhattan to have an ice skating rink and used a reservoir reserve to do so. In 1857, New Yorkers were in need of a park for sports to play the new game of baseball, slowly becoming popular as a US game. The commissioner of the Park requested three playgrounds in the Greensward Plan.
Soon after it started being available to the public, strict rules arose not to walk on the lawns of Central Park, especially the area of Sheep’s Meadows. “Visitors were instructed to receive their mental refreshment by looking at the pastoral picture not by stepping onto it.” (Pg. 112)
In the 1890’s relaxation of the strictness governing the Park’s lawns slowly changed as mass mediated events of P.T. Barnum and others, the Sheep’s Meadow became a recreation space. In 1930, the Sheep’s meadow became a stage for productions by city students. In the 1960’s it became a site for demonstrations against the Vietnam War – for peace and love.
The Great Lawn is also a famous grassland in Central Park. It was once a reservoir in the 1840’s and by 1880 the reservoir was no longer needed because of the city’s expansion of its water supply. New Yorkers now decide it could be a commercial space for a sports arena, an airport landing space or a parking garage as well as a thought to make it a space for radio towers. Greensward’s (precious art supporters were pitted and fought against social reformers who wanted a baseball fields and playgrounds. The two groups got together and made a great compromise. They decided to put a baseball field on one side and leave the other side of the lawn for precious art and preserve it the way it was. One side was for active use and one side was for quiet use.
Central Park has become a safe haven for active and quiet use. It was started as a work of art and then filled to the brim with active people to enjoy the majestic art that it was created for. It is a historical park of fun and peace, Central Park.