The first tidbit that surprised me as the walking tour began was “everything in Central Park expect the large rock formations has been placed here.” Wait, what!?! I assumed it was a big wooded area the city turned into a park. No, it isn’t. To quote the tour guide “it is basically a movie set”. That seems so bizarre but after 156 years I am sure those trees have taken root and those streams have found their own course so it is more “real” than staged.
According to the walking tour guide and the Central Park website:
“Central Park, the first major landscaped public space in urban America, was created in the 1850s as an antidote to the turbulent social unrest, largely as the result of the country’s first wave of immigration, and a serious public health crisis, caused by harmful environmental conditions. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the winners of the 1858 design competition for Central Park, along with other socially conscious reformers understood that the creation of a great public park would improve public health and contribute greatly to the formation of a civil society. Immediately, the success of Central Park fostered the urban park movement, one of the great hallmarks of democracy of nineteenth century America.”
The park would suffer a time of neglect and decay and eventually the Central Park Conservancy would be founded and now oversees, manages and fundraises for the 843 acre park located in the middle of Manhattan. Central Park stretches from 59th to 110th Street between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West (8th Ave). It has a great website centralparknyc.org and there is even a free app.
I enjoyed the guided walking tour I did with friends late last month. One thing that always impresses me about the park is once you are “in” the park the sounds of the city fade away. Our tour guide said that is because the park is below street level. In the past I have taken a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park and that is a delightful venture. So if you are in NYC and need a break from the “hustle and the bustle”, take a walk in Central Park you will be pleasantly surprised.