And the beginning of Central Park

This morning, in the midst of my mad dash to get things done before boarding a flight to Europe, I managed to race over to the Old Arsenal at 64th St. and 5th Avenue, where they have, on exhibit – for only the third time in the 150 years since its creation – Central Park’s original map – the winning entry by Olmsted and Vaux in a competition to design the park (seen here turned on its side).

The park today hews remarkably closely to that brilliant original plan. There are a few differences – what was to be a floral garden is now the Conservatory Pond, and the Great Lawn was a later edition – but the essential vision was all there in the original.

A vast and lovely oasis in the heart of some of the most densely packed and fought over real estate in the world, it is not just the beauty of our park that is so striking, but its philosophy as well. Rather than make a park reserved for use only by the wealthy few (which was the standard at the time) the city planners had the great temerity to commission a park that would, from the ground up, be designed for everyone to enjoy.

I am incredibly proud I to live in a city that had the foresight to make a “people’s park” 150 years ago, when most of the Western world’s cities were still taking a far more elitist view.

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