Friday, October 20

History & Design Post: Olmsted's Central Park--Today's Vantage Point

from the Ramble
A little Bit of Creative Fodder 
With a Visit To Central Park
Much has been written about Central Park in books, magazines and blogs- a great deal of outpouring about the impressive design and renovation of the park over the years, and notably the original design by Frederick Law Olmsted.  Having lived across the street from the MET museum for two decades, this gorgeous bucolic park has been our family's playground.  When my kids were little, we strolled daily through the infamous playgrounds, the Turtle Pond, the Carousel, Alice in Wonderland and Balto statue.  Little did my tykes know as mere toddlers they were climbing and running on some one of the most historic statues and gardens in our country.  
Bethesda Fountain
Central Park was listed in 1962 as a National Historic Landmark. It was designed by  Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, a landscape architect and an architect who won a design competition in 1858 to improve and expand the park with a plan they titled the "Greensward Plan".  Soon, construction began and the park was created and then expanded to its current size of 843 acres. It is astounding that this park and the original plan is still relevant today accommodating New York City.  

They also designed Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Over the years it fell into disrepair, but in 1994, The Master Plan was created to renew the Olmsted Parks and Parkways and serves as a roadmap for over $55 million in restoration. It has been transformed, and today it is lush and an incredible study in beautiful architecture, design and gardens. 

It is hard to separate Central Park from New York City life since it is intertwined- the park offers creativity, activity and nature-inspired outlets for us urban dwellers.  From hawk sightings to getting lost in the Ramble trails, Central Park is a true nature preserve in every sense of the word, a real living oasis that sustains New Yorkers and visitors daily.  On any given day with a quick stroll through the park one will see a busy baseball game, music concerts, tourists rowing on the pond, rollerblading, bike riding, runners, and lots more activity.  The key to understand our electric, mercurial, energetic community here in New York City is to visit the park . 
 Turtle Pond 
From 1842 to 1931 Turtle Pond was the receiving reservoir for the Croton Water System, an early reservoir system in NYC.  By the 1930s, the reservoir itself (leaving only the pond) was filled in to build the Great Lawn.  Many New Yorkers then started a new tradition of giving up their pet turtles to the pond.  

The Ramble is 38 acres and encompasses the north shore of the Lake, and was created as a woodland walk through varied topography settings from rustic and wild to pastoral and views of the pond.  It was designed to create walkways away from the busy parts of the park, and in natural landscapes and between rocky and naturalistic cut bedrock.  
Belvedere Castle
Belvedere means "beautiful view" in Italian. Designed in the late 1800s by Olmstead and Vaux, it is a mix of Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles. A magnificent granite structure with a corner tower and conical cap, and an impressive lookout over the park and new york city. 
Shakespeare Garden 
It is Central Park's only rock garden, it was created after authentic Victorian-era rock gardens.  The garden was first created in the 1880’s to create a pretty landscaped area near the Nature Study Center and the Swedish Cottage. It was not until 1916, on the 300th year anniversary of William Shakespeare's death was the garden dedicated to the works of this famous English poet and playwright. In 1987, after years of neglect, the garden (and most of Central Park), was renovated by the Central Park Conservancy who restored and built upon the garden, re-paving pathways and installing these rustic wooden benches and bronze plaques with quotations from the Bard’s masterpieces. 

The garden is often missed by tourists because of how it is nestled in the park.  It's been dubbed the "Garden of the Heart", and it is important to note that many ancient plants referenced in Shakespeare's plays were originally planted in this garden. Throughout spring, summer and fall one will see blooming beauties such as; primrose, columbine, wormwood, quince, lark's heel, rue eglantine, flax and cowslip.  

Shakespeare Garden

Alice In Wonderland 
Happy Nesting
XO Tamara