Early designs for Central Park. Image courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.
When thinking of influential creators of New York City’s most memorable places, it’s hard not to imagine Frederick Law Olmsted near the top of the list. Considered to be the founder of landscape architecture–he was also a writer and conservationist–Olmsted was committed to the restorative effects of natural spaces in the city. Perhaps best known for the wild beauty of Central and Prospect Parks, his vast influence includes scores of projects such as the Biltmore estate, the U.S. Capitol grounds and the Chicago World’s Fair. In preparation for the bicentennial of Olmsted’s 1822 birth, the Library of Congress has made 24,000 documents providing details of Olmsted’s life available online, Smithsonian reports. The collection includes journals, personal correspondence, project proposals and other documents that offer an intimate picture of Olmsted’s private life and work. The collection is linked to an interactive map at Olmsted Online showing all Olmsted projects in the United States (and there are many). You can search the map according to project name, location, job number and project type.
Explore the documents and map
Ocean Parkway circa 1894, via NYC Parks
While many hipsters can be seen trekking through Brooklyn on their bikes today, the borough’s infatuation with cycling actually dates back to the nineteenth century. On June 15, 1894, Ocean Parkway became the first street in the U.S. to have a designated bike lane. The nearly five-mile stretch of road was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the urban planning masterminds behind Central Park and Prospect Park. Originally, their design for Ocean Parkway was to be one of four spokes originating at Prospect Park and spanning across the borough. Today, the road doesn’t actually start at the park but runs parallel to Coney Island Avenue to reach the beach.
The full history this way
John Rink’s rejected design proposal for Central Park, via NY Historical Society
Central Park, which celebrated its 164th anniversary this month, required elaborate planning to make it what it is today: the most visited urban park in the country. New York City launched a design competition in 1857 for the development of the open space between Manhattan’s 59th and 110th Streets. Most New Yorkers know that out of 33 total entrants, the city chose Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s “Greensward Plan.” However, just five of the losing designs survived and can be seen at the New York Historical Society. One particularly unique design was submitted by park engineer John Rink, who planned Central Park to be highly decorated with whimsically shaped sections dominated by topiaries (h/t Slate).
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Central Park’s Belvedere Castle will undergo major renovations beginning this summer and early fall, to fix the 146-year-old structure’s cracked pavement, leaking roof and plumbing issues. While the plan to give the castle a face-lift was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission last month, the plan to make its path handicap-accessible has not yet been approved. According to the New York Times, preservationists are concerned about the Central Park Conservancy’s proposal to build a ramp-like elevated walkway to the castle’s entrance, saying it would alter the experience of Central Park.
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, Fri, September 12, 2014
Sara Cedar Miller and Larry Boes
Central Park’s 843 acres serve as New York City’s backyard, playground, picnic spot, gym, and the list goes on. Taking care of the urban oasis is no small task; it requires gardeners, arborists, horticulturists, landscape architects, designers, tour guides, archeologists, a communications team, and even a historian. The organization in charge of this tremendous undertaking is the Central Park Conservancy. Since its founding in 1980, the Conservancy has worked to keep the park in pristine condition, making sure it continues to be New York’s ultimate escape.
Eager to learn more about Central Park and the Conservancy’s work, we recently spoke with two of its dedicated employees: Sara Cedar Miller, Associate Vice President for Park Information/Historian and Photographer, and Larry Boes, Senior Zone Gardener in charge of the Shakespeare Garden.
Read the interview here
A large part of the appeal of New York City is the historical nature of the buildings. However, how many buildings can boast that they were once own by not one, but two mayors? Well, the 4-story townhome at 405 Clinton Avenue has those bragging rights, and it’s on the market for a new owner.
The townhouse was initially designed in 1889 by William Bunker Tubby, the architect responsible for Pratt Institute’s library. He designed it for Charles A. Schieren, one of Brooklyn’s last mayors. It’s rumored that the home was also the residence of Brooklyn’s jazz-Age mayor Jimmy Walker, many decades before its current owners purchased it in 2009. After paying $1.75 million for the landmarked building, owner Sean Wilsey and his wife Daphne Beal gutted the entire place, adding roughly 100 new windows and a patio among other things.
Check out more photos of this gorgeous renovation here