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Once Around The Park

Picnic site, ballpark, concert hall, theater, surrogate backyard—Central Park gives every New Yorker an Arcadian escape from the city’s clamor. To mark the park’s 150th birthday, we celebrate a nineteenth-century vision that still makes life in the city worth living.

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It wasn’t even supposed to be central. When the “People’s Park” was proposed in the 1840s, the first choice was a site running from Third Avenue to the East River. (Why didn’t it end up there? Typical New York story: The landlords wouldn’t sell, and a bunch of noisy Upper West Side lobbyists wanted in on the act.) But once Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux got their hands on 843 acres of rocky, scrubby land in the middle of Manhattan, they created an urban oasis like no other, changing landscape architecture forever and giving millions of New Yorkers a respite they could never otherwise have. On these pages, we revisit a few of the 150 summers since the park was dedicated. The ostrich-plumed hats and pinafores may gradually give way to T-shirts and Walkmen, but the faces remain constant in one unmistakable—and familiar—way: Everyone’s having a great time.

For the full Central Park pictorial, please see the June 23, 2003 issue of New York Magazine.


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