Question: When was Central Park built?
Answer: Central Park is a public park consisting of 843 acres at the center of Manhattan in New York City. The park initially opened in 1857. Construction continued during the American Civil War and was completed in 1873.
Why was the park created? Between 1821 and 1855, New York City nearly quadrupled in population. So influential New Yorkers felt that a stylish place for open-air driving was needed, and in 1853 the New York legislature originally settled upon a 700-acre area from 59th to 106th Streets for the creation of the park, at a cost of more than $5 million for the land alone.
Before the construction of the park could start, the area had to be cleared of its inhabitants, most of whom were quite poor and either free African-Americans or of English or Irish origin. Around 1,600 residents occupying the area at the time were evicted and the communities were razed to make room for the park. More gunpowder was used to clear the area than was used at the battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, approximately $450 million has been invested in the restoration and management of the park, which has an annual operating budget of over $37 million. The park, which receives approximately 35 million visitors annually, is the most visited urban park in the US. In 2005, the real estate value of Central Park was estimated to be $528,783,552,000.
The 1960s marked the beginning of an “Events Era” in Central Park that reflected the widespread cultural and political trends of the period. Increasingly through the 1970s, the park became a venue for events of unprecedented scale, including political rallies and demonstrations, festivals, and massive concerts. Country superstar Garth Brooks performed a free concert in August 1997, which was the largest concert ever on record with about 980,000 people attending.
While the plants and land formations in much of the park appear natural, it is in fact almost entirely landscaped. The park contains several natural-looking lakes and ponds that have been created artificially, extensive walking tracks and bridle paths. There are two ice-skating rinks (one of which is a swimming pool in July and August), the Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, a wildlife sanctuary, a large area of natural woods, and a 106-acre billion-gallon reservoir with an encircling running track. The outdoor amphitheater, the Delacorte Theater, hosts the Shakespeare in the Park summer festivals. Indoor attractions include Belvedere Castle with its nature center, the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, and the historic Carousel. In addition there are seven major lawns, the “meadows,” many minor grassy areas, and a number of enclosed playgrounds for children. Central Park is also a romantic and picturesque location to hold a wedding ceremony.
The park has numerous statues of iconic figures, including Balto, Alice in Wonderland and even William Shakespeare. It is also the home of the oldest public monument in North America: Cleopatra’s Needle. This red granite obelisk was originally carved in ancient Egypt around 1450 BC for Thutmose III and the hieroglyphs were inscribed about two hundred years later by pharaoh Rameses II to glorify his military victories.
The Central Park Carousel, installed in 1951, is one of the largest merry-go-rounds in the US. The 58 hand-carved horses and two chariots were made in 1908, when the carousel was in its original home on Coney Island in Brooklyn.
The Central Park Zoo’s exhibits are surrounded by the picturesque Manhattan skyline and it features more than 150 species from around the globe. Just steps from Fifth Avenue, visitors can chill out with sea lions, penguins and polar bears or warm up with tropical rainforest critters.
Strawberry Fields, a 2.5 acre area in the park, was dedicated to John Lennon’s memory on October 9, 1985, which would have been his 45th birthday. Countries from all around the world contributed trees and Italy donated the iconic “Imagine” mosiac. It has since become the site of impromptu memorial gatherings for other notables and, in the days following the 9/11 attacks, candlelight vigils.
Central Park is the most filmed location in the world. Over 305 films have been shot within the park, including Hannah and Her Sisters, When Harry Met Sally and Home Alone 2.
And finally, the main highlight of Central Park is not an “attraction” in the normal sense of the word. It is the picturesque beauty of the natural green landscape and pastoral escape that Central Park provides to one of the busiest cities in the world. There is nothing better than wandering through the paths, exploring the rustic spaces and basking in the beauty of nature. Just be sure not to stand in one spot for too long or the pigeons might think you’re a statue.