Who hasn't imagined walking through Central Park with Winona Ryder or Richard Gere on a carpet of leaves? Central Park is new York's green lung, part of the popular imaginary thanks to cinema and of course it's part of all the guided trips to New York that we prepare.
Shall we take a walk?
Central Park is located between 5th and 8th Avenue, spanning the streets from 59th to 110th. Rectangular in shape, not only is it one of the largest parks in the world: with dimensions of 4000m x 800m, Central Park is larger than some countries. His appearance in numerous films has made it one of the most famous parks. The park is run by Central Park Conservancy, a private nonprofit company that is contracted by the Parks and Leisure Department of New York City Hall.
Want to know the history of Central Park? Well, the best thing for that is for you to come on a trip to New York with us and get to know him firsthand. In the meantime we put you a little in context: Central Park, was born the result of necessity, and although today it is an essential part of New York City, its authorities did not always take it into account, so the park since its creation, has gone through bright times and also through some quite dark times.
Between 1,821 and 1,855 New York quadrupled its population, the lack of open spaces led citizens to frequent cemeteries in search of rest and nature. The need for a public park became clear and from 1,853 they got to work. The state of New York donated 2.8 kilometers of land for the creation of the park and set a maximum budget of 5 million USD.
After designing a commission for Central Park and organizing a competition to choose the design of it, they selected the project presented by Frederick Law Olmsted, landscaper and architect Calvert Vaux, inspired by different European parks and cemeteries, examples of idyllic and naturalistic landscapes, and introducing the innovative creation of different paths for pedestrians, horse carriages and other vehicles.
After the completion of the park, changes in habits among New Yorkers (they no longer only wanted the park to walk and contemplate, but also wanted to use it as a playful and sporty space), the growing presence of motor vehicles and the passivity of the authorities to maintain the gardens of Central Park, made it an expans of bare land , full of dust and mud holes.
When 1,934 arrived this situation changed, thanks to the work of the urban planner Robert Moses who reorganized the park, replanting grass, flowers, replacing shrubs and trees and repairing bridges, as well as varying the original design and construction, introducing a large meadow, combining the original version of an idyllic landscape with a use for playful objectives for which several courtyards and football and handball fields were built.
Between the 1960s and 1970s, Central Park became a reflection of the social events of New York society, moving from hosting theatre festivals such as Shakespearein the Park (created in 1,962 and through which several notable actors such as Nathalie Portman and Al Pacino, among others) have gone on to show the decrepitude of the crisis of the mid-1970s in which the deterioration of their infrastructures and architecture accelerated, which once again led to an era of vandalism. From this situation emerged the Central Park Conservancy, which under the command of the Commissioner of Parks and with the collaboration of citizens launched horticultural and restoration projects.
From 1980 the Central Park Conservancy was hired by the New York City Council to carry out the design and planning of a long-term restoration. Since 1985 he has assumed that responsibility entirely, both the financing and the management and realization of all the projects carried out there. Over this time and after not a few confrontations with the New York Parks Department, responsible for regular maintenance, the Central Park Conservancy has made an investment of approximately 450 million USD between restoration, staff and park management. It currently funds about 85% of Central Park's annual budget.
The advantage of visiting Central Park with a guide is that it won't let you miss anything and will tell you all the secrets of the famous park. Central Park consists of large lawn spaces, several gardens, including the botanical garden, valleys and lagoons. It is home to a wide variety of flora (it has about 1,500 species of trees, including one of the last American elm groves) and fauna. Given its dimensions and to get a global idea of the park, we can make the circuit that surrounds it by bike. We can also travel part of the more than 90 kilometers of paths that cross it. Here are some mandatory stops:
Grand Army Plaza: is the most used entrance of Central Park, located next to the Plaza Hotel (Renaissance style hotel, which you will surely recognize because it appeared in Solo at Home 2: Lost in New York). The square is European style, oval in shape and we can enjoy the beauty of it, in addition to the temporary art exhibitions that it usually houses.
Central Park Zoo: located inside the park, it started in 1,860 as a beast house, becoming New York's first official zoo. It has been modified several times, replacing cages with natural environments for the animals it hosts. And you're going to identify it as soon as you see it because it happened to starving with the film Madagascar, as it was home to the protagonists.
The lagoon: it is not the largest lake in Central Park (although it gives the feeling for its way it is greater) but it is the most iconic, since from it we can admire one of the most picturesque images and more faithful to the original spirit of the park. We can walk along the surrounding trails or rent a boat and paddle, another of the lake's attractions.
The Dairy: it is a Victorian Gothic style structure, currently the visitor center of Central Park. We can see a permanent exhibition of the history of the park, but originally it was as its name suggests: a dairy. It is created in 1,893 after the adulterated milk scandal, from which many children and the elderly died. In the dairy they pasteured the milk and sold it for only a few cents or free for those who could not afford to pay that amount.
Literary walk: is the only walk that exists in a straight line throughout Central Park, flanked by elms and statues of English writers and poets. It occupies a privileged place William Shakespeare, who in addition to his statue has a theatre festival, held in his honor, every summer since 1,962 in Central Park: Shakespeare in the park. It has involved actors such as Al Pacino or Denzel Washington.
Bethesda's fountain and terrace: Central Park's most iconic monument, immortalized in countless films, the Angel of Waters, is the work of sculptor Emma Stebbins. She was the first woman in New York history to make an important public monument. The play was also the first to be installed in the park. The terrace has a special charm, almost bohemian, since we can always meet street musicians among its arches.
Strawberry Fields: Forever. This teardrop-shaped garden is a memorial named after John Lennon, murdered on December 8, 1,980 just across the street, at the Dakota Building Gate where he resided. A grove of elms and a mosaic with a single inscription: "Imagine".
Dakota Building: sadly famous, as the eternal Beatle was murdered at his very doorstep. However, this French and German-inspired building, designed by the same company that carried out the Hotel Plaza project, has been a national interest since 1,976. But his leap to fame was thanks to the film The Devil'sSeed, his grim beauty making him the perfect residence for Mia Farrow to embody and bring the world into the antichrist.
Because Central Park is full of art and nature. Because there's always a lot of cool things to do in it. Because you can visit it at different times of the year and it will be in the same place, but it will have a different color. Because no time of year is better to visit than another. Because Central Park is a handmade forest in the middle of New York City.
And, of course, if you come on a trip to New York with one of our bilingual guides we'll all visit Central Park together.