More than any single landmark, Central Park lies at the physical and spiritual heart of New York. Conceived as the green lungs for a rapidly urbanizing metropolis in the 19th century, it has evolved into America's seminal landscape. This three-hour tour of Central Park looks in depth at its design and history, from the competition that spawned it on the eve of civil war to innovative conservation movement that saved it in the 1990s.
The park that we enjoy today - 840 acres of rolling hills, picturesque vistas and vast green spaces punctuated by bodies of water and masterpieces of American Gothic architecture - is hardly "natural" or organic in the common usage of those terms. Instead, it is an heavily designed and artificially constructed space, the architectural vision of two men steeped in nineteenth-century notions of the picturesque as well as ideas of democratic space and social responsibility. Struggling against a corrupt city government and a not entirely appreciative public, Frederic Law Olmsted and his lesser known associate Calvert Vaux spent nearly twenty years designing and overseeing construction of this masterpiece of urban design.
During the course of our walk we'll discuss the design theories behind the park, the juxtaposition of the "beautiful" and the "picturesque" and the social function of the park through history. Maintenance of this space and its designers' ideals has proved a constant and costly battle, the success of which is measured by the Park's impeccable condition and its constant evolution as an urban oasis. This walk will visit some of the Park's best known spaces and monuments as well as some of its lesser known gems, taking in a century and a half of New York and American history in the process.