Robert F. Wagner Raiaan Valli History 8-4 12/6/10
AUTHOR’S NOTE: CENTRAL PARK
The general topic of this book falls under the category of the “Gilded Age”. This particular period of time took place between 1869 and 1896. The Gilded Age was a time in American history when rapid economic growth generated vast wealth, new products as well as new technologies, and improved middle-class quality of life.
The specific topic of this book is the architecture that was produced during the Gilded Age, particularly Central Park, which is located in New York City. It was roughly constructed in 1857. The construction of the park was before the Gilded Age, but the focus is the completed park in 1873. Central Park was definitely a factor which helped with the rapid growth of the economy. This is mainly because it was the only public park constructed at the time and received many visitors which in turn gave the government a vast amount of money.
Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the United States to be constructed in the 19th century. New York City's need for a great public park was voiced by the poet and editor of the Evening Post, William Cullen Bryant, and by the first American landscape architect, Andrew Jackson Downing, who began to publicize the city's need for a public park in 1844. They believed that constructing a public park would offer families an attractive setting for every-day life and incorporate nature into their surroundings. In 1853, the state legislature gave the power to New York City to acquire more than 700 acres of land in the center of Manhattan, specifically the area between Fifth Avenue and Eight Avenue and 59th Street and 106th Street for the site of Central Park.
In 1857, a landscape design contest was held by the Central Park Commission and they selected Frederick Law Olmsted’s “Greensward Plan” for the design of the park and Calvert Vaux for the construction of the park. The designers wanted to create a landscape which allowed the upper and middle classes to meet and just relax and meditate.
The building of Central Park was one of the 19th century’s most massive public works projects. Some 20,000 workers which consisted of Yankee engineers, Irish laborers, German gardeners, and native born stonecutters helped with the construction of Central Park. This tells us that New York City was living up to and following the ideas established in the United States Constitution and most individuals were creating a bond between themselves despite the color of their skin and cultural background.
In the first decade of the park's completion, it became clear for who it was built. It was located too far uptown to be within walking distance for the city's working class population. Train fare was more expensive than most of the workers could afford, and in the 1860s the park remained the “property” of the wealthy. Immigrants eventually moved in and outnumbered the rich men and women which caused the government to open the park to the entire public.
By 1865, the park received more than seven million visitors a year and new ideas for the park immediately began to develop. A zoo became an addition to Central Park in 1871 and quickly became the park’s most popular feature. In the 1880s, New Yorkers campaigned for concerts on Sunday, their only day of rest. The campaign was led by Commissioner Egbert Viele, a Democratic Party activist. The confrontation emerged in the context of a larger struggle over how New Yorkers should spend the Christian sabbath. Members of Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and Methodist churches urged a quiet, church-centered Sunday. More liberal denominations and "free thinkers" tolerated a wider range of activities, and tens of...
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