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Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures The Architecture and Development of New York City with Andrew S. Dolkart
image The Public Realm Central Park
Greensward Plan
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Central Park
Greensward Plan
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Initially, the idea was to build the park on the East River waterfront, but the landowners on the East River were not very happy about this idea. And so the city began looking elsewhere and finally decided on the land between Fifty-ninth Street, 110th Street, Fifth Avenue, and Eighth Avenue. Eighth Avenue is what's now Central Park West.

And in the 1850s this land is purchased in two separate groups of purchases, with the idea of creating a park. So the city owns the land for the park, they hire a staff, largely of Irish immigrants, to work in the park, and Frederick Law Olmsted is hired to manage the park workers, but there is no design, there's no plan for a park.

And finally, in 1858, the city decides to hold a competition for a park design. And the competition was to be an anonymous competition, and each design that was submitted was given a name. And the design that won was the Greensward Plan. Greensward is a wonderful nineteenth-century term for a lawn.

And the Greensward Plan won. And lo and behold it was the design of Frederick Law Olmsted, who was already employed by the park, working with the architect Calvert Vaux. And it's probably pretty clear that the judges knew which Olmsted's design was. But nonetheless Olmsted and Vaux's design for Central Park is an extraordinarily brilliant design, and clearly far and away more sophisticated than the others that were submitted. And you can make a comparison between a few that survive or others that were described.


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