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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
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Central Park
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The major civic investment in New York, the major government investment in New York before the Civil War, was in the creation of a great urban park. And there are many people who think that Central Park is the greatest man-made object on Manhattan Island. And it's important to remember when you're looking at Central Park that it looks natural, that it looks like it's a natural landscape that's been here for thousands of years, but it is an almost entirely man-made environment. And part of the brilliance of the design is that most visitors to the park have no idea that this is a carefully planned landscaped environment.

There were no major parks planned in the Commissioners' Plan of 1811; there was no need for parks in the relatively small city of 1811, a city where if you wanted to go out into the wilderness it wasn't very far away. You could walk out or take a carriage and you were out in the wilds.

But as the city grew, especially as large numbers of poor immigrants came to New York in the 1840s, there was a movement which begins with the very wealthy for New York City to create a great urban park. And the city government agrees to the idea of an urban park, and starts looking around for the appropriate site.


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