The 1850s

The 1860s

The 1870s

The 1880s

Early 20th Century

The 1920s

The 1930s

Post World War II

The 1960s

The 1970s

The 1980s

All text from:
The Park and the People

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Andrew Green and the Model Park   |   Early Use of the Park
Training the "Ignorant" How to Use a Park
Restricting Play in the Park   |   The Fight over Sunday in the Park

Andrew Green and the Model Park
In April 1859 the Herald reported that the work on Central Park was "progressing with commendable rapidity" and optimistically predicted that some drives would be finished in the early summer and the rest by September. [Ch71]

Despite this press support, park finances worried the commissioners and eroded their confidence in the executive abilities of their architect-in-chief, Olmsted. That same April they asked the legislature to authorize extending the park's northern boundary from 106th to 110th Street and also requested an additional $832,666 for construction. Albany lawmakers granted them only half this amount, stipulating that no plan should be undertaken that exceeded the authorized sum. By July 1859 the commission had spent half of its $2 million construction budget. To complete the park as designed, the board estimated at that time, would require at least $3.6 million -- $1.6 million beyond the limit allowed. [Ch72]

When the commissioners launched a multifold investigation into where the money was going at such a rapid rate, pressure on the park officers increased. Olmsted's discouragement and exhaustion in the late summer of 1859 showed in strained personal relations with individual commissioners. In late September 1859 the commissioners advanced five hundred dollars for the ailing Olmsted to go abroad for six weeks and "employ the time examining European parks." [Ch710]

Through that difficult summer, Olmsted's strongest supporter on the board was the man he would later blame for all his troubles -- President Andrew Green, who repeatedly backed Olmsted, especially on aesthetic issues. [Ch711] Perhaps because Green thought he so fully understood the designers' goals for Central Park, he decided in the fall of 1859 that the only way to see their vision realized was to take charge of the construction himself. When Olmsted sailed for Europe in late September to recuperate, Green persuaded the board to appoint him to a new position, park comptroller, and he preempted Olmsted's superintending responsibilities, effectively ensuring that the architect-in-chief would never again control the building of Central Park. [Ch712]

When Olmsted returned from his European "cure" in December 1859, he had found that Andrew Green had become comfortable -- to the extent that Green permitted himself or anyone else to feel comfortable -- with his new prerogatives as comptroller. By January 1860 Green was peppering the architect-in-chief with a steady barrage of notes demanding information, directing operations, and warning, "I am afraid your payroll is getting too large." He scrutinized every bill, large or small, paring away expenses. [Ch726]

In August 1860 Olmsted's leg was shattered in a carriage accident; while he tried to oversee construction from a litter carried by park workers, Andrew Green once again took charge of day-to-day operations. By December the park below 79th Street was largely complete. Park laborers had filled the lower pond with water, finished the arches over the drives, opened another two miles of walks, and planted seventeen thousand trees and shrubs. [Ch727]

Far from being relieved that the work had gone forward, Olmsted insisted in his January 1861 resignation letter that his own "mortifying" run-ins with the comptroller over "picayune details" threatened the artistic integrity of the Greensward plan. [Ch728] But the Central Park Commission (including Green) could not afford to let Olmsted resign. As architect-in-chief he claimed sole credit for the system of "checks and precautions" that (as he reminded the board) a senate investigating committee had especially commended in concluding that Central Park "was the best managed public work in the country." His resignation over new financial problems might fuel a scandal at the time the board was asking the legislature for yet another appropriation. [Ch732]

But in June 1861, with new appropriations secured, the board in effect decided that it trusted the supervisory skill of its own member, Andrew Green, more than that of Olmsted. They relieved him of those responsibilities and limited his duties to overseeing the finishing operations and superintending the park keepers. The Civil War spared Olmsted from having to acknowledge this defeat. That month he departed for Washington to serve on the U.S. Sanitary Commission, which oversaw the supplying of the Union Army. Although Olmsted kept in touch, Green and, under him, Vaux (who had been appointed consulting architect in 1859), the gardener Ignaz Pilat, and the engineering corps managed the park's completion. [Ch733]

By the end of 1863 the grounds, drives and walks below 102nd Street had opened to the public; in the next two years, Green turned his attention to the territory between 106th and 110th streets, finally acquired in 1863 after four years of delay. These additional sixty-five acres, which covered the rocky woodland at the northwest corner and a swamp to the northeast, brought the park to its current size of 843 acres. Although much less was done to rearrange the northern end's rugged topography than had been done elsewhere, park workers built a twelve-acre lake called the Harlem Meer on the swamp, carved out and planted the Ravine and Waterfall, and constructed another mile of drive, a mile and a half of walks, and several rustic bridges. [Ch743]

When Olmsted and Vaux were reappointed as landscape architects on July 19, 1865, they added new features to enhance the park's attractions and convenience. Vaux (working with his assistant, architect Jacob Wrey Mould) designed the Gothic-style Belvedere Castle on Vista Rock to draw viewers' eyes from the Mall and reward visitors who climbed through the Ramble. He created the Moorish-style Mineral Springs Pavilion at the northwestern edge of the Sheep Meadow. His Ladies Refreshment Salon (later called the Casino) adorned the site east of the Mall originally planned for a concert hall. Borrowing a suggestion first made by Samuel Gustin in his entry for the design competition, the partners created the Dairy to dispense fresh milk and designed the nearby Children's Shelter. At the edge of the southwestern Playground they placed the Boys' Playhouse and designed a smaller playhouse for girls on the other side of the park. As the board's budget expanded Olmsted and Vaux were able to develop new plans for a Conservatory near Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street and a zoo on Manhattan Square. [Ch754]


Andrew Green and the Model Park   |   Early Use of the Park
Training the "Ignorant" How to Use a Park
Restricting Play in the Park   |   The Fight over Sunday in the Park