Historical Figures of Central Park

things-to-do Feb 12, 2021

Central Park is a pop culture and historic center. With its age of more than a century and a half, it was here before some major historic events (The Civil War, the purchasing of Alaska, not to mention the two world wars). It has contributed to the history of both New York and the US as a whole by providing places, landmarks, events, and people. That is why we have assembled a list of the most important historic figures of Central Park.

Frederick Law Olmsted (April 26, 1822 – August 28, 1903)

Federick Olmsted
Federick Olmsted

Landscape architect, journalist, social critic, and public administrator, Olmsted is considered to be the father of American landscape architecture. Some of his most famous projects include Walnut Hill Park in New Britain, Prospect Park in New York City and Cadwalader Park in Trenton, and the Niagara Reservation in Niagara Falls.

However, the jewel in his landscape crown is his involvement in the Greensward Plan, along with his senior partner Calvert Vaux. He was recruited for the idea by his mentor – Andrew Jackson Downing. He linked him up with Vaux, who he brought in from England.

The Greensward Plan won the competition in 1858. However, he resigned in the 1862 after a series of clashes with park authority, but was reinstated in 1865.

Amongst his other achievements, Olmsted was widely known as one of the first conservationist in the USA.

Calvert Vaux (December 20, 1824 – November 19, 1895)

Vaux was born in London in 1824. He is widely known on both sides of the Pond as one of the first activists of the public parks idea.

His first US partnership was formed with Andrew Jackson Downing in 1851, who linked him with Olmsted for the contest on the creation of the first public park in the US. Together, they created the Greensward Plan. And the rest is history.

He worked along with Olmsted on Prospect Park, Fort Green ark, and Morningside Park all over New York, as well as on the Riverside Improvement Company in Chicago. They dissolved their partnership in 1872, only to reunite in 1889 for City of Newburgh's Downing Park.

Calvert Vaux drowned in 1895 Gravesend bay. The park that overlooks the bay was renamed after him in 1998.

Robert Moses (December 18, 1888 – July 29, 1981)

Robert Moses is a public official that was involved with large-scale constructions in the wide New York Area. His work, favoring highways, shaped the suburbs of Long Island. His other major achievements include the two World’s Fair campuses (1939 and 1964), and the UN Headquarters in Manhattan.

Moses was appointed as park commissioner in 1934 by newly-elected Mayor Fiorello La Guardia with the main goal to clean the park. This era is widely known as the Moses rehabilitation. Central Park was in a state of decline. Moses’ administration began replanting, repairing the damaged monuments, and sidewalks. Probably the biggest achievement was the opening of the Central Park Zoo. He was also responsible for the removal of the Hoover Valley that was transformed into the Great Lawn. Moses can be credited for creating the Wollman Rink, and the removal of the sheep from the Sheep Meadow, as well as restoring the Harlem Meer, and numerous playgrounds, and ball fields.

Central Park Zoo
Central Park Zoo

Robert Moses caused a lot of controversy during his time. Holding high-office positions, he was accused of being a power broker. His public image suffered heavily after a book with the same name shed negative light over him. Nevertheless, his work in Central Park was unmatched.

Central Park has a rich legacy when it comes to historic figures. Controversial, temperamental, and flamboyant, but with tremendous vision and superb professional qualities, these men shaped the most famous park in the world!

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