Central Park: An Oasis in the City


“Aerial view of New York City, in which Central Park dominates.” Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

When you think of “New York City (“NYC”) you usually think of a noisy, busy place. But did you know there is a very peaceful oasis right in the city called Central Park? Central Park is one of the most important pieces of public land in America. There are many interesting facts about the history of Central Park, and location and physical characteristics of the park make it an amazing place to visit. The park contains several well-known landmarks and recreational attractions that have been added to over the years. All in all, Central Park is a place worth visiting.

The History Of Central Park dates back to the 1850’s. Wealthy New Yorkers started urging the government to build a recreational park in NYC similar to the gardens and parks in Europe. Eventually, the state agreed and came up with the money to build a park. After a careful search, 840 acres of land were chosen for this site. The land was very swampy and rocky, making it not ideal for building commercial buildings. 

But before building could begin, 1600 people who lived there were removed from the land. Of that 1600, 250 were from Seneca Village, an African American community that owned property and had built schools, churches, and farms. All of these people were paid for their land, but they were not paid much and were forced to be separated throughout the city. 

When the park was being created, a design contest was held with a prize of 2,000 dollars. Frederick Law Olmsted, the park superintendent, and Calvert Vaux, an architect, won the contest. Central Park was one of the first American parks built using landscape techniques, and it was completed in 1876. 

The 840 acres on which Central Park was built were turned into a beautiful park with varied vegetation and terrain. There were flat grassy areas, hilly slopes, and rocky ravines. The park had three small lakes and several fountains. There were hundreds of monuments and plaques throughout the park. Today, several roadways now pass through the park. Central Park is located between 59th and 110th streets and is about 2.5 miles in length. It is between 5th and 8th avenues, a distance of about half a mile. When the park was first built, it was not really centrally located. It was uptown, and at first, it was mostly used by the wealthy. Working class people could not afford the cost of transportation to get there, and some events, like concerts, were held on Saturdays when the working class people were at their jobs. Eventually, in the late 1800’s, concerts started to be held on Sundays, when everyone could attend. Gradually, more and more middle and working class people had access to the park. By the 1920’s it was truly becoming a “Park of the People.” 

There is so much to see and do in Central Park. Some attractions that Central Park have are a skating rink, a bandshell, an open air theater, playgrounds, and athletic playing fields. People can visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is also in the park facing 5th Avenue. Another famous structure is Cleopatra’s Needle, which is an ancient Egyptian obelisk. And of course, there is the Central Park Zoo, which is home to a variety of animals, including seals, sea lions, penguins, snakes, bugs, monkeys, and birds. Today, people can dine at The Tavern on The Green or watch free performances of Shakespeare in the Park. But mostly, Central Park is a place for walking around, relaxing, and enjoying nature. Some chose to bike or roller skate on the paths as well. Central Park has something for everyone and gives people a chance to get away from the noise of the city.

People who live in or near NYC are lucky to have such a wonderful place to enjoy. Visitors to NYC should not miss the chance to go to Central Park. In fact, with 42 million visitors a year, Central Park is one of the most popular destinations in NYC and one of the most visited urban parks in the country. If you get an opportunity to go there, I’m sure you will see why.