How Long Did It Take To Build Central Park?

It’s New York’s most iconic green space and one of the most filmed locations in the world, capturing the imagination of New Yorkers and tourists for centuries. But how long did it take to build Central Park? We’ve answered your questions and more below.

How long did it take to build Central Park?

how long did it take to build Central Park

How big is Central Park?

Huge! It measures a sprawling 843 acres, which makes it larger than the principality of Monaco. The perimeter of the park, which stretches across six miles, manages to squeeze 26 baseball fields, seven lakes and 58-miles of pathways inside it. It’s not even New York’s largest park; the 2,800-acre Staten Island Greenbelt took that title a long time ago.

Why did they build Central Park?

By the mid-nineteenth century, New York City’s population had exploded. A huge influx of immigrants, combined with higher birth rates, made for crowded and unhealthy living conditions. In 1811, authorities laid out the city’s now-famous grid system, which included plans for a small number of green spaces but nothing compared to the parks today. Civic-mined philanthropists and city leaders joined forced to put New York City on the map as a world-class destination, but that was hardly possible with such terrible living conditions. It soon became apparent that the people of NYC needed more green space.

In 1853 officials approved funds to purchase the land from 59th to 106th Streets.

Who designed Central Park?

The designated land was pretty swampy and filled with rocks so authorities needed help to overcome those obstacles. They decided to hold a design competition once approvals for a new park had gone through. There were 33 entries and the commission selected a plan submitted by Frederick Law Olmsted, a writer and farmer from Connecticut and Calvert Vaux, a young English architect. With this design, Central Park became the United States first-ever landscaped garden. Olmsted was inspired by Birkenhead Park, the first publicly funded park in England built in response to poor living conditions in the surrounding industrial areas.

The design, known as the Greensward Plan, mimicked the natural landscape with sweeping meadows, formal gardens and large bodies of water.

What was there before Central Park?

Most of the land on which the park now sits was useless – rocky, craggy stretches that couldn’t be used for buildings – and a real eyesore for local residents. However, there was a well-established African-American community living on the park’s west side in a place called Seneca Village. Building the park displaced at least 250 people – around 20% of New York’s property-owning black people.

The 50-acre Great Lawn was once a reservoir. From 1842 until 1931 the reservoir received water from Westchester Crofton River via the aqueduct and you can still see some evidence of it today around 87th Street.

Sheep meadow actually did have sheep there too. They were stored at the Tavern on the Green next to a dairy and would be let out onto the meadow twice a day for grazing.

When did they actually start building Central Park?

Construction began in 1858. They shifted close to five million cubic yards of stone, earth, and topsoil to make way for 36 bridges and arches, 11 overpasses over the transverse roads and over 500,000 trees, shrubs, and vines. The landscapes are all manmade and built by hand.

The first section of the park opened in 1858.

How long did it take to build Central Park

It took just over 15 years to build the entire park

How much did it cost to build Central Park?

It cost around USD 14 million to build Central Park. That’s quite the leap from the original estimates of USD 5 million.

New York State legislature spent about USD 7.4 million on the land, which was more than the price of Alaska. The United States purchased Alaska – which measured 600 thousand square miles – from Russia in 1867 for USD 7.2 million.

Who was it built for?

It was designed to give all New Yorkers easy access to fresh area. In reality, its uptown location meant it was mostly frequented by the wealthy since train travel was too expensive for the city’s working class population. Throught the 1860s and 1870s the park filled with sumptuous carriages and a promenade around the park was a real status symbol back in the day. Once the lower reservoir was drained and the playgrounds build, more middle class and working class started visiting. By the 1940s the park housed over 20 playgrounds and was no longer the preserve of the elite.

Central Park saw a real era of decline in the 1960s and 1970s over maintenance disputes. After a well-publicised campaign in the 1980s feauting the slogan “you gotta have a park” the Central Park conservancy fundraising body formed. Now millions of visitors hotfoot to the park every year.

What’s this about a casino?

The little building fondly referred to as the Casino was actually a casino for quite some time. Olmsted originally designed it as a Ladies Refreshment Salon where women could get to get refreshments without being accosted by men. Back in the early 20th century, the only women who walked in the park alone we women of ‘ill repute’. It became a hotspot during the prohibition when the New York City mayor, Jimmy Walker, turned it into a casino.

Why are all the paths curved?

It’s easy to miss, but there’s only one straight path in the whole of Central Park. When the park was designed, they designed to install curved paths to prevent horse and carriage races.

What’s the deal with the benches?

If you’ve taken a trip to Central Park, you might have noticed that some of the benches have less-than-typical messages emblazoned across them. That’s all down to the adopt-a-bench scheme,  introduced in 1986 to help raise funds for the park’s maintenance. For around USD 10,000 you can adopt a bench and aa a 120 character inscription. You can go well beyond the typical ‘For Jean, who loved to sit here’ vibes too. Some of our favourite messages include: “For Tits McCrakin.. Impractically imperfect in every way”, “YOUR TUSH HERE” and “I love you very much and look forward to marrying you… but if we have a fight, you can always sleep here”. 

how long did it take to build Central Park

Allie D'Almo

Allie is a passionate traveller with a hearty interest in great food and stories. She likes to travel slowly, particularly to underrated and underloved places. She’s lived in Italy and is now based in London, where she spends most of her time either plotting her next trip or writing about her last one.

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