Even if you haven’t been there, everyone knows Manhattan’s Central Park from years and years of exposure in television and film (it’s been in 240-plus feature films since 1908). Bound by New York’s Upper West Side and Upper East Side, and flanked by 59th Street to the south and 110th Street to the north, the urban park was created between 1857 and 1876. New York City was already the nation’s largest city, and its wealthy residents were demanding a large park to get away from all the fuss of modern life.
Before Central Park, many people would take walks through cemeteries, the last bit of public nature left in Manhattan. So, it was built at a cost of $7.39 million (more than the U.S. paid for Alaska) and around 1,600 residents of existing communities were evicted and displaced under eminent domain. With that, New York got its iconic park. Here are three more things you might not have known about Central Park.
The Famous Bridge
Designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould, and completed in 1862, the Bow Bridge is among the most photographed and filmed places in the park. Measuring 87 feet, the pedestrian bridge crosses “The Lake,” and is the second-oldest cast-iron bridge in the U.S. (the first being Dunlap’s Creek Bridge in southwestern Pennsylvania, completed in 1839). The Bow Bridge was featured in Spider-Man 3 and Enchanted.
First of its Kind in the U.S.
Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the country. Despite much of its natural appearance, almost all of Central Park was professionally landscaped. More gunpowder was used to clear the area than was used at the Battle of Gettysburg. Around 5 million cubic feet of soil and rocks had to be transported out of the park. A rocky and swampy landscape made for difficult construction. More than 20,000 people contributed to its construction.
Like its natural appearance, the park’s overall design was unique, too. Park commissioners selected the Greensward Plan from architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Unlike many of the other submitted designs, their proposal introduced clear separations with four roadways that would surround the park and suit the city’s grid system.
It’s Bigger Than Some Countries
The largest park in Manhattan still today (though smaller than some parks in Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island), Central Park is located on 843 acres of land, making it larger than the world’s smallest two nations, Monaco (499 acres) and Vatican City (109 acres). Heck, it’s even bigger than those based on its original 778-acre design. Its size has served as the model for many urban parks in the years after that. The significance of its construction can’t be overstated. We have great, big parks in cities in the U.S. largely thanks to New York’s Central Park, paving the way for the idea that green spaces were necessary in chaotic city life.