In visualizing nineteenth-century New York City, Central Parkis one of the quintessential landmarks developed from 1858 to 1900 that can’t be ignored. The park is not only significant as part of the nineteenth-century urban landscape, but also because its history serves as a window onto the socio-cultural values, class struggles, and political tensions in the rapidly developing metropolis. Central Park was full of prospects: for some, the park simply offered an escape from the demands of city life into a peaceful, pastoral landscape; others also saw opportunities for social reform and real estate development.
In thinking about the park, it is hard to forget the abundance of film scenes today that boast of the landscape's bright, colorful, and simple pleasures. However, popular representations, both then and now, only reveal a small part of the Central Park story. Through periodicals, guidebooks, photographs, prints, and maps from the period, this exhibit attempts to provide a deeper look into the social, political, and economic issues surrounding the park from its initial conception to the end of the nineteenth century. You can enter our exhibit through the icons below. These are also arranged chronologically to demonstrate how the prospects for, the creation of, and the people using Central Park all came together.