Boulders mired in dismal swamps, plains of lifeless dust. Land farmers couldn't farm on, builders couldn't build on. Then, starting in 1858, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Olmsted worked a plan that conjured, from a narrow wasteland, a sprawling wonderland. What now appears so natural these two shaped, yard by yard, without electricity, diesel power or dynamite. It took tens of thousands of men and horses—and tons of munitions left over from the Civil War.
Park stewardship from Olmsted to today's Central Park Conservancy.
Park policing from Victorian-era sparrow cops to today
The connection between The Dairy—which did briefly provide milk, straight from the cow—and a crisis in the City's milk supply
John Wilkes Booth's connection with the Shakespeare statue at the start of Poet's Walk
The difficult birth and long life of the Delacorte Theatre and its free Shakespeare Festival; the stars born on that stage.
You'll end this 2½ hour walk knowing the layout of the lower park and the Park's role in City history.
Once upon a time, two cities grew side by side, alike in dignity, and totally hating each other's guts. One called itself Breucklen, Brooklyn, or Kings County. The other called itself Manhattan, New Amsterdam, or New York City. After 240 years of sniping, the bitter rivals amazed the world by allowing themselves to be joined together by a bridge. A bridge of revolutionary design—the longest suspension bridge of its day—as daring an undertaking in 1869 as the Apollo moon shot was in 1969. The Brooklyn Bridge.
The genius behind the Bridge, architect-engineer John Roebling, even invented the type of wire that holds it up—wire rope. The Roebling family manufactured wire rope from 1848-1970. Roebling wire suspends the George Washington Bridge and the Golden Gate; it pulls elevators to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Construction turned into a 16-year epic with many tragic twists and turns. The Bridge killed at least 20 men, one of the first being its creator. It took 3 Roeblings—John, his son Washington, and most importantly, his daughter-in-law Emily, to push the project through to completion. I can imagine it sitting out there, forlornly half-built if not for that Roebling tenacity, that Roebling persistence.
With the 1883 opening, the consolidation of the two cities in 1898 was all-but-inevitable. But as a Brooklynite transplanted to Manhattan I assure you there is a division that refuses to die. I sense it around me; I feel it in my heart. Unlike some other boroughs, Brooklyn refuses to bow down to almighty Manhattan. Brooklyn will always consider it a point of pride to maintain a certain attitude.