Central Park: The Early Years images, 1861-1865

One of my major projects in the past few years was writing more than 60 episodes (4-5 mins. each) for a videoguide app on Central Park, forthcoming from Guides Who Know. For the app, I collected hundreds of images of Central Park during the 19th century. I find this year-by-year archival view fascinating, so I’m sharing it by uploading a half dozen or so images per week. See this page for links to all the pages of images.

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For blog posts on specific aspects of Central Park, click on Central Park in the Obsessions cloud at lower right. For an overview of the early years of the Park, see Central Park: The Early Years, which includes some of the images on these pages.

1861

The Greywacke Arch is just west of where the Metropolitan Museum now stands.

Greywacke Bridge, from the Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of Central Park for 1861.

Plan for a proposed conservatory, which never rose above its foundations, but gave its name to Conservatory Water near 72nd Street. (Didn’t you ever wonder why that pond had that name?)

View of a proposed conservatory. Fifth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1862.

Proposed wooden music pavilion designed by Jacob Wrey Mould. Erected in 1862, it stood near where the Naumburg Bandshell is today. More pics soon. The last image I could find of it was ca. 1916: it seems to have disintegrated.

Proposed music pavilion for the north end of the Mall, designed by Jacob Wrey Mould. Fifth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1862.

The Arbor, at the northeast end of the Mall.

Shaded seat near the Ramble.

Shaded seat southeast of the Ramble. Fifth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1862.

A shaded seat southwest of the Ramble.

A shaded seat southwest of the Ramble. Fifth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1862.

Rustic frame for Park regulations.

Rustic frame for Park regulations. Fifth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1862.

Boat landing on the Lake.

Boat landing on the Lake. Fifth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1862.

1861: Infrastructure

These are from the annual report of the Board of Commissioners (their fifth), reporting on 1861, published 1862.

Transverse Road 2 is at 79th Street. Bridges over the transverses do not have cool names: this one is just “Bridge E”.

Bridge E over Transverse Road 2. Fifth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1862.

Cross-section of a gravel road.

Cross section of a gravel road, 1861. Fifth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1862.

Structure of the carriage roads.

Structure of the carriage roads in Central Park, 1861. Fifth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1862.

Sketch for part of the wall around Central Park. For more on the walls and gates, search those terms below, and see the three posts beginning here on the naming of the gates.

Sketch for a section of wall around Central Park. Fifth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1862.

Part of the mechanism for keeping the Lake clean.

Depositing chambers and filter on the west side of the Lake, 1861. Fifth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1862.

1862: north end of the Park

Glen Span takes the West Drive over a pedestrian pathway at about 102nd Street, east of the Pool and west of the Loch. According to the Central Park Conservancy’s site, the bridge was constructed in 1865; twenty years later, for maintenance reasons, the wooden sections were replaced with stone, making it look quite different today (image here).

Original Glen Span bridge. Sixth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1863.

Cast-iron bridge by the new Reservoir to carry pedestrians over the bridle path. It’s known as “Bridge No. 28” or the “Gothic Bridge, for the pointed arches used in its design.

Bridge 28, a.k.a. the “Gothic Bridge.” Sixth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1863.

1862: in the Ramble

The Ramble, with Bethesda Terrace and the Mall in the center distance. Now that the trees have had 150 years to grow, this view is no longer possible.

The Ramble. Image: New York Public Library

In the Ramble: the mouth of the cave near the Rustic Arch. The cave was closed to visitors long ago.

The cave and the Rustic Arch in the Ramble, 1862. Image: New York Public Library

I can’t remember if this Evergreen Walk was actually built or not: sometimes the Board of Commissioners’ annual reports show projects planned rather than finished. “East of the Ramble” could mean anywhere between 72nd and 79th Streets, between Fifth Avenue and the East Drive.

Evergreen Walk. Sixth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1863.

Rustic boat landing on the Lake.

Rustic boat landing on the Lake. Sixth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1863.

1862: Southern end of the Park

The men most responsible for Central Park, captured by French photographer Victor Prevost.

Willowdale Bridge, near the Mall and Balto, 1862. Left to right: Andrew Haswell Green, George Waring Jr. (?), Calvert Vaux, Ignaz Anton Pilat, Jacob Wrey Mould, Frederick Law Olmsted. Photo by Victor Prevost.

The figure by the pillar of Bethesda Terrace is either Jacob Wrey Mould or French photographer Victor Prevost.

Bethesda Terrace, 1862. The man standing next to the pillar is either Jacob Wrey Mould or Victor Prevost, a French photographer.

Construction of Bethesda Terrace.

Construction of Bethesda Terrace, 1862. Photo by Victor Prevost.

Plan of Bethesda Terrace and the north end of the Mall. North is to the left.

Plan of Bethesda Terrace and the north end of the Mall. Sixth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1863.

I assume these dove-cots were in the southern part of the Park.

Dove-cot. Sixth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1863.

Dove-cot and enclosure. Sixth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1863.

Sketch of Calvert Vaux’s proposed Casino, a restaurant for ladies northeast of the Mall, where the SummerStage now stands. See my post on Vaux.

Calvert Vaux, design for proposed Casino. Sixth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1863.

1862: Central Park and the Civil War

Union soldiers drilling in front of the Arsenal, before being sent off to the front line. For more on the Arsenal’s history, see this post.

Union troops drilling at the Arsenal, 1862. Image: New York Public Library

1863

The west side of the Arsenal, ca. 1863-1865. This large open area is now occupied by the zoo.

The Arsenal, ca. 1863-1865. Image: Wikipedia

1863: Infrastructure

The walls around Central Park and the gates to allow entry were a subject of much debate. On the names finally chosen, see the three posts starting here.

Method for constructing the walls around the perimeter of Central Park, from the Report of the Board of Commissioners, 1863.

Cast-iron curb and grating for road drainage. Seventh annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1864.

During the early years of the Park, a fire tower stood where Belvedere Castle was later built. Here it is looming over the tunnel in the 79th Street Transverse.

Seventy-Ninth Street Transverse and the fire tower, 1863-1865. Image: New York Public Library

1863: Bridges

The Southeast Reservoir Bridge carries pedestrians over the bridle path south of the Reservoir and just west of Fifth Avenue, near 86th Street.

Southeast Reservoir Bridge. Seventh annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1864.

The Winterdale Arch carries the West Drive over the bridle path at about 82nd Street.

Winterdale Arch. Seventh annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1864.

Trefoil Arch takes pedestrians under the East Drive near the Boathouse.

Trefoil Arch. Seventh annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1864.

Boat landing on the Lake, with the Bow Bridge in the background.

Boat landing northeast of the lake. Seventh annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1864.

1863: Sculpture and ornament

Tile ornament for the ceiling of the tunnel leading to Bethesda Terrace.

Tile ceiling ornament for the tunnel leading to Bethesda Terrace. Seventh annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1864.

Eagles and Prey, by Christophe Fratin, was created in 1850 and donated to Central Park in 1863. The Commissioners, who were having problems with roving goats eating the plantings, probably found the sculpture grimly amusing: see this post. It still stands just west of the Mall.

Christophe Fratin, Eagles and Prey, 1850; erected in Central Park in 1863. Image: New York Public Library

Christophe Fratin, Eagles and Prey, 1850; erected in Central Park in 1863. Image: New York Public Library

The Board of Commissioners’ report for 1864 (published in 1865) reported that the Casino opened in early 1864; so this illustration from the 1863 report is either work in progress or still wishful thinking.

The Casino. Seventh annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1864.

1864: South end of the Park

Concept for the Bethesda Fountain. It wasn’t dedicated until 1873, although the sculpture was completed a few years earlier.

Concept sketch of Bethesda Fountain. Eighth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1865.

From an early guidebook: Perkins, The Central Park, 1864: gawky adolescent elm trees on the Mall, looking north toward the Arbor. The Naumburg Bandshell now blocks this view.

The Mall looking north toward the Arbor. Perkins, The Central Park, 1864.

A bird cage near the Mall – given the style, probably the work of Jacob Wrey Mould.

Bird cage on the Mall, 1864. Eighth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1865.

Drinking fountain – probably also Jacob Wrey Mould’s work.

Drinking fountain. Eighth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1865.

1864: Lake and Ramble

Two landings on the Lake.

Boat landing on west shore of the Lake. Eighth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1865.

Boat landing on the south side of the Ramble (north side of the Lake). Eighth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1865.

Rustic Arch in the Ramble, which carries one pedestrian path over another.

Ramble Arch. Eighth annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1865.

1864: Bridges

The Bow Bridge, from  an early guidebook: Perkins, The Central Park, 1864.

The Bow Bridge, from Perkins, The Central Park, 1864.

Playmates Arch, near where the Carousel now stands, carries the East Drive over a footpath.

Playmates Arch. Seventh annual report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1864.

1864: Louis Prang’s Chromolithographs

In 1864, when Central Park was six years old, Louis Prang published a set of chromolithographic cards, each 4.25 x 2.5 inches. They provide a fascinating glimpse not only at what the Park looked like at the time, but at what its highlights were considered to be. I spotted a set of these cards in a catalogue of William Reese Company a few years back; Mr. Reese was kind enough to send me photos.

Alas for you, WordPress doesn’t approve of high-res uploads. These are printed full-page at the end of my Central Park: The Early Yearsand also used on the covers.

In the set below, left to right and top to bottom:

  • The Island, The Rustic Bridge, Entrance to Cave, The Lake
  • Rustic Arbor, The Brook, Moonlight on the Lake, Cascade
  • The Arch, The Ramble, Boat Landing, Marble Bridge [sic, for Bow Bridge!] over the Lake

Louis Prang, chromolithographed cards of Central Park, 1864. Photos courtesy WIlliam Reese Company

In the set below, left to right and top to bottom:

  • Rude Stairway, Abode of the Swans, The Silver Lake, Entrance to Cave from Lake
  • The Tower [the firetower, where the Belvedere now stands, seen from the edge of the original Croton Reservoir], Ornamental Bridge, The Drive, The Bridle Path
  • The Music Temple [formerly near the north end of the Mall], Sunset on the Lake, Rustic Arbor, A Glimpse of the Lake

Louis Prang, chromolithographed cards of Central Park, 1864. Photos courtesy WIlliam Reese Company

In the set below, left to right and top to bottom:

  • The Marble Bridge [i.e., Marble Arch, formerly at the south end of the Mall, now gone], Vine Arbor, Bust of Schiller, The Fountain [a figurative sculpture was always intended for Bethesda Terrace, but Angel of the Waters wasn’t dedicated until nine years after the Prang postcards were published]
  • On the Ramble, near the Lake; Fancy Bridge No. 14; The Casino [formerly near the northeast end of the Mall, now gone], Bridge at the 7th Avenue Entrance
  • The Cove, Rustic Bower, Rustic Arbor, Evening on the Lake

Louis Prang, chromolithographed cards of Central Park, 1864. Photos courtesy WIlliam Reese Company

1865: Maps

The famous “Sanitary & Topographical Map of the City and Island of New York” was published in 1865 by Egbert Ludovicus Viele. The “Viele Map” shows Manhattan’s original streams, marshes and coastline, with the city grid superimposed. Those planning new buildings in the 21st century still consult the Viele Map. The blue rectangle roughly in the center is the old reservoir, at the center of Central Park. More on Viele in this post.

The Viele Map, 1865. Image: David Rumsey Map Collection

Map of Central Park in 1865. To zoom in, see it on the David Rumsey Map Collection site.

Central Park, 1865. L. Prang & Co. Image: David Rumsey Map Collection

1865: Infrastructure and bridges

Dealing with run-off on the pedestrian walks.

Cross section of drainage for walks, 1865. Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1866.

Taking care of horses: a drinking trough on the bridle path.

Drinking trough for horses on the bridle path, 1865. Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1866.

Tunnel on the 79th Street Transverse.

Tunnel on the 79th Street Transverse, 1865. Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1866.

Retaining walls for the transverse roads.

Retaining walls for transverse roads, 1865. Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1866.

The Balcony Bridge, west of the Ramble.

Balcony Bridge, west side of the Ramble., 1865. Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1866.

The Island in the Lake, with the Balcony Bridge in the distance.

The Island in the Lake, with the Balcony Bridge in the distance, 1865. Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1866.

A rustic bridge in the Ramble. The Board of Commissioners’ annual report for 1865 (published 1866) was the first  to include a photograph! It’s a reminder that many of the earlier images were work-in-progress or wishful thinking. Victor Prevost’s photos (see above, 1862) and some photos in early guidebooks provide a glimpse of what had actually been completed.

Oak Bridge?, 1865. Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1866.

1865: South End of the Park

Another photograph from the Board: a boat landing on the Lake.

Boat landing on the Lake, 1865. Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1866.

One of the pair of gonfalons at Bethesda Terrace. The image doesn’t give an attribution, but it must be Jacob Wrey Mould’s work.

Gonfalon at Bethesda Terrace, 1865. Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1866.

Famed architect Richard Morris Hunt’s plan for updating the Arsenal into a home for the New-York Historical Society.

Richard Morris Hunt’s plan for refurbishing the Arsenal, 1865. Image: Heckscher, Creating Central Park

One of the lost sculptures of Central Park: Commerce, originally placed near the Merchants’ Gate at the intersection of Broadway, Central Park West, and 59th Street.

Commerce, sculpture near the Merchants’ Gate, 1865. Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners, published 1866.

More

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