Curbed.com recently put together a great collection of images of our fair city’s green spaces as they’ve appeared throughout history. The interactive story allows readers to slide their computer’s cursor left and right over images, providing an intriguing and unique then-and-now comparisons. Here are a few of the featured parks along with some backstory:
1. The High Line
Along a lengthy elevated strip on the Lower West Side, James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Piet Oudolf have converted an out-of-use railroad track into a lush public landscape with fantastic views of the city and spots to read and relax, while opening up new retail opportunities around the construct. After eight and a half years of construction, the third and northernmost section opened in September 2014.
The High Line played an important role in shipping materials and food around the city during its run, which began in 1934. The Nabisco bakery was one of the many food companies that benefitted greatly from the High Line track’s presence. But, in 1980, after years of declining use, the final High Line train ran along the tracks, and at the turn of the 21st century, community-based efforts began to create the High Line as we know and love it today.
2. Central Park
The world-renowned urban getaway, Central Park, is a visual masterpiece that has experienced sizable developments and restorative efforts over time, helping preserve the open-air oasis for all of New York’s citizens and its visitors.
Central Park was also the first major project by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who won a design commission from the state legislature in 1858, granting them the right to conceive the space. The goal was to “improve public health and contribute greatly to the formation of a civil society,” according to the Central Park Conservancy.
Olmsted and Vaux came up with the idea of dedicating different areas of the park to different activities, including walking, sports, boating and riding. In spite of a number of changes, much of Olmsted and Vaux’s original design has been maintained.
3. Prospect Park
After the success of Central Park, Olmsted and Vaux collaborated on several other public spaces in New York City and beyond. Prospect Park was one of them. According to The Prospect Park Alliance, the space was meant to “nurture the mind, the body and even the fabric of society.” Olmstead and Vaux laid out grander, unbroken green spaces for Prospect Park and more heavily wooded areas as well.
Since 1874, Brooklynites have enjoyed the Prospect Park Carousel. The original, located in the northeast section of the park, a section always intended as a children’s play area, was actually horse drawn.
Like Central Park, much of the original design of Prospect Park remains the same. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch was added at the turn of the 20th century, and with federal funds earmarked for Depression relief, then-NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses brought about the park’s zoo, band shell, ice-skating rink and numerous playgrounds.
For more images and history of our green spaces, visit Curbed.com.