The design for Central Park, created as the result of a public competition in 1857, was the brainchild of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, both pioneers of landscape design in America. The immediate success of Central Park launched the 19th century urban parks movement across the country, but by the 1930s the park had fallen into neglect; the powerful New York City planner Robert Moses then spearheaded a comprehensive cleanup of the park, using public funds during the New Deal to build public recreational facilities such as playgrounds, ballfields, handball courts and Wollman Rink, as well as popular attractions like the Hans Christian Andersen and Alice in Wonderland sculptures and the Central Park Carousel. The 1960s saw the debut of the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park, as well as live summer performances on the Sheep Meadow by the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. In 1964, Central Park was declared a National Historic Landmark.
By the late 1970s, however, Central Park was again in decline, and a number of advocacy groups arose to fight for its improvement. As a result of their efforts, the Central Park Conservancy was founded in 1980. The Conservancy worked with the city on comprehensive restoration projects throughout the '80s and '90s, giving new life to the park's landscape and facilities. Today Central Park is once again a standout among America's urban parks, a vital source of relaxation and recreation for millions of New Yorkers, and a can't-miss destination for any visitor to the city.
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