A Secret Staircase in the Underground Arcade?

Probably not. Still, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to think of a hidden staircase suddenly appearing in place of the trompe l’oeils that currently grace the inner walls of the arcade. If you want to find out where such an imaginary staircase might lead, I invite you to read my young adult adventure […]

A Gambling Casino in Central Park? You Must Be Joking!

I’m not joking. A short distance inside and southwest of the Inventors’ Gate at Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street, where today’s Summer Stage concerts are held, there was once a bustling casino where cocktail music and the fragrance of food drifted beyond the treetops. Designed in 1864 by Calvert Vaux, the building was originally the […]

Henry David Thoreau: A Logical Counterpart to Olmsted’s Views of Nature

Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, and historian. Had enough? What about a leading Transcendentalist best known for his book, Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings. “I went to the woods because I wished to live […]

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Transcendentalism

Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, as well as friend of Henry David Thoreau, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a  critic of the countervailing pressures of society, making him a natural model  […]

Is There a Hidden Logic to the Placement of the Gates in Central Park?

The naming of the gates on the east and west side of the park is still a puzzle to me. For instance, was the All Souls’ Gate next to a church and the Boys’ Gate near a boys school? Perhaps there was no logic other than they filled out the various occupations and professions common […]

McGowen’s Pass: Gateway to Midtown Manhattan

I know McGowen’s Pass doesn’t sound as familiar as the Holland or the Lincoln Tunnels. That’s because it was the main gateway to Manhattan during the Revolutionary War. The gatehouse that guarded the pass stood in a strategic spot where 107th Street and Sixth Avenue would have intersected. Today, it’s a part of the East […]

A Blockhouse from 1812 in Central Park

I lived next to Central Park for fifteen years but never knew there was an old blockhouse within a half mile of our apartment. Of course, it was in the north end of the park which I was told never to enter alone. In the 1960s, the north end of the park was a dangerous […]

The Indian Hunter: a Statue with a Very Personal Meaning

John Quincy Adams Ward’s various statues in the park (the Indian Hunter, Shakespeare, 7th Infantry Regiment, and the Pilgrim) all share one distinct characteristic: a marked realism that stands in sharp contrast with the more idealized, Europeanized work of his predecessors. In the early part of the 18th century, American art sought its own form […]

Waterfalls In Central Park

Yes, you heard it correctly. There are waterfalls in Central Park. Three, in fact. Note, however, that I didn’t use the word ‘natural’. All three were created through a clever use of hidden pumps that make them naturalistic rather than natural. When designing the northernmost end of the park, Olmsted sought to make it resemble […]

Huddlestone Arch: Defying Gravity for 150 Years

I began this post thinking I’d say something about Huddlestone Arch and leave it at that. Built from uncut boulders—one of which is said to weigh 100 tons—it is supported not by mortar, concrete, or metal but by gravity and friction alone. However, when I looked at the other bridges (33 in all) that Calvert […]