Archive for the ‘Central Park Story – Book Four’ Category:

Central Park: A Gallery of Images

Yosemite Park

Olmsted and Vaux tried to capture the beauty of nature, so evident in the unique glory of our country…

In the original plan for Central Park (called ‘the Greensward Plan’) Olmsted and Vaux’s desire was that visitors would feel as though they were walking through a gallery of images, not unlike a series of paintings.

This was no accident. It ran in tandem to what was already going on in the art world since the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Early nineteenth century America was in desperate need of an artistic expression that was unique unto itself. This was not only due to the newness of the country but to the brewing conflict between the industrial north and the slave-based south. If such a unifying expression could be found, it was hoped that it might help assuage the ever-increasing tension between the two.

Central Park

…and bring it into an urban setting in a series of images akin to viewing a gallery of inspiring paintings…

The Hudson River School with its many talented artists, from Frederick Church to Thomas Cole, helped to fill this growing need.

They chose the natural beauty of the country as their focal point and elevated their romanticized images to realm of the Divine.

In their own landscape designs, Olmsted and Vaux picked up on this theme of Nature as our savior, and created a park to be viewed as a series of inspiring scenes or vistas.

Although the park has devoted more and still more space for recreational uses over the ensuing years, I try to underline this original intent throughout my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story.

Thomas Cole painting

…like this one, by Thomas Cole, painted in 1836

 

Are There Really Eight Gates That Meet in Central Park?

Central Park

There are eighteen named gates that surround the five mile periphery of Central Park–eight of which bear the names of professions that Olmsted tried and abandoned in his lifetime.

Anyone who has read up to books Three and Four of my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, will know that Christopher Middleton, the main character, goes in search of a key that is buried where ‘the eight gates meet’ (something that he reads in his great grandfather’s diary).

But are there really eight gates that meet in the park?

In fact, there are eighteen gates, or entrances; and, no, they don’t meet anywhere in particular but are spread all over the park’s five mile periphery. However, there happen to be eight gates that have to do with the various professions that Olmsted attempted in his lifetime (and, in most cases, abandoned); and if one were to draw straight lines between those eight gates, they do, in fact, form a very small triangle near the obelisk behind the Met–an area where a key might be buried (smile).

Such a compelling detail was something that I couldn’t pass up adding in my book, and decided to incorporate it into Christopher’s quest for the ultimate truths in his life. At the same time, it gave me the opportunity to add yet another historical dimension  by allowing me to describe Olmsted’s professions that the reader might not otherwise come to know on his or her own.

 

Is Something Really Buried Under Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park?

Obelisk in Central Park

Here’s an artist’s rendition of the obelisk being installed in the park. He put the Brooklyn Bridge, completed a few years earlier, in the background, though the bridge would not have been visible from the park when the obelisk was installed.

The Obelisk, nicknamed Cleopatra’s Needle, is the oldest man-made object in Central Park…by around four thousand years!

It is one of a pair that were commissioned for Heliopolis on the banks of the Nile in 1450 BC by an Egyptian pharaoh who wished to celebrate his 30 years of reign. The twin monuments were then moved to Alexandria in 18AD where they remained until one obelisk was moved to London in 1878. The second, erected two years later in Central Park, was offered by the Egyptian Khedive to America in exchange for funds to modernize his country.

As you can see from the picture to the right, moving the 69-foot, 220-ton granite monument from Egypt to New York was an arduous and delicate process. It took 112 days from the time the Obelisk first landed on the banks of the Hudson until it reached its future position in the park. Laborers inched the monument on parallel beams, aided by roll boxes and a pile-driver engine. Thousands turned out on January 22, 1881 to marvel as the obelisk was turned upright.

Obelisk in Central Park

The Obelisk as it appears today. I wonder if Pharaoh Thutmose III ever dreamed that his monument would end up in a park on the other side of the world?

To add some mystery to an already mysterious object, a well-known journalist named William Henry Hurlburt buried a time capsule beneath the monolith. In his box, he included an 1870 U.S. census, a Bible, a Webster’s Dictionary, the complete works of Shakespeare, a guide to Egypt, and a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence. Last but not least, another smaller box was placed in the capsule by the man who orchestrated the purchase and transportation of the Obelisk. He will probably be the only person to know its contents…at least until some archaeologists decide to excavate the remains of New York City some four thousand years from now!

Buskers In Central Park: An Unexpected Treat

No blog on Central Park would be complete without mentioning the buskers that frequent the Promenade, the Terrace, and the Castle.

Their talent, virtuosity, and, on occasion, genius, add a new dimension to the cultural milieu of the park.

Though Olmsted and Vaux never would have imagined such performances taking place beyond the confines of the Naumberg Bandshell where formal concerts were sometimes held, it demonstrates the flexibility of their original design that it could accommodate such changes in the future.

In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, Christopher Middleton, the main character, happens upon an unusual performance on the Bethesda Terrace, conducted by none other than the Mad Hatter himself!

Here’s one of the many performances that take place along the Mall on a sunny afternoon:

Summerstage, New York Marathon, Rock Concerts, Shakespeare–How Much More Can You Fit Into a City Park?

New York Marathon

Feeling claustrophobic? The New York Marathon will test you to the max.

How many different free cultural activities can you fit inside a city park?

If you want to know the answer, you needn’t look any further than Central Park in Manhattan.

First, you have all of the free performing arts festivals such as Central Park Summerstage and the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, which take place every summer and are free admission.

Add to that the New York Marathon, an annual event since 1970 which has ballooned to over 50,000 participants, and traditionally ends in Central Park.

Shakespeare in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park with the Castle in the background…pretty magical, no?

Then there’s Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater which features the best of Shakespeare and has been attended by over five million spectators since its opening in 1962 (also free on a ‘first come first serve’ basis).

Speaking of the  60s, let’s not forget the many free rock concerts such as Simon and Garfunkle, Carole King, America, Elton John…the list goes on and on.

Simon and Garfunkle concert

A mere 500,000 people attended a concert bu Simon and Garfunkel in 1981!

But if you think the list ends there, think again; which is why I had to be extremely selective in deciding which free cultural events to include in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story.

 

 

Famous Revolutionary War Uniforms

georgewashingtonuniform

General Washington’s uniform. Size 60 long perhaps?

In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, Christopher Middleton, the main character, introduces some revolutionary ideas into his new school.

Picking up on the idea, his clothes-minded girlfriend decides to design a uniform that he can wear. Naturally, she turns to General George Washington for inspiration.

As you can see from the picture on the right, Washington’s uniform is a far cry from the uniforms of revolutionaries like Lenin or Mao!

Mixing Potassium Permanganate and Ethanol…Better Think Twice!

As Christopher Middleton’s chemistry teacher learns in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, it’s probably best not to mix potassium permanganate and ethanol or you might experience the following:

 

The Guggenheim Museum…A True Masterpiece of American Architecture

Guggenheim Museum

The curvilinear form of the museum stands in stark contrast to the surrounding buildings.

The Guggenheim Museum at 89th Street and Fifth was first conceived as a “temple of the spirit” that would facilitate a new way of looking at modern art.

Numerous locations in Manhattan were considered, but Mr. Guggenheim felt that the site’s proximity to Central Park was important. The park afforded relief from the city, while the building itself embodies architect, Frank Lloyd Wright’s, desire “to render the inherent plasticity of organic forms in architecture.”

In an equally subtle manner, this masterpiece of architecture embodies the same principle Olmsted himself espoused in the construction of his beloved park; that nature rules supreme.

Guggenheim Museum

…while it’s interior is reminiscent of the inside of a nautilus shell.

I attempt to echo these same sentiments in the thoughts and actions of Christopher Middleton, the protagonist of my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, who uses nature as a catalyst for change in his own life.

The Seven of Spades…Lucky or Not?

The-Playing-Cards-Painting-The-Rose-Bush,-Illustration-From-Alice-In-Wonderland-By-Lewis-Carroll-1832-9

The Spades in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland discussing how to paint the white roses red.

In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice first meets three cards (the 2, 5 and 7 of Spades) in the Queen’s garden.
One of them explains that they accidentally planted white roses. Because the queen hates white roses they have to paint them red or the Queen will behead them. After the Queen arrives, she finds white roses and orders the execution of all three of them!
In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, I take a gentler approach by having the seven of spades appear in the Queen’s losing hand against the King, only to be vindicated and return to the Queen’s favor.

The Mayflower Compact: The First Truly Democratic Document in America

mayflower-compact

Though the original has been lost, this copy, written a few years later, still exists.

.The Mayflower Compact was the first governing document of Plymouth Colony. It was written by separatist Congregationalists (later referred to as Pilgrims) fleeing from religious persecution by King James of England.

It was signed aboard ship on November 11, 1620 by 41 adult male Pilgrims (out of 101 men, women and children on board).

It reads in part as follows:

In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

I have included a reference to this in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, both in recognition of its importance as the first democratic document written in America (by a non-native, that is) and to point out the inherent flaws in the democratic institution that it professes to embody.