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

The Naming of the Gates from 1862 to 1999…Talk About a Time Lapse!

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The various gates to the park were meant to be unobtrusive yet, at the same time, inviting.

In 1862, the NYC Board of Commissioners decided to give names to the various ‘gates’ or entrances of Central Park. Most of the names were never carved in their designated places but nevertheless persisted in subsequent maps.

There are 18 original names in all: Artisans’, Artists’, Boys’, Children’s, Engineers’, Farmers’, Girls’, The Gate of All Saints, Hunters’, Mariners’, Merchants’, Miners’, Pioneers’, Scholars’, Strangers’, Warriors’, Women’s and Woodmen’s.

Those few that were actually carved include the Scholars’ Gate at 60th Street and Fifth; the Engineers’ Gate at 90th Street and Fifth; the Mariners’ Gate at 85th Street and Central Park West; the Inventors’ Gate at 72nd Street and Fifth; the Children’s Gate at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue and the ’76th Street’ Gate at 76th Street and Fifth.

Mr. Moses, a city commissioner, added the  numerical ’76th Street’ gate to the park in the 1950s, violating an explicit proviso in the 1862 report by the park’s commissioners that clearly stated: ”The monotonous numerical system used to distinguish the thoroughfares of New York is at once felt to be unsuitable for park use.”

Mr. Moses also changed the name of Children’s Gate at 72nd Street to the Inventors’ Gate. Just beyond this gate, a statue of Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, was added, and a new Children’s Gate was designated further south next to the zoo.

The names that hadn’t been carved, altered, or moved, were finally added in 1999 under the direction of the Central Park Conservancy.

Since many of the names refer to professions that Olmsted actually took part in himself (eight out of eighteen, according to my count!), one assumes he had at least some input into their actual naming. Hence, I made use of the various gates in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, by having them refer to specific occupations Olmsted engaged in during his lifetime and weaving them into my plot.

 

The Conservatory Garden at 106th Street: A Relatively Undiscovered Treasure

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One enters the Conservatory Garden through the Vanderbilt Gate that used to sit in front of the Vanderbilt mansion on 58th Street and Fifth.

The Conservatory Garden at 106th Street wasn’t fully renovated until 1983, so it’s no wonder it’s still somewhat unknown.

Prior to the 1980s, I would have called it the’ haunted garden’, since it was in a neighborhood where one was more likely to get mugged than smell the roses (I lived just eight blocks south in the 1970s and was once mugged in the same area).

Rescued and restored by the Conservancy as a part of its ongoing restoration of the park, it is now a delight to the senses. Passing through the Vanderbilt Gate (retrieved after one hundred years in storage),  one comes across three distinct gardens–Italian, English and French–sitting side by side, each one offering its own unique style and horticultural display.

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An aerial view of the Italian Garden. A visual delight!

Had this garden (the only truly formal garden in Central Park) been in the south rather than the north end of the park, it would certainly have been flooded with thousands more tourists every day. Being in a less frequented spot, one can actually sit by the fountains on a sunny afternoon and feel as if one has the entire garden to oneself!

Given my own mixed memories of the area, I have Christopher Middleton, the main character in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, both delighted and threatened when he happens upon it himself.

 

What Did Olmsted Do Before Creating Central Park?

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Frederick Law Olmsted already eyeing his next career

It might be easier to answer the question: what didn’t Olmsted do before designing Central Park?

To say he was a late-bloomer is an understatement. He bounced from one failed career to another well into his thirties. Add to that his entrenched restlessness, and you have a formula for a near endless array of attempted occupations.

I count at least eight: student (he dropped in and out of school for at least a decade), farmer (attempted twice, then abandoned altogether), sailor (all the way to China and back on a merchant vessel that almost mutinied), writer (books ranging from his travels in England to slavery in the South of the US), head of the United States Sanitary Commission (the precursor to the Red Cross that aided the wounded Union soldiers in the Civil War), mining supervisor (until the company went belly-up in a scandal) and, last but not least, landscape architect.

Since there was no profession that went by the name of landscape architecture in the mid-nineteenth century (Olmsted’s son, Rick, spearheaded the first graduate program of landscape architecture long after his father’s death) then you can add to the list of Olmsted’s occupations, artist and engineer, both wrapped into one.

To help illustrate Olmsted’s circuitous career path, I have Christopher Middleton, the main character in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, run through a similar maze of adventure that echo what Olmsted attempted during his own lifetime.

 

Traveling on the Santa Maria–Not Exactly a Ride on the Queen Mary

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Christoforo Columbo (aka, Christopher Columbus), ‘Great Admiral of All the Ocean’, as he fancied himself being called…

As everyone knows, Columbus had three ships on his maiden voyage to the New World, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

Unlike the other two, more agile boats, the flagship Santa Maria was a carrack. Fat and slow, she was designed for hauling cargo (read ‘gold’), not for exploration.

Slow as the Santa Maria was, the voyage itself was not without drama. The ship was forced off course; mutiny was threatened; instead of discovering the western passage to China, Columbus and his crew ran aground in San Salvador, Cuba and the Dominican Republic (ho hum!). Finally, the Santa Maria collided with a reef on Christmas Day and had to be salvaged for its timber.

ReplicaCarabelas

…and his flagship, the Santa Maria. Not unlike an oreo cookie with a big bite taken out of the middle, no?

I tried to weave at least some of these colorful elements into Christopher Middleton’s own ‘voyage’ across the Central Park reservoir in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, and highlight what actually took place on Columbus’ historic voyage to the new world.

A Jousting Tournament in Central Park?

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Medieval Jousting…not my idea of a relaxing afternoon in the country

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, was the first historical novel of its kind and set off a train of similar type novels.

By today’s standards its plot seems cookie-cutter with lots of valiant fighting and flag-waving tournaments, but one has to remember that it was the original cookie cutter back in 1820 when it was penned.

Seeing as there’s already a statue of Sir Scott on Literary Walk, I decided to make Sir Scott and his novel, Ivanhoe, a part of my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story.

Of course, this required some creativity. The castle was obvious. Belvedere Castle is the most prominent landmark in the park, sitting on top of a 90-foot bluff that overlooks a pond and a field. The statue of King Jagiello with his two crossed swords that stands a few hundred yards away, proved to be another convenient element. But where was I to find a horse for Christopher Middleton, the main character, to ride in a tournament? Then I remembered the horses on the carousel next to the Dairy. Ridiculous as it may seem, I have Christopher ride a wooden horse from the carousel!

 

 

 

 

Webster’s 1820 Speech at Plymouth Really Rocked!

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Daniel Webster about to give his Plymouth Rock Oration at 72nd Street on the west side of the park…

On a cold December 20th in 1820, Daniel Webster gave an oration commemorating the bicentennial of the Pilgrim’s landing in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

‘There is a local feeling connected with this occasion too strong to be resisted,’ he said, ‘a sort of genius of the place which inspires and awes us…’ And he went on to describe in vivid detail what he thought it might have been like for these adventurous Europeans when they first set foot in North America.

Though some might consider it a bit of  a stretch, I find it no coincidence that the monolithic statue of Webster and the statue of the Pilgrim face each other from opposite sides of the park, as if Webster were giving his speech and the Pilgrim were listening.

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…and the Pilgrim statue on the east side of the park at 72nd Street near Fifth Avenue listening in.

No doubt the park commissioners were aware of Webster’s famous oration and so decided to place the statues accordingly.

In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, I have Webster give a modified version of his Plymouth speech to the Pilgrim as a sort of modern day re-enactment in honor of their being on opposite sides of the park.

 

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address–A Real Show-Stopper!

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It is chilling to think that the conspirators who will kill Lincoln only a few days after his second inaugural address are present at his speech. Even John Wilkes Booth himself is visible in a panoramic shot of this same photograph!

..at least toward the end when he eloquently states:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

A few days later, Lincoln would be shot dead by an assassin’s bullet.

In my young adult adventure story, Central Park Story, I have my main character, Christopher Middleton, echo these same sentiments of forgiveness and charity after being faced with a similarly unavoidable conflict.

The Central Park Cave and the Mark Twain Cave

Staircase to the Central Park Cave

The staircase leading to the Central Park Cave, otherwise known as the ‘Indian Cave’

Although there is no material connection between the two, the Central Park Cave made me think of Tom Sawyer’s cave in Twain’s famous, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal, Missouri, covers some six and a half miles consisting of four entrances and 260 passages, while the Central Park Cave consists of a single large room.

Discovered by excavators when the park was under construction, it might have been a shelter used by Indians in the past.

MarkTwainCave

And the Mark Twain Cave…not a whole lot different. became an instant tourist attraction and a magnet for crime until it was eventually sealed in the 1930s.

The staircase leading to the wall that now covers the entrance is still visible from the Ramble and only adds to its mystery.

In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, I imagine the cave having a hidden corridor that leads underneath the Bethesda Fountain, not unlike Twain’s cave in Hannibal.

If Twain could stretch the truth, then so could I!

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…until you get inside!

Bergdorf Goodman: Not Your Typical Department Store

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Bergdorf Goodman, at 58th Street and Fifth…talk about location!

Situated at 58th Street and Fifth just opposite Central Park, Bergdorf Goodman is about as iconic a store as you could imagine.

Just prior to the purchase of the property by Mr. Goodman, it was the Cornelius Vanderbilt estate, whose massive gate now graces the entrance to the Conservatory Garden at 106th Street.

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A typically modest window display at Bergdorf’s

So many references in films have been made to this famous store, they could probably be turned into a movie themselves.

For that reason, as well as the fact that it is located a block from Central Park, I make it a preferred shopping oasis for Ashley Ferguson, one of the main characters in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story.

 

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: