Quiz: Who Was George Washington’s Chief of Staff?

The answer is Alexander Hamilton! From early youth, Hamilton sought glory on the battlefield, but he only found it while serving under General George Washington who took note of the young man’s superlative talent as an administrator and made him his chief of staff. Where Washington was prudent and reserved, with excellent judgment,  Hamilton was […]

Did George Washington Sleep in Central Park?

Although it’s safe to say that Washington never slept there, he definitely passed through what would later become Central Park on two important occasions. In the first, he led his army through McGowan’s Pass, just south of what is today the Harlem Meer, to engage the British forces that had landed on Long Island. After […]

Another Famous Tavern in Central Park?

When someone speaks of a tavern in Central Park, they are invariably referring to the Tavern on the Green at 68th Street and Central Park West. However, there used to be another tavern at what is  now 104th Street and Fifth Avenue. It was known first as the ‘Black Horse Tavern’ (prior to the the […]

Mount St. Vincent Convent: Where Olmsted and His Family Once Lived

Before there was a park, there were nuns. In 1847 the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul arrived in Manhattan and opened the Academy of St. Vincent, a school and convent, in what is now the northeastern section of Central Park (near 109th Street). The nuns left when the land was requisitioned by […]

Homeless in Central Park During the Great Depression

Imagine strolling through Central Park and stumbling across an encampment for the homeless. Such an encampment actually existed during the first years of the Great Depression (see pic to the right). Times were tough, and people were desperate (sound familiar?). Even though public sentiment was firmly on the side of the Hooverville residents, the Parks […]

The North Meadow: The ‘Great Midwest’ of Central Park

Before the advent of baseball, the North Meadow in Central Park was an unbroken vista intended to give a sense of infinite space and relief from the cramped spaces of the city. In order to enhance the illusion of unbounded space, Olmsted and Vaux used a visual trick. They created a slight bottleneck in the […]

The Park from 106th Street to 110th Street

Using the power of eminent domain, the city acquired 840 acres for the building of Central Park. The resultant area spans two and a half miles from 59th Street in the south to 110th Street in the north, and half a mile from Fifth Avenue in the east to Eighth Avenue in the west. However, […]

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

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 […]

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

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 […]

Did Frederick Law Olmsted Keep A Personal Diary?

I am not aware that Frederick Law Olmsted ever kept a personal diary. Certainly he wrote numerous letters, many of which are preserved in the Library of Congress, as well as several extensive travelogs that formed the basis of several books. Yet, when he wrote the following biographical fragment in one of his letters: ‘I […]