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

Tavern on the Green: No Longer a Retirement Home for Sheep

Tavern on the Green in Central Park

The Tavern on the Green main dining room (it has since been renovated) where Christopher spots a herd of sheep running down the aisle.

If you think the Loeb Boathouse Restaurant is swanky, how about the Tavern on the Green, where Ashley’s parents take Christopher out for Thanksgiving dinner in Central Park Story Book One?

It used to be a sheepfold at a time when sheep grazed in the Sheep Meadow (yes, you heard me–sheep used to graze in the Sheep Meadow!) It was later moved from the north end of the meadow to its present location at 67th Street off Central Park West and is famous for its bucolic setting and haute cuisine.

If you’ve read to the end of Central Park Story Book One, you’d know that Christopher sometimes ‘sees’ things that aren’t really there and spots a herd of sheep heading down the aisle and out the glass windows of the restaurant. Naturally, he takes this as an omen about his future!

 

Old As Time and the Issue of Homelessness in NYC

Homeless man in Central Park

Homeless man in Central Park. Is he really any different than you or me?

Old As Time is a character I created in order to put a face on the homeless problem in New York City.

Despite the great leaps of progress the city has made in the area of crime, the homeless situation has only worsened over the same span of time.

As of March 2015, over 60,ooo sought refuge in city shelters every night, up a dramatic 12% from the previous year. Yet building more shelters or even offering housing subsidies to the homeless isn’t the answer. Homelessness is a profound reminder that something is lacking at the very foundation of the society we claim to be are a part of.

Perhaps Christopher, the main character in Central Park Story Book One, has a valid point: only in a society that is democratic in the true sense of the word, where people are viewed as equals and afforded equal opportunities from education on up, can such blemishes be fully eradicated.

 

7th Regiment Memorial: A Statue by John Quincy Adams Ward

7th Regiment Memorial in Central Par

The 7th Regiment Memorial statue overlooking the Sheep Meadow. He looks alive!

Don’t you just love this statue? So dignified, so noble, so REAL.

I love all the statues made by John Quincy Adams Ward (he also made the Indian Hunter and the Pilgrim statues, both of which sit near the Mall, as well as the life-like cougar that overlooks the East River Drive at 78th Street).

A wave of realism swept American sculpture in the mid 1800s and produced many evocative masterpieces, but this one seems so ‘present’ that I gave him a name, Henry Clayborn, in my books, and included him as an actual character in Central Park Story Book One.

 

A Walk in Central Park After a Blizzard

Central Park Mall in the Snow

 

Need I say more?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Geometric Pattern Buried in the Design of Central Park? Does it Really Exist?

Central Park Map

Map of Central Park. Is there really a hidden geometric design buried in this image?

When I first began researching Central Park Story, a young adult adventure series set in Central Park in NYC,  I came across a number of features in the park that I considered highly unusual.

First, the promenade that extends from the Olmsted Flower Bed and ends at the Bethesda Terrace points due north (rather than in line with the grid of the city). Second, it points directly at Belvedere Castle on the opposite side of the Ramble. Third, the distance from the flower bed to the angel and from the angel to the castle in the north are exactly the same. And fourth, if you used both of these distances as the diameter of two separate but equal circles, the perimeter of each circle passes either through or close by eight familiar landmarks in the park.

Was this deliberate on the part of the designers of the park or merely coincidental?

One can be certain that Calvert Vaux (Olmsted’s architectural partner who originally designed the Mall) consciously chose to point the promenade due north, but the rest? That’s anyone’s guess.

However, as a writer of fiction I wasn’t going to let this discovery go to waste, and decided to make it a part of a puzzle that Christopher Middleton, the main character of my story, must solve in order to avert a disaster that would otherwise engulf the city.

Still, it made me wonder how many more amazing things are contained in the park–something that I plan to enumerate in my next post, so stay tuned!

Bet You Didn’t Know Even Half of These Amazing Facts About Central Park

Painting of Central Park dated 1863

A pictorial rendering of Central Park dated 1863

I spent several years researching Central Park for my ongoing young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, and, in the process, I came across a number of features of the park that surprised and, in some cases, shocked me.

Here are a few of them, and I’d be most curious to know if you were aware of any of them yourself:

–The Mall is the only formal aspect of the park, the rest of the park being devoted to nature.

–The Mall points due north (the rest of the city points north east, so the Mall is at an angle to the actual grid of the city).

–There are three waterfalls in the park, all of them run artificially by hidden pumps.

–The Ramble Lake is terraced with concrete and is only seven feet deep in the middle (it used to be a swamp). This was done to protect skaters when it was used as a skating rink from the 1860s to the 1950s.

–A cave was discovered in the Ramble when the park was under construction. It was a popular tourist attraction until the 1920’s when someone was found murdered there, and it was finally sealed. It was called the Indian Cave because it was assumed to have been used by Indians as a shelter before New York was settled by white men.

–A village of freed slaves once existed in the area near Belvedere Castle, and was abandoned in the 1850s when the park was being built.

–More dynamite was used in the construction of Central Park than was used in the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.

–A casino once stood where the Naumberg Bandshell stands today. It was frequented by the mayor (Jimmy Walker) as well as a by gangsters, and was only torn down in the Great Depression under Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Its menu was more expensive than that of the Plaza Hotel at 59th Street and Central Park South (a rib steak cost a whopping one dollar!)

–A herd of sheep used to graze in the Sheep Meadow but were removed during the Great Depression when people started slaughtering them for food.

–General George Washington’s main headquarters was once located next to the Harlem Meer in the northeastern end of the park (Fort Fish). Washington was forced to abandon it under threat by the British and didn’t return to reclaim New York until after the Revolutionary War was over. (He was made president in Federal Hall on Wall Street).

–an actual fort (block house) still stands in the northwest corner of the park at 110th Street. It was built in 1812 to help defend the city from the British. The British never came, but the block house remains there to this day.

–The north end of the park was designed to resemble the Adirondack region of New York, a region that was popular with the wealthy as a location for their summer homes.

–The northeastern side of the park was used as an encampment by Union troops during the Civil War and housed an orphanage called St. Vincent’s where Frederick Law Olmsted and his family once lived.

And the list goes on…but at least it gives you a taste about what an amazing cultural treasure the park really is!

Belvedere Castle in Central Park

View of Central Park today (2015)

 

 

The Statue of ‘Black Dan’ in Central Park–A Sight to Behold!

The Statue of Daniel Webster in Central Park

Pretty impressive–and he hasn’t spoken a word!

If there’s a statue in Central Park that could send a shiver down your spine, it’s the statue of Daniel Webster; not because of its impressive size but because the sculptor, Thomas Ball, managed to capture ‘God-like Dan’ in all his glory.

Back in the 1850s, most everyone had two things in their homes: a picture of George Washington and a bust of Daniel Webster. Some years later, they might have added a Webster’s dictionary. After all, he was still considered to be the greatest master of the English language of his age.

Like most public figures in the 1800s, Webster was rife with contradictions. As the much-revered senator from Massachusetts, he spoke of the greatness of his country and remained a steadfast supporter of the Union, yet he thought nothing of receiving gifts on the sly if he gave a speech on someone else’s behalf, and he made the unpopular suggestion that a compromise be struck with the slave states in the South.

It used to be that people’s livelihood depended upon how well they spoke, so probably he never questioned that he had the right to support himself with his words at the same time as he felt he was defending the best interests of the country he adored. Still, contradictions are contradictions, and he remains a complicated figure to this day.

However he might appear to others, it’s no wonder that Christopher stops dead in his tracks as soon as he spots the god-like statue of ‘Black Dan’ in Central Park Story Book One. As I said in the beginning, just one look at him, and it can send a shiver down your spine!

 

Taking Exams…At Times You Just Have to Rely on Street Smarts

Taking exams isn’t fun, but it’s fun making fun of exam-taking.

In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, the main character, Christopher Middleton, doesn’t open a book when it comes to studying for exams. Rather, he relies on what his girlfriend tells him on their early morning walks to school…with amusing results.

I guess that’s one way of using your street smarts. Here’s another that I thought you might also find amusing:

Montessori Schools and the Future of Education

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was an amazing educator who emphasized engaging and exploration as opposed to being spoon-fed information

More than 100 years ago, Dr. Maria Montessori, Italy’s first female physician, inspired the birth of a worldwide educational movement.

Drawing upon her scientific background and clinical understanding, Dr. Montessori observed how young people learn best when engaged in purposeful activity rather than being fed information. She recognized that children’s cognitive growth and development requires the construction of an educational framework that respects individuality and fulfills the needs of the ‘whole child.’

Her pioneering work created a blueprint for nurturing all children— from gifted to learning disabled—to become self-motivated, independent, and life-long learners.

Throughout my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, education is a theme. I didn’t intend for my books to be only amusing or exciting (of course,  I tried to make them that, as well!). I wanted them to pique the imagination as well as help the reader come to terms with issues, such as education, in their broadest sense.

 

Thoreau’s Walden–Not Your Typical Backyard Camping Trip

Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond

Thoreau’s cabin near Walden Pond

Walden, a book by by noted Transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau,  is part personal declaration of independence, part social experiment, and part manual for self-reliance. Published in 1854, it details Thoreau’s experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.

By immersing himself in nature, Thoreau hoped to gain a more objective understanding of society through personal introspection which, in many ways is what happens to Christopher Middleton, the main character in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story.

Of course, it wouldn’t be possible without a little imagination and fantasy mixed in, but I wanted to prove to my readers, both young and old, that there are no limitations when it comes to nature.