Located in Manhattan, New York, Central Park has become one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, with in excess of 42 million visitors per year. The park extends over 843 acres, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962. Opened in 1858 as the first major public landscaped park in New York, one of the main reasons for its inception was to increase the value of the surrounding area. The area’s outlay was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, and cost the United States more to complete than it paid for Alaska. The Americans hoped that the park’s construction would prove to Europeans that they were becoming more culturally refined, and had the best interest of the country’s citizens at heart.
Much of the area that was incorporated into Central Park was unoccupied before its creation. However, the building of the park required the relocation of an entire village of free African Americans, known as Seneca. During the mid-nineteenth century, land ownership would decide which citizens were allowed to vote. The relocated individuals were paid for their land, but lost this right during the sale.
Although the park’s landscape appears natural, it is completely designed and features: 7 water bodies, 25,000 trees, 250 acres of lawns, 136 acres of woodlands and 36 bridges. During construction, the landscape was curved to prevent horse and carriage races. These were a popular pastime in the 1850s, but many proved to be quite dangerous. The curvature of the paths has not successfully prevented accidents involving cyclists, however, and many people are injured in the park as a result each year. Central Park’s original design also included 58 miles of walking paths, and strict rules prevented children from playing on the grass.
Even though the park has maintained much of its original design, there have been several changes, including monuments erected within its boundaries. These include: Cleopatra’s Needle, which is an Egyptian obelisk dating back to 1440 BC that has Egyptian hieroglyphs on its surface and is the pair to another located along the River Thames in London; and a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus, which was unveiled in the park in 1894 and commemorates the 400th year of his discovery of America.
In stark contrast to the rigidity of the park at its origin, Central Park now features a large variety of playgrounds and children’s entertainment. The park also has its own app, which ensures that nobody gets lost within its boundaries, and provides an interactive tourist experience which includes 40 areas of interest. For visitors that prefer a more personal experience, there is the option of taking a pedicab tour, with drivers that double as tour guides. The park’s popularity has made it one of the most filmed locations in the world, with movies such as: Romeo and Juliet, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and An Affair to Remember all featuring its landscape.