Wreath Interpretations: A Look Back

Taking a break from documenting the city’s waterfront parks and hidden waterways, I would like to share an artwork that I made last year for the NYC Parks’ 35th annual Wreath Interpretations winter holiday art show. Titled NYC Parks Now and Then, my wreath depicts some of New York’s best-known parks from the oldest to the newest.

Malcolm Parkie

In a photo taken by agency photographer Malcolm Pinckney, I stand with my work which has NYC Parks’ maple leaf logo in its center. Now let’s take a closer look at its details. Click on the bold names for their histories as I take you on a citywide tour. Continue reading

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Lasker Daylighting, Manhattan

Last month the Parks Department and Central Park Conservancy announced a $150 reconstruction plan for Lasker Rink in Central Park. Described by the AIA Guide to NYC as the park’s most “disastrous” improvement for a modernist design that clashes with the Victorian appearance of the park.

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Part of this ambitious reconstruction plan is the daylighting of a section of Montayne’s Rivulet that was covered by the pool in 1966. The rendering above looking north from Huddlestone Arch restores the view that Olmsted envisioned of the creek flowing into Harlem Meer.

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The Gill, Manhattan

In the heart of Central Park is The Ramble, a 38-acre woodland where the park’s trimmed lawns give way to an Adirondack terrain of thick forest, boulders, and The Gill, an artificial brook that flows through The Ramble, emptying into The Lake.

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At its widest point, The Gill flows through Azalea Pond, the smallest named waterway in Central Park. The maze-like paths deep inside this section of Central Park serve as a sanctuary for birds, a refuge for illicit activities, but at its most basic, a place to forget that one is in the middle of Manhattan.

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Harlem Meer, Manhattan

The northernmost of Central Park’s lakes shares its name with the neighborhood to its immediate north. Harlem Meer occupies the former confluence of Montayne’s Rivulet and Harlem Creek, a point where these two freshwater streams widened into a brackish estuary on their way towards the East River.

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In the initial allocation of land for Central Park, the site of Harlem Meer would have been excluded from the park, its untouched terrain  would likely have been buried beneath urban development. In 1863, the park was expanded north to 110th Street, encompassing the North Woods, a set of abandoned fortifications from the War of 1812 and the marsh where the creeks met.

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Lower Reservoir, Central Park

An experienced urban explorer knows that when an object appears unusual, it has a long history behind its appearance. One such example is the wall behind the 86th Street Shop in Central Park. This is where the Parks Department fuels and repairs its vehicles.

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The wall behind the shop’s parking lot is slightly inclined and runs straight between the shop building and the Central Park Precinct. This wall is a remnant of Central Park’s Lower Reservoir, which contained the city’s drinking water from 1842 to 1929.

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The Lily Pond, Central Park

Following my recent post on The Loch in Central Park, park goer Steve Weintraub of the Blockhouse Run Club asked about a forgotten water feature at the park’s northern end that appears as a former stream on the 1994 Greensward Foundation map of Central Park. It was known as The Lily Pond, the smallest of Central Park’s original water features.

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Descending from the Great Hill alongside The Cliff, it terminated by East Drive just shy of Central Park North. Steve wanted to know whether there are any photos of this truly hidden waterway.  Continue reading

Sabrina’s Pool, Central Park

With so much excitement surrounding the lectures, tours and sales of the book, now is a good time to look back at the process behind its publication. When the Viele Map was selected as the cover image for my book, there were a couple of runner-ups. Here’s one image that depicts the subject of the book, a hidden waterway disappearing into a manhole. Nature and city together in one tight photo.

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It is a tributary stream of The Loch in Central Park, a constructed brook that emerges on the edge of North Meadow, flows beneath Springbanks Arch and down a ravine into The Loch, a stream in the northwest section of the park. Continue reading

Photo of the Week

Among the boathouses in New York City’s parks, the most famous is the one at The Lake in Central Park, where the public may rent a gondola or rowboat, eat a pricey meal, or hold a wedding ceremony.

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This week’s selected photo shows us an earlier boathouse from a century ago that stood by The Lake, courtesy of the NYPL Digital Collections. Continue reading

Photo of the Week

After a week of exclusive Queens coverage ahead of my King Manor Museum author talk, we return to Manhattan ahead of an important anniversary in Central Park.

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This week’s photo was taken between 1910 and 1915 by Bain News Service and retrieved from the Library of Congress photo collection. I am sharing it because on April 23, the Central Park Model Yacht Club is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Continue reading

Skating Rink on a Pond

Since its opening in 1857, most of Central Park’s landscape has remained remarkably unaltered. The preservation of the park’s rocky outcroppings, meadows, forests and streams is a story of beating the odds, succeeding against dozens of failed proposals to fill the park with museums, monuments, and a racetrack, among other ideas. When a development was approved, the landscape features  often sacrificed were the waterways. People can’t walk or swim in the park’s water anyway.

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Why is how the northern bay of The Pond at the southeast corner of Central Park became the site of Wollman Rink. Continue reading