Central Park as a Cultural Text

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New York City's Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the United States. In the early 1850s, wealthy New Yorkers envisioned a project to construct a park that had spanned for over a decade and cost the city millions of dollars. Following a long period of debate concerning the site and cost of the project, the state legislature authorized the acquisition of 700 acres of land through eminent domain. Advocates of the park hoped to refute the European notion that Americans were devoted to a life of materialism without taking consideration of the common good. Furthermore, in awe of the public grounds in London and Paris, wealthy New Yorkers wanted to uplift the international reputation of the city—or better yet, the United States—by constructing a similar feature. The high society of New York City imagined an idyllic and rustic landscape, where they could travel in carriages, socialize with the rest of the upper class, and allow the poor to live in a safer and cleaner environment as well. Using the "Greensward Plan" designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux as winners of a design contest, the park underwent construction in 1853. Upon the park's completion in 1873, the idyllic landscape that encompassed large meadows, several lakes and hills, and a reservoir finally came to life. During a time period when industrialism in New York City was growing at a rapid and extraordinary pace, the green space intended to lure workers into spending time towards a life of healthy leisure and recreation, perhaps as a rejuvenating retreat from the unnatural urban life. While Central Park may appeal to the general public as an innocent green world for the entire society, it became clear within the first act of landscaping of the park that the project would be problematic. Original inhabitants of this particular region in Manhattan had to be displaced to
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