Thankfully, these were not built in Central Park

New York City has a long history of grand, ambitious plans that never make it past the idea stage.


A few examples? Moving sidewalks in Mahattan, a subway tunnel to Staten Island, a bridge spanning 125th Street to New Jersey, and 100-story housing projects in Harlem.

But some of the wackier or just-plain-wrong proposals were focused on Central Park. And that’s just in the park’s first half-century of existence.


“If the various persons who have sought to invade Central Park in the last 60 years, for projects in themselves often worthy, oftener grotesque, and frequently purely commercial, had had their way, there would now be nothing left of the park except a few walks and drives, and a lake on which steamboats and full-rigged ships would be plying,” states an amusing New York Times article from 1918 (headline above).


Among the ideas, according to the article: a theater seating 100,000, a sports stadium, a burial ground for the city’s “distinguished dead,” Grant’s Tomb, the paving of the lower end of the park, free swimming baths, and a speedway that would encircle the entire park.

More outlandish: straightening the circular paths throughout the park so they made the park into a “checkerboard,” a “street railway” running through the park, and cutting up the park and turning it into building lots!

[Vintage postcards: NYPL Digital Gallery]

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4 Responses to “Thankfully, these were not built in Central Park”

  1. Designer Jeffrey Bilhuber sells Trump condo for $16.25M, behind the doors of the Woolworth Building … and more – Says:

    […] designing a swankier look for the “boring” bank [CNBC] 5. Was Central Park almost a cemetery? [Ephemeral NY] 6. Peeking into 230 Park Avenue, the former home of Bear Stearns [NYO] 7. Revealed: Plans for the […]

  2. Central Park Sunset Tours Says:

    It’s interesting to not that the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre did actually make it to Central Park. They are located near 79th Street on the west side of the park.

  3. The most beautiful bridges inside Central Park | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] least 36 arches and bridges curve and bend along the 843 acres of Central Park, tucked into the rolling landscape like little […]

  4. The 1950s plan for a Washington Square Highway | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] history of New York City is littered with never-realized proposals: moving sidewalks, a burial ground in Central Park, and these 100-story apartment houses meant for […]

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