Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted’s plan for Central Park in 1857 was to bring the serenity of nature to a swampy, rocky stretch of the city.
After bulldozing shantytowns and draining swamps, they (and masses of laborers) spent the next several years fabricating pastoral lawns, hills, ponds, and lakes.
The also created the North Woods: a 90-acre refuge at the northern end of the park designed to replicate the secluded Adirondack forests of central New York State.
“Although much less was done to rearrange the northern end’s rugged topography than had been done elsewhere, park workers built a twelve-acre lake called the Harlem Meer on the swamp, carved out and planted the Ravine and Waterfall, and constructed another mile of drive, a mile and a half of walks, and several rustic bridges,” reports centralparkhistory.com.
The result: “Within the woodlands, traffic disappears, buildings are hidden by trees and a gentle stream bubbles over sounds of the city, states the Central Park Conservatory website.
It really does feel like a slice of the Adirondacks just yards from the subway. And hidden in the thick forest is one of the city’s oldest structures: a blockhouse from the War of 1812.
[Top and bottom photos: Central Park Conservatory]