The Mall: the only straight path in Central Park

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux set out to recreate nature when they designed Central Park, laying out windy paths and serpentine walkways that would follow the woods and pastoral settings they had planned.

But they did allow one formal concession, the only intentional straight line in the park: a quarter-mile “promenade,” as they called it in the 1850s, where New Yorkers could mingle.


The Mall was “specially designed to accommodate the width of carriages passing through its bounds,” explains

“Around the turn of the century, these carriages would drop off their wealthy inhabitants at the Mall’s starting point, where they could enjoy the natural scenery and mingle with people of lesser status. When these visitors finally reached the Bethesda Terrace, their carriages would be waiting to bring them to their next destination.”

And for the little ones, goat and donkey cart rides!

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12 Responses to “The Mall: the only straight path in Central Park”

  1. alexvrince Says:

    Reblogged this on world's life.

  2. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    This quarter-mile walkway was showcased in the Academy Award winning film, “KRAMER VS KRAMER.” The scene where the lil’ son is reunited with his Mother (Meryl Streep), after having lived with his Father (Dustin Hoffman) for a lengthy period. It is a dramatic moment in the story of the ‘broken family’ and hence, the subtle symbolism of the perfectly straight designed area of this grand, continuous promenade, was a Location-Director’s-Dream-Spot! (It might have been just a ‘Lucky Choice’ – but I prefer to think it had more than artistic value for the cinematographer…)

    I am sure many untutored visitors to Central Park believe the overall property was simply ‘a preserved and only a slightly enhanced piece of real estate.’ Perhaps that is the REWARD for the clever and successful designers, planters, etc… It was a complex and somewhat lengthy creation; (They hauled in wagons of soil, monster boulders, trees, trees and did I mention TREES, etc…) Today, Central Park is priceless to, as well as beloved by ‘millions’ – not just the tax-payers of NYC.

  3. Ray Laskowitz Says:

    Central Park might be priceless, but in order to build it the city and the designers ripped out an African American community.

  4. Beth Says:

    Technically, there is one other straight line along the east side of the reservoir, but Olmsted and Vaux didn’t have control over that. About 1500 people were evicted from the park area through eminent domain including about 300 African American and other residents of Seneca Village on the west side.

  5. trilby1895 Says:

    Were any of the evicted relocated within Manhattan? For instance, there was an African-American settlement along Minetta Lane, also one in the Five Points.

    • Beth G Says:

      They were left to fend for themselves. Researchers were unable to follow the trail of any of the Seneca Village residents once they left the park area.

  6. trilby1895 Says:

    Thank you for your reply, Beth, and I’m very sorry to hear that. Did the evicted African Americans fare any better (I hope)? Thank you.

  7. smokedoggz Says:

    Interesting history especially for a native New Yorker.

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