The value of land in Manhattan has turned the island into a sea of concrete. Fortunately for New York’s residents, there is one major exception: Central Park.
This huge park in the middle of the city was designed in the 1850s by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted wanted the park to be a rural paradise within an urban area, a place for all—"rich and poor,
young and old." Central Park is still much as he intended.
You can take a horse and buggy ride through Central Park. You can explore the park even better by renting a bicycle. Attractions in the park include gardens, a zoo, a skating rink, an old-fashioned carousel, a lake where you can row, and an outdoor theater, where events are held each summer.
Central Park was opened in 1876. Wealthy New Yorkers soon built mansions along Fifth Avenue, on the park’s east side. The Vanderbilts. a large family, at one point had eleven mansions on Fifth Avenue!
The mansions that remain now hold art collections. For example, there’s the Frick Collection in what was once the home of millionaire Henry Clay Frick. The Frick is a de
lightful museum to wander through since it’s set up, not like a museum, but as it was when the Fricks lived there.
This part of Fifth Avenue along Central Park has so many museums that it’s called "Museum Mile." The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with huge collections of art from around the world, may be the most important museum in the United States.
The street on the western side of the park, Central Park West, has large and unusual apartment buildings. When the first one was being built, people laughed. They said nobody with money would live in an apartment house, especially when it was so far from the center of town that it might as well be in the Dakotas (in the western part of the United States; see Unit 5). The builder had the last laugh; he named his building the Dakota, and when it opened, every apartment was occupied.
The Dakota has had many famous residents, including actress Lauren Bacall and conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein. But, above all, the building makes people think of John Lennon, who lived there and was killed right outside on December 8, 1980.