No city so small and so congested as is New York, it is something to brag about that we have given up the most desirable portion of it for the use of the general public. To deduct 843 acres out of a scant total of 22,000 and deny ourselves the vast revenue it would produce if devoted to ordinary usage, argues volumes for our public spirit.
It is a triumph of the landscape artist and the results achieved out of barren soil, covered with rocks, is something scarcely believable. Work was commenced in 1857 and completed a year later at a cost of four hundred and fifteen million dollars. That is to say, a beginning was made. The work never ends. There are now lakes and reservoirs covering 286 acres; 9 miles of carriage drives, 6 miles of bridle paths, 30 miles of walks, 36 bridges or arches, 12 tunnels, and seats for 1,000 persons.
There are twenty-three gates very prettily named—Scholars' Gate, Woodman's Gate, Mariner's Gate, Warrior's Gate, Stranger's Gate, etc. The main entrances are on 59th Street; perhaps the most convenient ones are on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, reached by 'bus and by street cars and at Columbus Circle (59th Street and Broad-way), almost in front of the subway exit, west side.
Park carriages make the tour of the park in one hour, fare 25 cents. They start from Fifth Avenue and Fifty-nineth Street and Columbus Circle and Fifty-ninth Street.
A tour on foot is by far the most enjoyable. One also wants leisure to view the lake; to sit down for a moment in shady nooks and feed the swans and ducks.
There is a small menagerie and a swan boat for the children. Ponies and donkeys (near Eagle Cage), are also fun for the children.
The Mall is one of the principal avenues. It is about a mile in length and beautifully shaded with elms. A large number of statues line the sides. The Scotsmen have erected two, the Danes one, the Germans one, the Irish one, the Italians one, the English one. Fitz Greene Halleck, an American, seems to have slipped in when the foreigners weren't looking.
The Mall ends at the terrace commanding a fine view of the lake with its sailing parties. The Esplanade has in the center a magnificent fountain.
A row around the lake or a trip in the electric launch is well worth the trouble. Party boats may also be had, one or two persons, There is no end of beautiful walks all through the park and the Ramble in the lower edge of the old reservoir is one full of pleasant surprises. There is a tower—The Belvedere, near the north end of the reservoir, which commands a fine view of the park.
Cleopatra's Needle is interesting. It originally stood in front of the temple of the Sun in Cairo and was erected about 1500 B. C. Its companion is owned in London.
Many May parties, tennis and other sports are permitted in certain sections of the beautiful grounds. There is music in the Mall Saturday afternoons and Sundays and Community Singing in front of the lake is very popular. Some wonderful public pageants are also given in the grounds by school children and altogether there is no doubt that the city receives liberal dividends in health and happiness of its thousands of children, who would never see a tree or flower but for Central Park.
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