The Central Park Mall


The Central Park Mall leading to the Bethesda Terrace provides the only purely formal feature in the naturalistic original plan of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux for Central Park, New York City. The Mall, designated the "Promenade" in Olmsted and Vaux's "Greensward" plan of 1857, was called the "open air hall of reception" in the text that accompanied the plan in the competition. "A 'grand promenade' was 'an essential feature of a metropolitan park', the designers acknowledged, yet its formal symmetry— like all architecture in the park— must be rendered 'subservient' to the natural 'view as the ultimatum of interest'", Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar reported in their history of Central Park. It was designed so that a carriage could disgorge its passengers at the south end, then drive round and pick them up again overlooking Bethesda Terrace, whose view of the Lake and Ramble formed the "ultimatum of interest" in Olmsted and Vaux's vision. With no need for tiresome redoubling their steps, fashionable New Yorkers, who in the first decades of the Park's existence drove through it in their stylish equipages but rarely walked in it, had their chance to mingle with the less affluent, a mix that was considered thoroughly "American", and picturesque enough to be illustrated repeatedly in the turn-of-the-twentieth-century watercolors of Maurice Prendergast (illustrations) and, slightly later, of Ludwig Bemelmans: "'a great charm of Central Park' wrote J. Crawford Hamilton in Munsey's Magazine, 'is the marvellous variety of its scenery and embellishments' including the crowds". Facing onto the Mall near its upper end is the Naumburg Bandshell (designed 1916, built 1921-23), replacing Vaux's wooden construction of 1860, where nineteenth-century concerts devolved into open-air popular dances as the evenings fell. Behind it, the wisteria pergola parallels the Mall at the top of a slope; it provides screening for Central Park SummerStage, New York's premiere outdoor concert stage . See Wikipedia, Central Park Mall,
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