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View of the New York skyline, across Central Park, from the Metropolitan Museum

In 1853 a bill was passed authorising the city to buy 778 acres of land to create a "Central Park". Ten years later the site was increased to 843 acres. A competition was held to prepare designs and had 33 entrants but in April 1858 the "Greensward Plan" submitted by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux was selected. Their original plan can be seen in the Arsenal. It was a huge feat as stagnant water in the swamps needed to be drained, roads croossing the park had to be blasted through Manhattan schist and granite and millions of cubic yards of earth or stone were carried in or out of the park. Sheep Meadow began life as a parade ground for military drills, one of the conditions for entries in the 1858 Central Park Design Competition. The sheep and a shepherd were housed in a Victorian building, part of which is now Tavern on the Green. In 1934 the flock was moved to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The Great Lawn started as the Croton Reservoir and was filled in with city building rubble in the 1930's. The southern end was turned into Belvedere Lake. The Reservoir was constructed between 1858 and 1862 and was once a major element in the city's water supply system. The Bethesda fountain " Angel of the Waters" actually marked the opening of the Croton Aqueduct System of 1842 which brought the city its first supply of pure water. It's probably best known for the 1.58 mile cinder jogging track surrounding it, but is now the only relic of the Croton system which provided 130 years service. The 106 acre water body is 40 feet deep and holds over a billion gallons of water. Though it no longer supplies fresh water to Manhattan residents, the overflow is necessary to feed other ponds in the park. In 1994 it was named the Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir because of her fondness for the place and her contributions to the city. Central Park fell into neglect in the 1970's and the Central Park Conservancy raised funds to restore the Park to its now wonderful condition.


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