April 26: Fredrick Law Olmstead

OlmstedNo one person shaped the public landscape of America quite like Fredrick Law Olmstead, who was born on this day in 1822. During his career as a landscape architect, Olmstead designed hundreds of parks and governmental master plans including Denver’s Civic Center Park, Stanford University, the grounds of the U. S. Capitol, Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery, the grounds of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. However, one Olmstead project stands above all others: New York’s Central Park.

As New York grew taller and louder during the Industrial Revolution, its people began to seek comfort in its few open green spaces (mostly cemeteries) for peace and quiet. It readily became apparent that New York needed a large public park, an idea championed by Evening Post columnist William Cullen Bryant, and landscape architect, Andrew Jackson Downing, Olmstead’s mentor. Eventually, in 1853 the New York legislature selected  a 700-acre area stretching from New York’s 59th Street to 106th Street to serve as the park. In 1857, a design contest was held by the Central Park Commission and the Greensward Plan by Olmsted and English-American architect Calvert Vaux was eventually selected as the winning design.

Olmstead and Yaux’s plan had several clever design elements including artificial lakes, 36 uniquely designed bridges, and “separate circulation” paths; specialized roadways created specifically for pedestrians, horseback riders and pleasure vehicles like bicycles and carriages. Olmstead’s most novel idea for the park was created as a response to the needs of crosstown traffic. As the park took up 700-acres, it was essential that there still be a way for vehicles to get around the park. So, Olmstead built several transverse roads into the Central Park design. These sunken roadways were covered by bridges and obscured by dense shrubs to allow traffic to flow through without breaking up the tranquility of the park. Although sections of the park were opened as it was developed, Central Park was not completed until 1873. Over four million trees and plants (in roughly 1,500 species) were installed in the park during construction.

The New Amsterdam Spirits Company created the Central Park as a mellower variation on the Bloody Mary. Instead of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco this highball uses vanilla extract and cayenne pepper to accentuate the tomato juice.

Central Park

  • 2 ounces Gin
  • 3 drops vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces tomato juice
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

Shake all ingredinents with ice and strain into an ice filled highball glass. Garnish with a vanilla bean and cherry tomato.

Tomorrow: We rebuild Parliament.

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