Left to Right: Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, architects of Central Park
December 18th 1857
When I woke up this morning, I opened my newspaper and to my surprise saw that the designs for the Park were chosen. They were chosen through a contest. The architects chosen are Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, two extremely talented men. They better be talented… the Board of Commissioners chose them and is giving them from four hundred to two thousand dollars! I must say, the concept of their design is quite fascinating and enriching. Their goal is to create a relaxing green area where New Yorkers could escape from their day to day lives, a place where people could go and forget about their problems and simply enjoy and live “in the moment”. I sometimes wonder how they’ll be able to get all of the materials and grass necessary… after all,the budget for the park is only 1.5 million dollars. Their design is also interesting… it was chosen due to its complexity and simplicity, but the goal and meaning behind it is powerful. Complex because they are trying to incorporate characteristics from other locations into the park and simple because the trees and foliage are organized into patches and we have a clear idea of what we need to do. I’m so excited for construction to start and to make my mark on Manhattan, but I’m hoping me and my fellow co-workers will be able to properly transmit this message. Luckily, we’ll have many resources at our fingertips and inspiration to go off of since the park is being built after the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. The only thing I don’t quite understand is why we’re basing it on a cemetery… Isn’t the point of this park to be happy and cheerful? Why take the design of such a morbid, unhappy place?
January 11th 1858
This morning, I was so excited before going to work! And I still am… I’ve waited so long for this day…Although I know I have a lot of work ahead of me, I was super excited to get started as it is my first paid job! Although it’s not much, I’m very grateful for this opportunity as I didn’t attend college. Today was the first day. Our supervisors told us a little bit about the history of the area we will be constructing on. This land used to be a slum .About 1,600 citizens used to live there, some as legitimate renters and others as squatters who were evicted; included in this area were a convent, a school, and the residents of Seneca Village, an African-American neighborhood of about 270 people which boasted a school and three churches...I feel very bad for all these people, but the worst is now done! And I’m looking forward to getting started!
September 23rd 1858
It’s been 9 months since this project began and I’m coming to the realization that this process is not as easy as I thought. The warm summer air is turning into the crisp cold air of fall. Leaves falling here and there…My job is becoming more and more difficult, but my salary stays the same. I come into work at 6am every morning and end at 5pm with only one hour off for lunch and all I get is $1.75 a day! Although I make more than the average worker because I’m a stone cutter, I still think I deserve more especially because I’m surrounded by these disgusting people! Their work is so easy it’s disgraceful. For some reason they all hate me. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this treatment. It’s not my fault I’m more talented than all these people after all! Maybe if they leave, my pay will be higher and that’s something to look forward to. All they do is steal work and complain about other people’s salaries when someone else who would appreciate it much more and be in their place. My brother doesn’t even have a job. He would be more than happy to work instead of these pigs! Just thinking about them makes my blood pressure high.
December 12th 1858
Ice Skating Rink
We just finished the ice skating rink and it’s opening to the public tonight! I’m finally a part of something important! I accomplished this! Seeing people enjoy themselves and smile on the land that I helped build made me feel so special like I was a king looking over my kingdom! Tonight I forgot about everything. All my problems are out of my mind and all I am thinking about are the kids and their smiles. This feeling was definitely worth all the pain and hard work! I have to keep reminding myself that there’s still much more work to go. Although I’m happy that people really like what we’ve done, it still doesn’t change our salaries. Winter is here and I don’t have enough money to buy a winter coat. I’m going to have to start saving up because I won’t be able to work with the freezing cold air coming.
December 13th 1858
Last night was a complete success! I had the time of my life, observing people having fun in something I helped build. I must admit, after all the time and effort I spent on the park, I was starting to resent my employment there with all the harsh conditions. But last night reminded me of why I started this in the first place: to make people happy. To see the children play with their parents and their friends brought me back to my true motivation. The making of this park was supposed to help other people be in good spirits. And on that note, I just heard the park is expanding to 108th Street. Considering the budget is even lower, the park should have a more untamed, natural look. In other words, less work! The construction should be much more relaxed now that the park is establishing itself as THE place to be. Also, construction is only starting in 1863. I’m hoping that by that time the wages and working conditions will improve. My back was suffering from minor pains so I will be benefitting both physically and mentally.
February 15th 1859
I can’t take it. All of the other races are unbearable. I can’t stand the Italians and the blacks. One of my Irish co-workers got murdered. Even though I didn’t know him well, he was a good guy and he was a good hard working Irish man. I’m positive it was the black people. Yesterday I read a newspaper saying how Harlem is full of crime. They could be bringing the crime to the park. But I could be a target. Just the other day we got in a fight. The supervisors had to break us up. I am actually scared. I better just keep my mouth shut and ignore them.
The Italians could have done it too. They only complain about how the Irish worker’s jobs get higher salaries and the new worker replacing my murdered co-worker is Italian. But I also heard that the Italian mafia has hit New York. All these different races are causing problems except the Irish. We should just get all the jobs and the other races should get sent home.
May 27th 1867
Elephant in Central Park
I’ve been working on this park for 10 years! All of my limbs are aching but I have to finish this project not for the people but for me. My whole life I’ve never finished anything and now is my chance to redeem myself. I can’t even bend down that much. I barely have energy to work. My bosses better not notice or I could lose my job. After I finish the park I need to relax for a while. I’m going to start saving up to go somewhere nice. But in the meantime the park still has a long way to go. We just finished the zoo which I enjoy a lot. The elephants just came in and the crowd seems to love them. We also have some hippos and bison. We should be getting more visitors because the train station is being built on the northwest corner of the park. The whole park is so beautiful. A while ago we finished Ramble gorge. It’s a beautiful bird watching area that is completely in synchwith nature.
August 12 1873
Upper Class Strolling in a Carriage through
Over the past weeks I’ve noticed many wealthy people in the park, only wealthy people…. A woman pushing a pram with her baby wearing exceptionally nice clothes was in the park today. Yesterday I saw a family taking a carriage ride along the park. That’s when it hit me; this park isn’t a place where people from all over New York can come and enjoy. This is going to be a park where only rich people come. People that work minimum wage jobs or live paycheck to paycheck will never be seen here , people like……me. I did not spend most of my life making this park the best it can be for it to only be enjoyed by the rich. I’m so mad all this work is going towards people I don’t even like! Hopefully this is just a phase and people like me will slowly come into the park and appreciate it.
May 27th 1873
We’re done! The park is complete! All that sweat and hard work has all paid off! Seeing it all come true is incredible! I can’t even believe that it’s over! The whole park is complete! Words can’t describe how proud I am to have been a part of this amazing creation. The horrible pay, the rude people, the inconvenient hours have all paid off. Seeing people enjoy themselves, having fun and relaxing makes me feel so good, better than I have in months! This project has been my baby for SIXTEEN years. I dedicated myself to making this park the best it could be. I nurtured it and cared for it for SIXTEEN years of my life and now its OVER! It’s the end of this journey in my life; this chapter is over and I am excited to see what is next. I’m feeling a little nostalgic about leaving my work. Knowing where I’m going and what I’m supposed to do when I wake up feels good and now it's unknown. I know that this park will be a great success and it will live on for a very long time. I feel as though a part of me has gone, but at the same"time as though a part of me has been reborn! I’ve decided I’m moving to Ireland. I feel as though my time here is done. Because of this project I have enough money to start a new life.I’m excited but sad to leave the park but I want to go back to my homeland.
August 18th 1886
Tennis Courts in Central Park, 1885
The park is in full swing today! I missed so many things; obviously I’ve been gone too long. There are so many people who visit the park daily. There are even tennis courts! The courts don’t look like much (there’s only temporary netting and the courts are outlined with chalk), but in no time they’ll probably make them permanent. Also, millionaires are lining up around the park! It’s now referred to as Millionaire’s Row. This park is a magnet for money, only the prestigious live near it! I think the less fortunate should be able to live near it as the wealthy do, I’m very flattered they would want to live near something I helped build. The most important thing though, is that the park is now open to all clases. The middle class and the lower class can come just as often as the upper class can. The park is filled life and culture. The way it should be.
When I finished my work on the park it was 1873; many buildings and castles that were being built in the park were not yet finished. To my delight, they have now been completed.
Also finished and amazing is the BelvedereCastle! It was built in 1872 and also designed by Calvert Vaux. This man inspires me so much, he’s done so much for society.He truly did leave his mark on history. The castle is beautiful; Belvedere actually means “beautiful” in Italian. The view is amazing. It’s the spot to be for couples. The romantic view can really complete a night out with a girlfriend.
My personal favorite is LakeBoathouse. It’s a two story structure where I can just watch the boats floating on the water, or board a boat. It makes me smile when I see all the New Yorkers row their own boats in their fancy clothing. This place was built in 1873.
Women riding on bikes in Central Park
By far my favorite part of this entire park is seeing how ridiculous the women look on their bicycles. They ride around the park with their fancy dresses thinking they look cool… it’s quite an amazing, hilarious view. I believe this is the best reward possible. It made all of the hard work worth it.