Alternate Plans for Central Park

Charles K. Graham, John A. Bagley and Robert Leigh, Designs for Improving Central Park, 1858. Estimate: $5,000 to $7,500.

From its inception, Central Park has been one of the defining features of New York City. Its original transformation from a rocky pasture to a landscaped urban park was driven by an 1858 design competition won by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. The rejected submissions have an appeal of their own, however, as they depict an alternate city that never was. As documented in Morrison Heckscher's 2008 exhibit catalogue, Creating Central Park, only four of these alternate plans are known to have survived. The portfolio in the September 30th Printed & Manuscript Americana auction represents a fifth. 

Designs included two of the entrance gates, side and front elevations of the concert hall, the observatories, and a suspension bridge over a waterfall. The concert hall and observatories were mandated in the competition requirements, while the suspension bridge seems to have been an original idea. 

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