Central Park: A Lasting Legacy to Frederick Law Olmsted and Democracy

Making Connections

All documents and text associated with this activity are printed below, followed by a worksheet for student responses.

Introduction

Central Park was first landscaped public park in the United States. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the "Father of Landscape Architecture," and Calvert Vaux, Central Park was completed in 1876. At 843 acres, Central Park is the most visited urban park in the US. With Central Park, Olmsted and Vaux changed how Americans thought about public green spaces. Olmsted believed that it was the duty of a democratic society to ensure that all people have access to natural beauty and that parks should provide public access to everyone.

You will view and analyze eight photographs of people in Central Park engaged in a variety of activities. Look at each document below – click “View Document Details” to see it more closely. Answer the following questions in the blank response box that follows each photograph.

  • What people do you see in the photograph?
  • What activities do you see in the photograph?
  • What objects do you see in the photograph?
  • What season does the photograph take place?


Name:
Class:

Worksheet

Central Park: A Lasting Legacy to Frederick Law Olmsted and Democracy

Making Connections

Examine the documents and text included in this activity. Fill in any blanks in the sequence with your thoughts and write your conclusion response in the space provided.

Midsummer Evening Quilting Bee in Central Park


Enter your response

A Large Audience Has Gathered at the Schaefer Bandstand in Central Park to Hear a Concert by Singer Judy Collins


Enter your response

Boating in Central Park Lake


Enter your response

Member of the Bowling Green Bowling Club Poised for a Bowl on the Club Turf at Central Park


Enter your response

Boys Getting Some Football Instruction in Central Park


Enter your response

Girls Playing Kickball in Central Park


Enter your response

Youngsters Wade Through Fallen Redbud Petals in Central Park


Enter your response

Picnic in Central Park


Enter your response



1

Activity Element

Midsummer Evening Quilting Bee in Central Park

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2

Activity Element

A Large Audience Has Gathered at the Schaefer Bandstand in Central Park to Hear a Concert by Singer Judy Collins

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3

Activity Element

Boating in Central Park Lake

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4

Activity Element

Member of the Bowling Green Bowling Club Poised for a Bowl on the Club Turf at Central Park

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5

Activity Element

Boys Getting Some Football Instruction in Central Park

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6

Activity Element

Girls Playing Kickball in Central Park

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7

Activity Element

Youngsters Wade Through Fallen Redbud Petals in Central Park

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8

Activity Element

Picnic in Central Park

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Conclusion

Central Park: A Lasting Legacy to Frederick Law Olmsted and Democracy

Making Connections

Frederick Law Olmsted believed in the importance of parks and open spaces in a democratic community, stating that:
"It is one great purpose of the Park to supply to the hundreds of thousands of tired workers, who have no opportunity to spend their summers in the country, a specimen of God's handiwork that shall be to them, inexpensively, what a month or two in the White Mountains or the Adirondacks is, at great cost, to those in easier circumstances." Frederick Law Olmsted, The Plan for the Park (1858)

"We want a ground to which people may easily go after their day’s work is done, and where they may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets, where they shall, in effect, find the city put far away from them...Practically, what we most want is a simple, broad, open space of clean greensward, with sufficient play of surface and a sufficient number of trees about it to supply a variety of light and shade...We want depth of wood enough about it not only for comfort in hot weather, but to completely shut out the city from our landscapes." Frederick Law Olmsted, Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns (1870).

"Consider that [Central Park is] the only [place] in [New York City] where...all classes largely represented, with a common purpose...all helping to the greater happiness of each. You may thus often see vast numbers of persons brought closely together, poor and rich, young and old, Jew and Gentile. I have seen a hundred thousand thus congregated [but not a] single face completely unsympathetic with the prevailing expression of good nature and lightheartedness. Frederick Law Olmsted, Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns (1870) 
  • Do you agree with Frederick Law Olmsted's beliefs about parks? Why or why not?
  • Based on the photographs you analyzed, does Central Park reflect Frederick Law Olmsted’s beliefs? Why or why not?

  • Why do you think parks are important to your community today? Give at least three reasons.


Your Response




Document

Midsummer Evening Quilting Bee in Central Park

6/1973

Full Caption: Midsummer Evening Quilting Bee in Central Park, Sponsored by the New York Parks Administration Department of Cultural Affairs. Materials Were Provided Free, and People of All Ages Took Part in the Fun.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency.
National Archives Identifier: 551676
Full Citation: Midsummer Evening Quilting Bee in Central Park; 6/1973; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/midsummer-evening-quilting-bee-in-central-park, October 5, 2022]


Midsummer Evening Quilting Bee in Central Park

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Document

A Large Audience Has Gathered at the Schaefer Bandstand in Central Park to Hear a Concert by Singer Judy Collins

6/1973

The original caption for this photograph reads: A Large Audience Has Gathered at the Schaefer Bandstand in Central Park to Hear a Concert by Singer Judy Collins.

It was taken as part of the Documerica project, a social and environmental photography project sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency during the 1970s.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency.
National Archives Identifier: 551672
Full Citation: Photograph 412-DA-9187; A Large Audience Has Gathered at the Schaefer Bandstand in Central Park to Hear a Concert by Singer Judy Collins; 6/1973; 0064/065/03/009187; DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 - 1977; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/judy-collins-central-park, October 5, 2022]


A Large Audience Has Gathered at the Schaefer Bandstand in Central Park to Hear a Concert by Singer Judy Collins

Page 1



Document

Boating in Central Park Lake

5/1973

This photograph was taken as part of the Documerica project, a social and environmental photography project sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency during the 1970s.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency.
National Archives Identifier: 551680
Full Citation: Photograph 412-DA-9195; Boating in Central Park Lake; 5/1973; 154/15/009195; DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 - 1977; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/boating-central-park-lake, October 5, 2022]


Boating in Central Park Lake

Page 1



Document

Member of the Bowling Green Bowling Club Poised for a Bowl on the Club Turf at Central Park

10/1973

This photograph was taken as part of the Documerica project, a social and environmental photography project sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency during the 1970s.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency.
National Archives Identifier: 551758
Full Citation: Photograph 412-DA-9273; Member of the Bowling Green Bowling Club Poised for a Bowl on the Club Turf at Central Park; 10/1973; 155/33/009273; DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 - 1977; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/bowling-central-park, October 5, 2022]


Member of the Bowling Green Bowling Club Poised for a Bowl on the Club Turf at Central Park

Page 1



Document

Boys Getting Some Football Instruction in Central Park

10/1973

This photograph was taken as part of the Documerica project, a social and environmental photography project sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency during the 1970s.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency.
National Archives Identifier: 551769
Full Citation: Photograph 412-DA-9284; Boys Getting Some Football Instruction in Central Park; 10/1973; 155/44/009284; DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 - 1977; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/football-instruction-central-park, October 5, 2022]


Boys Getting Some Football Instruction in Central Park

Page 1



Document

Girls Playing Kickball in Central Park

10/1973

This photograph was taken as part of the Documerica project, a social and environmental photography project sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency during the 1970s.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency.
National Archives Identifier: 551768
Full Citation: Photograph 412-DA-9283; Girls Playing Kickball in Central Park; 10/1973; 155/43/009283; DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 - 1977; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/kickball-central-park, October 5, 2022]


Girls Playing Kickball in Central Park

Page 1



Document

Youngsters Wade Through Fallen Redbud Petals in Central Park

5/1973

This photograph was taken as part of the Documerica project, a social and environmental photography project sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency during the 1970s.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency.
National Archives Identifier: 551684
Full Citation: Photograph 412-DA-9199; Youngsters Wade Through Fallen Redbud Petals in Central Park; 5/1973; 154/19/009199; DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 - 1977; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/redbud-petals-central-park, October 5, 2022]


Youngsters Wade Through Fallen Redbud Petals in Central Park

Page 1



Document

Picnic in Central Park

5/1973

This primary source comes from the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency.
National Archives Identifier: 551682
Full Citation: Picnic in Central Park; 5/1973; DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 - 1977; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/picnic-in-central-park, October 5, 2022]


Picnic in Central Park

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