Morningside Park, NYC

Morningside Park, NYC

Situated just off the northwest corner of Central Park are 30 acres of rocky but pastoral woodland that became a park due, in part, to the fact that city planners in the late 1860s considered street construction through these geological formations too difficult an undertaking. The Board of Commissions for Public Parks rejected two original design plans, including one from the famous team of Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, in 1873. Ultimately, architect Jacob Wrey Mould’s reworking of the Olmstead and Vaux plan was put into motion in 1883, but Mould died in 1886 before the park construction was complete. The city rehired Olmstead and Vaux in 1887 to continue Mold’s plan. Original construction was completed in 1895.

The Park still retains much of Mould’s intentions to create wandering pathways, esplanades, passages along rock faces, and small, elegant bodies of water. Park managers added numerous monuments in the early 20th century, including the famous Seligman Fountain, by Edgar Walter, and Lafayette and Washington, by FrÈdÈric-Auguste Bartholdi. The Parks Commission under Robert Moses installed ballfields and basketball courts in the 1940s and 1950s.

In 1981, a group of Columbia University students, led by Tom Kiel, organized to resist Park Commission plans that would have altered significant portions of Riverside's original design. This effort led to the creation of The Friends of Morningside Park, in 1982, and the all-volunteer community group continues to work to propose and oversee preservation and rehabilitation projects within the park. The Friends also organize various public events and festivals, including an annual fundraiser and Earth Day celebration.

As part of the MillionTreesNYC program, park managers planted a 20-foot Giant Sequoia in the park, in the spring of 2009. This planting should be followed by the introduction of other species to create the Morningside “pinetum,” a collection of pinetrees.

Stretching from West 110th to West 123rd St., between Morningside Drive and Morningside Avenue, the park now features four playgrounds, a dog run and specially designated “off leash” areas, handball, basketball, and volleyball courts, and two Little League Fields. There are also two recreation centers within Morningside Park.

Related Articles