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Department of Parks, 1850-1960 


Original plans for Central Park and 80 other New York City parks, 1850-1934; Department of Parks central files, 1934-1960; Correspondence of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, 1934-1959. 

The Drawings:
Central Park is often described as the crown jewel of the New York City park system. And the original drawings of the park are certainly some of the most visually appealing items in the Archives.

Central Park Terrace Ornamental PanelCentral Park Terrace Ornamental Panel

Central Park Terrace at North End Mall, Detail of Ornamental Panel in Niches under arcade. Collection: Central Park Drawings

Central Park Terrace at North End of Mall, Detail of Ornamental Panel in Niches under arcade. Collection: Central Park Drawings

More than 1,500 drawings pertaining to Central Park during the critical stage of its design and construction from 1850 to 1880, are housed in the Archives. Park designers Olmsted and Vaux and well-represented. The collection includes renderings of everything from landmark structures like the Boathouse, Belvedere Castle, and Bethesda Terrace to a three-level circulation pattern for people, horses, and vehicles, and a complete underground drainage system.

The collection also contains drawings for 61 other parks throughout the city including the original drawings of Riverside Park, the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the only extant pre-1934 drawings relating to City Hall Park, and Gracie Mansion. Among this group are drawings by McKim, Mead and White for Washington Arch in Washington Square Park and New York Public Library facade drawings for Bryant Park by Thomas Hastings of Carerre and Hastings.

Parks Commissioner and General Files:
The manuscript records of the Parks Department include Office of the Parks Commissioner, 1940-1975, and General Files of the Department of Parks, 1934-1959. The Parks Commissioner series includes the correspondence of New York's legendary planner and builder, Robert Moses. This series totals 65 cubic feet and spans the years 1940 through 1975. The material pertaining to Robert Moses dates from 1940 through 1956, and totals 43 cubic feet. The General Files of the Department of Parks totals 740 cubic feet and consists of carbons or originals of incoming and outgoing correspondence, memoranda, transcripts, reports, contracts, news clippings, maps, blueprints, plans, printed materials, photographs, and a few architectural drawings concerning virtually every component of the Department's administrative actions from 1934 through 1966. The General File is divided into two subseries: Administration Files and Borough Files. The Administration Files date from 1934 through1966 and total 331 cubic feet. The Borough Files, range from 1934 to 1966 and total 409 cubic feet.

COLLECTION STATUS:

There is an item-level catalog of the drawings collection.   Selected drawings have been scanned and are available for viewing in the Archives on-line gallery.  The Robert Moses Commissioner series has been microfilmed in its entirety; and selected folders from the General Files series have been microfilmed with assistance from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Brooklyn Borough series from the General Files have also been microfilmed in their entirety. There is a folder-level inventory of the Commissioner and General File series.