Jewel of Manhattan: LIFE in Central Park, Summer 1961

Dancers in Central Park, 1961.
Leonard McCombe—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Dancers in Central Park, 1961.

New York’s Central Park has been around, in various incarnations, for roughly 150 years. In that time it has been hailed as a masterpiece of landscape design; has served as a punchline in jokes about muggings and violent crime; provided the setting for key scenes in countless books, plays and movies; and remains, for New Yorkers and for millions of visitors to Gotham every single year, one of the world’s great urban wonders — 800 acres of tree-lined paths, public plazas, open fields, gardens, ponds, lakes, bridges, performance spaces, a castle on a hill, arguably the world’s greatest museum and a small, quite charming zoo.

Here, on the birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted — the father of American landscape architecture and the man who, with his senior partner, Calvert Vaux, designed and brought Central Park into being — celebrates Olmsted’s best-loved and most-frequented creation with a series of photos from 1961.

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