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See How NYC Parks Changed (or Didn't) Since the Olden Days

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Today, as Outdoors Week 2014 coverage continues, dive further into the history of New York City's parks by juxtaposing present-day photos with historic images what such landmarks used to look like. Think beloved and significant spots like the Central Park Lake, Bowling Green, and the Washington Arch, and more . Some of these images are over a century old and show that little has changed; in other before-and-after comparisons, structures have been removed entirely, transforming the landscape to what we know today. Walking through Riverside Park, for instance, few New Yorkers ever remember that they're passing right through the ghost of an early-20th century hotspot, the Claremont Inn.




[Bowling Green, 1850, via NYPL; Photo Pool/Tom Rupolo]

Bowling Green, built in 1733, is New York City's oldest public park, and is still surrounded by its original 18th century fence. The park fell into a state of disrepair in the mid-20th century, but was restored in the 1970s. The first image here, from 1850, is from right around the time the park first became public.

Some things just don't change, such as the famous Prospect Park watercourse created by Olmsted and Vaux in the mid-19th century. One of the watercourse's most picturesque features, Ambergill Falls, dissects the Ravine and looks almost the same now as it did over a century ago.




[The Litchfield mansion, Prospect Park, 1870-1890, via NYPL; Wikipedia]

Litchfield Villa, on Prospect Park West at 5th Street, was built in 1854 - 1857 by architect Alexander Jackson Davis for railroad and real estate developer Edwin Clark Litchfield. It is currently the Brooklyn borough headquarters of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and benefited from a 2008 renovation funded by an anonymous Litchfield descendant.

The Washington Arch was built in 1892 to celebrate the centennial of George Washington's inauguration as President of the United States in 1789 (only a few years late). Washington Square Park's fountain was built in 1852, replaced in 1872, and renovated and expanded in 1934 under the stewardship of Robert Moses.




[Boat-house on Central Park lake, 1901?, via NYPL; Photo Pool/mbaron85]

Calvert Vaux designed the original boathouse on Central Park Lake, a two-story Victorian, in 1872. It was replaced by an ill-fated wooden structure in 1924, and then again, in 1954, by the Loeb Boathouse that stands there today.




[Central Park Lake, via NYPL; Photo Pool/Harris Graber]

The date of this first photo of Central Park Lake is not known, although someone clever could probably narrow it down using the buildings in the background. It was taken by Norman Wurts, one of the first photographers in the city to specialize in architecture photography.




[Tompkins Square Park, 1904, via EVG; Photo Pool/nrvlowdown]

Tompkins Square Park was opened in 1850, beginning a long, fraught history. By the time this photo was taken in 1904, the park had already been the site of various protests and demonstrations against food shortages, unemployment, the draft, and unfair labor practices, which the police met with deadly force. Like so many parks, it was redesigned by Robert Moses in the mid-1940s.




[Battery Park, 1915?, via NYPL; Google Maps]

The Battery has been a popular promenade since the 17th century, if not earlier. The park there was created by landfill during the 19th century. Its most recent addition is an aquatic-themed carousel, although that's not what the construction in the above present-day picture is.




[Claremont Inn, Riverside Park at 122nd Street, via NYPL; Google Maps]

The Claremont Inn at Riverside Drive and 124th Street was built as a country estate in 1780 and became a tavern in 1860. It was quite a hotspot until the 1920s, when it was brought down by Prohibition. It made something of a recovery later on, but was actually brought down by a fire in 1951, and wasn't rebuilt. Grant's Tomb, visible through the trees in the second photo, was constructed just south of it in 1897.




[Bartow Mansion, Pelham Bay Park, 1905, via NYPL; Wikipedia]

The original Bartow Mansion in Pelham Bay Park was constructed as the Robert and Marie Lorillard Bartow House in 1654, but was replaced by the current Bartow-Pell Mansion between 1836 and 1842. Ownership passed to the city in 1888 and was leased by the International Garden Club, Inc. in 1914, after which the exterior was restored and the gardens re-landscaped. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia used it as his summer residence in 1936. It was landmarked in 1978.




[New York World's Fair, Flushing Meadow Park, 1939, via NYPL; Photo Pool/Gene]

The 1939–40 New York World's Fair on Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was the second largest American world's fair of all time, and the largest ever in New York City. Over over 44 million people flooded into the park. It's the 1964 World's Fair, pieces of which still remain, that gets most of the attention these days, however.

The High Line, of course, is one of New York City's newest parks, but the former elevated rail line on which it was built has been around since 1934.
· Outdoors Week 2014 [Curbed]