1868 Knapp Map of Central Park and the Upper West Side, New York City
Description: An altogether extraordinary 1868 map of New York City’s Central Park and the Upper West Side prepared and printed for inclusion in the Thirteenth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Central Park. This is an extremely rare variant on the map of Central Park that originally appeared in the 1862 Commissioner's Report. This map depicts the park as a whole and includes pathways, lakes, buildings, trees and topography. The streets and avenues surrounding the park are labeled as are the various landmarks of Central Park – Harlem Lake, The Ramble, the Mall, and several others. Also features the Old Croton Reservoir. The streets and avenues surrounding the park as well as the streets as far north as 154th street are noted.
The inclusion of the Upper West Side as far as the Hudson River and Riverside Park, another Olmstead project which is also beautifully illustrated, is particularly significant. The park commissioners recognized that the construction of Central Park would transform the Upper West Side plateau into some of the city's most valuable real estate. Though the grid structure of the Upper West Side had been laid out in the Commissioners Plan of 1811, when the present map was drawn the Upper West Side plateau was sparsely inhabited and largely given over to farms and squatter communities. The streets and avenues shown here existed only in concept, making this, in essence, the first specific map of the Manhattan's Upper West Side.
This extraordinary map reveals Central Park as conceived by the Landscape Architects, and indeed 'artists', Vaux and Olmstead. Vaux and Olmstead were awarded the task of designing Central Park in 1853 by the City Common Council. Olmstead’s vision drove the overall design while Vaux concentrated his attentions on bridges, buildings, and other structures within the park. The creation of Central Park, which was to consist of some 800 acres of public forest, pathways, promenades, lakes, bridges, and meadows, was a seminal moment in civic urban design. The park itself was designed as a whole with every tree, pond, and bench meticulously planned. Olmstead wrote: 'Every foot of the parks surface, every tree and bush, as well as every arch, roadway, and walk and been placed where it is for a purpose.'
Historian Gloria Deak writes,
There was a staggering amount of work to be done to transform the area into a blend of pastoral and woodland scenery. This involved the design and construction of roadways, tunnels, bridges, arches, stairways, fountains, benches, lamp posts, gates, fences and innumerable other artifacts. It also involved the supervision of an army of about five thousand laborers…Olmsted, to whom most of the credit goes, insisted on seeing the multidimensional project as a single work of art, which he was mandated to create. For this purpose, he ventured to assume to himself the title of 'artist.'Today, because of Vaux and Olmstead’s efforts, New York Yorkers, ourselves included, have the privilege of enjoying what is, perhaps, the finest example of a planned urban public recreation area in the world.
Date: 1868 (dated)
Source: Thirteenth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Central Park, (New York) 1868.
Cartographer: Napoleon Sarony (1821-1896), Henry B. Major and Joseph F. Knapp founded the Sarony, Major & Knapp publishing firm in 1857. The firm specialized in portraits, government reports, book illustrations, and architectural and scientific plates. Sarony, Major and Knapp remained in business for ten years finally closing its doors in 1867 when Napoleon Sarony left the firm to follow his interest in photography. In addition to their public sector business, the firm also printed most official maps of New York City, including, between 1860 and 1867, some of earliest maps of Central Park. Click here for a list of rare maps by Sarony, Major, and Knapp.
Size: Printed area measures 52 x 17 inches (132.08 x 43.18 centimeters)
Scale: 1 : 6300
Condition: Very good. Minor wear along original fold lines. Minor creasing at joint. Left margin partially extended. Professionally flattened and backed with archival tissue.
Code: CentralParkUWS-knapp-1868 (to order by phone call: 646-320-8650)