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1860 Rubstein View of New York City from the Great Hill, Central Park

View from Mount Prospect (Central Park,) Looking East.

1860 Rubstein View of New York City from the Great Hill, Central Park


Early view of what would become New York City's Central Park.



View from Mount Prospect (Central Park,) Looking East.
  1860 (undated)    6 x 14.5 in (15.24 x 36.83 cm)


This is an unusual c.1860 view looking east from Mount Prospect, Central Park, New York City. It depicts the view of Central Park and the city beyond from Mount Prospect, which would later be incorporated into Central Park as the Great Hill. In the foreground we see a couple and a child standing on what is today the Great Hill, looking toward the East River and beyond to pasture lands. A train can be seen crossing a bridge. McGowan's Pass and the Mount St. Vincent Convent - which was subsequently relocated to the Bronx, where it still exists, can be seen in the center.

In 1853 the New York State Assembly passed the historic legislation that would lead to the creation of the first planed urban recreation area in the United States - New York City's Central Park. With the grounds for the future park officially delimitated, the years that followed were marked by a struggle between city officials and the 'rapacious occupants of the cabins which deface the ground.' The lands designated for the park were, for the most part, rocky swampland, the home of some 1500 disenfranchised: former slaves, poor immigrants, vagrants, and various undesirable businesses such as 'piggeries.'

While the work of acquiring the land and displacing the current residents fell to the City Council and New York Police Department, the work of preparing the grounds fell to the radical civil engineer Egbert Ludovicus Viele. Viele, who was completing a topographical survey of New Jersey under William Kitchell, was assigned to be the first 'engineer-in-chief' of the Central Park Commission. Viele held the radical though not unfounded belief that epidemic level disease evolved from excess moisture in the soil. His topographical experience combined with his passionate advocacy for open public spaces, proper drainage, and clean air, made him the ideal force to define New York City's proposed Central Park.

By 1856, with most of the former inhabitants cleared out, Viele assembled a team to survey and define the future park. He divided the reserved lands into five sections to which he sent separate teams to survey, identifying every standing building, rock, hill, stream, valley, road, and pasture and subsequently prepared submitted his findings in his 1857 First Annual Report on the Improvement of The Central Park, New York. This view is from that a later Report of the Commissioners of the Central Park dating to c.1860. Drawn from nature by Aug. Ribstein and engraved by Ferd Mayer & Co.


Very good. Minor wear along original fold lines. Faded text. Embossed seal of Hartford State Library in top margin.
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