Morningside Park, New York NY #00503
Type:Parks, Parkways & Recreation Areas
Olmsted and Vaux, having recently separated as professional partners, presented their first proposal for the improvement of Morningside Park in 1873. While elements of the plan were adopted, the estimated costs of $800,000 were too expensive and financial setbacks halted construction. It was not until 1887, when Olmsted & Vaux were hired to present a proposal for the second time
Olmsted and Vaux, having recently separated as professional partners, presented their first proposal for the improvement of Morningside Park in 1873. While elements of the plan were adopted, the estimated costs of $800,000 were too expensive and financial setbacks halted construction. It was not until 1887, when Olmsted & Vaux were hired to present a proposal for the second time, that the Park Commissioners officially accepted and implemented their revised plans.
Only a block away from the northwest corner of Central Park, Olmsted wanted the entrance of its neighbor to be “a scene strikingly interesting in character” as to “not produce the effect of a small weak pendant of the older and more important ground”. Throughout their involvement with the project, they faced several limitations due to the park's geography, which consisted of 30 acres of steep uneven terrain caused by Manhattan schist bedrock. To highlight the dramatic shifts in elevation, the 1873 proposal recommended a western stone retaining wall with balconies and stairways overlooking the Harlem flats, and a total of 14 entrances from the surrounding 20-foot wide mall. Construction of Olmsted and Vaux’s retaining wall along Morningside Avenue progressed slowly and the Department of Public Works hired architect Jacob Wrey Mould and Julius Munckwitz, in 1880 and 1883 respectively, to oversee the final designs of the overlooks and octagonal alcoves. Jacob Wrey Mould had been an assistant architect in Olmsted, Vaux & Co when the firm worked on Central Park.
As few improvements had been accomplished in the prior decade, Olmsted and Vaux joined together again 14 years later, with a revised plan that considered the evolution of the neighborhood and proximity to a newly established railroad. Morningside Avenue was widened and construction of three western bays made of granite and bluestone, were approved with the understanding that they would match the style of work already completed. Focused on the park’s internal design, in this simpler amended plan they described the need for "a more than liberal...use of variety of plants" to refresh the rocky property, and emphasized outward looking views by selecting trees where "except at occasional points, none shall grow to a height at which they will hide the horizon." Construction of the park was finished in 1895. [FLO to SHWales_1873-10-11_Papers of FLO-v.6-p.654] [General Plan for the Improvement of Morningside Park_FLO&CVaux_1887-10-01_p.9_HTDL]
To view plans, documents, & images
|Job fIle (LOC)
|General Correspondence (LOC)
|Morningside Park Designation Report
|General plan for the Improvement of Morningside Park_1887