When Central Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux set out to create a great public space, they dedicated an area at the south end of the Park to New York’s youngest inhabitants. What was created as the “Children’s District” has become one of the most visited parts of the Park thanks to its many delights, including the Dairy Visitor Center & Gift Shop, which once served fresh milk to nourish the City’s growing children.
Visitors on the South End Tour will see a mix of naturalistic landscapes like the Hallett Nature Sanctuary and the Pond alongside historic buildings like the Dairy.
Constructed from 1857 to 1873, Central Park is a unique and long-recognized masterpiece of landscape architecture. For Olmsted and Vaux, the Park was a “single unified work of art,” where visitors could experience varied, but seamlessly connected landscapes. Like every other work of art, the Park is entirely man-made. Its only natural feature is the metamorphic rock, called Manhattan schist, that’s approximately 450 million years old. To create the Park’s naturalistic lakes and streams, low-lying swamps were drained; to create the Park’s vast, undulating meadows, swampland was filled with soil, and rock outcrops were leveled with gunpowder; to create the Park’s three woodland areas, barren rock-strewn slopes were planted with millions of trees, shrubs, and vines.
As you walk along the Park’s paths, notice how scenery changes with the weather conditions and times of day. Come back throughout the year and marvel at the difference that seasonal foliage and vegetation bring to each carefully composed landscape—and look out for migrating birds, too!
This tour is roughly half a mile long and should take about 30 minutes to complete.