After seeing just one magical photo of Central Park in the winter (see above composite by Stephen Wilkes), we felt compelled to put together this list of 20 of the most breathtaking photos of the world’s most famous park. Though it officially opened in 1857, it was a year later that landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux beat out 32 entries to win a landscape design contest that would transform the park. They called their project the Greensward Plan.
As you may or may not know, Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the history of the United States. It is also entirely man-made. The lakes, streams and ponds were all created artificially and the only natural feature on site is exposed bedrock, called Manhattan Schist, that’s approximately 450 million years old.
The design of the park was innovative because it called for an interwoven transportation system for pedestrians, horseback riders and pleasure vehicles. Since it is only half a mile wide, the designers had to create a compact system of bridges and arches that allowed for separate levels of pathways. All in all, they envisioned it as a “unified work of landscape art.”
The duo will go down in history as the founders of the profession of landscape architecture in America. Their success even launched the urban parks movement of the 19th century. More than that, we’re sure that Olmsted and Vaux would be proud of the fact that Central Park receives an astounding 35 million visits a year, making it the number one most visited public park in the United States. As you can see from the photos below, it’s also one of the most gorgeous places to photograph.