The 1850s

The 1860s

The 1870s

The 1880s

Early 20th Century

The 1920s

The 1930s

Post World War II

The 1960s

The 1970s

The 1980s

All text from:
The Park and the People

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The "Spoils of the Park"   |   Rides and Restaurants   |   The Central Park Zoo
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Rides and Restaurants
The park commissioners resisted many of the commercial enterprises that solicited a place in the park. Nevertheless, some of the barriers against those "intrusions" came down and parkgoers began to encounter new amusements that resembled the attractions of the commercial entertainment world. From the opening of the park, the board had debated how much of the marketplace to allow in. Even before the Sweeny board took power in 1870, Andrew Green (whose eye never wandered far from the bottom line) saw franchise fees as a means of raising park maintenance funds. By the end of the 1860s the board was giving out licenses to entrepreneurs to operate boats (sixty cents an hour), carriages (twenty-five cents for a ride around the park), wheelchairs (fifty cents an hour with an attendant), a goat cart on the Mall (ten cents), and a photo house that snapped and sold pictures. Plans for a children's carousel south of the 65th Street Transverse Road were carried to completion under Sweeny. [Ch1225]

Both before and after 1870 the park board tended to be more indulgent of commercial attractions in the park if children were the primary beneficiaries. The popular Carousel (ten cents), which was turned by a blind mule and a horse kept in the basement and instructed by one or two stomps on the above, boosted park attendance in 1870 and 1871. In 1874 John Lucas was granted permission to operate a donkey ride (ten cents) for children between the Bow Bridge and Vista Rock. The following year, pony rides (ten cents) were added. [Ch1226]

By the late 1860s officials allowed four permanent refreshment spots in the park: the Casino east of the Mall; a small refreshment stand under the Terrace; Mount St. Vincent (the old convent building, now converted into a restaurant); and the Mineral Springs Pavilion (located at the northwest corner of the Sheep Meadow). In 1871 the Dairy (in the lower park) was completed and temporarily turned into another eating place rather than the milk dispensary the designers had planned as the center of what came to be called the Children's District. In the early 1870s, Mount St. Vincent and the Casino were renovated and expanded, and increasingly served only the park's wealthiest visitors. Both offered easy access for carriages. An 1877 guidebook described Mount St. Vincent as "the focal point where the Drives and Bridle Roads and the Park Carriage Route terminate." This terminus was a favorite stopping point for sleighs, carriages, and riding parties and for Coaching Club excursions headed for upper Manhattan. [Ch1228]


The "Spoils of the Park"   |   Rides and Restaurants   |   The Central Park Zoo
The American Museum of Natural History   |   The Metropolitan Museum of Art