Introduction

Central Park’s first permanent, equipment-filled playground was not built until 1926. When the Park was built in the mid-nineteenth century, such places did not exist. Similar to “recreation,” the word “playground” had much broader connotations during the nineteenth century, meaning literally “a ground for play.” In its early days, Central Park was often referred to as a “rural playground” or a “people’s playground” to emphasize its purpose as a place for recreation, for all urban citizens, in a more natural setting (image 1). As play was the opposite of work and the other realities of urban life, the landscape was intended to serve as a complete contrast to the city. The entire Park, with its unified design for this primary purpose, was a playground.