Since being built in the mid-19th century, Central Park has become one of the most iconic places in New York City, and is said to be the most visited urban park in the United States with an estimated 38 million visitors annually. It has appeared in hundreds of films and TV shows, it's the titular location for a cartoon musical-comedy, and of course it was immortalized as the location where the Terror Dog chased poor Louis Tully.

In addition to being filled with countless statues (albeit mostly of men), monuments, sculptures and other unique geographical features, Central Park is home to more than 20,000 trees, which represent approximately 1,500 species that were planted or imported to the park over the decades.

A few years before the park was completed in 1876, landscape architect Robert Demcker prepared this map of the park and its accompanying index “Central Park, the plant list of 1873," which details all of the 642 species of hardy trees and shrubs and the 361 perennial and alpine plants present in the park at the time, as well as the 551 plants in the nursery and exotics collection.

"This breadth of cultivation and the minute planning of the plantings throughout the park were one of the key aspects of [primary designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's] vision of an urban oasis," said Ian Fowler, Geospatial Librarian at NYPL. "The result is a Central Park large enough for the entire metropolis, but designed with enough detail and variation to ensure that every New Yorker has a favorite spot to call their own." At the very least, we all have a favorite side.

For more context on the park, Lucie Levine from the Gotham Center wrote this piece on the troubled racial and class history of the park, the relevance that history has with the struggles we’re having today around those same issues, and how the park still has a role in those discussions and our lives as New Yorkers.

As part of our month-long Dear NYC series, we're looking at New York City gems hidden away at the New York Public Library. The NYPL’s four research centers offer the public access to over 55 million items, including rare books, manuscripts, letters, diaries, photographs, prints, maps, ephemera, and more. Integral to these robust collections is the Library’s extensive material related to New York City, and as NY works to come together, cope, heal and recover from the 2020 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and the many issues that divide us, it is important to look at that history and remember: New York is resilient. New York is strong. New York has seen its share of hard times. And, as always, with Patience and Fortitude (the names given to the Library’s beloved lions in 1933 by Mayor LaGuardia for the virtues New Yorkers needed to get through the Great Depression) we will get through it, together.