2001-11-29 / Arts & Entertainment

PBS Special Takes Viewers On Walk Through Central Park

New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (center) dedicates the Carousel in 1950. 			New York City Parks Photo Archive.New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (center) dedicates the Carousel in 1950. New York City Parks Photo Archive.

The 843 acres that comprise Central Park have long been a peaceful oasis amid the whirlwind urban life. Friends gather for frisbee or croquet on sunny afternoons. Master storytellers mesmerize children and grown-ups alike. Rollerbladers and cyclists zip along shady paths. For birdwatchers, rock climbers, model yachters, and concertgoers, few spots in the city offer the same wide open spaces, green environs and casual, relaxed atmosphere.

In the latest installment of its Walking Tour series, A Walk Through Central Park With David Hartman And Historian Barry Lewis, Thirteen explores the unique history, characters, areas, and structures that define this cherished New York destination.

Hosted by award-winning documentary-maker David Hartman and historian Barry Lewis, the two-hour special premieres Monday, at 8 p.m. "Central park has always been a physical and spiritual hub of New York life," said Hartman, "and its long history is inextricably linked to that of the city. We hope this program will remind everyone who lives in, works in, and visits New York how remarkable and beautiful their city is."

Added Lewis, "What many don’t realize is Central Park is not just a primeval piece of nature with a wall around it - it’s a hand-crafted work of art, a masterpiece of urban planning. It was created to serve 100% of the population in a era that generally catered to the upper 10% of society. And to this day, it remains a model institution for urban parks everywhere."

Hartman and Lewis lead viewers up, down and around the park’s 51-block interior, stopping at more than three dozen points including Bethesda Fountain, one of the world’s most-photographed fountains; Harlem Meer, whose steep bluffs played a crucial role in the American Revolution; the zoo, which in 1880 acquired "Mike Crowley," the first chimpanzee ever shown in the United States; and the Obelisk, also known as Cleopatra’s Needle, the largest outdoor antiquity in the city and by far the oldest man-made object in the park.

Among the numerous other stops along this unique tour are the Claremont Riding Academy, the Terrace Bridge, Museo del Barrio, Strawberry Fields, the Reservoir, the Conservatory Garden, and Belvedere Castle. At each location, Hartman and Lewis engage in thoughtful conservations about the site’s background, sharing priceless tales from the annals of the past and painting a vivid portrait of Central Park’s evolution.

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