In 2003, New York City celebrated the “sesquicentennial” of Central Park. I put that word in quotes because this was a dubious municipal anniversary. 1853 was the year in which the city council of New York authorized the purchase of 778 acres of land, bounded by Fifth and Eighth Avenues and Fifty-ninth and One-hundred-sixth Streets, for the creation of a great metropolitan park. (The city later augmented this with an additional sixty-five acres, extending the Park to One-hundred-tenth Street.) In fact, Calvert Vaux’s and Frederick Law Olmsted’s “Greensward” plan for the Park dates from 1858, which was also the year in which the plan began to be implemented. Therefore, 2008 will be the Park’s true sesquicentennial. No matter, I suppose. New York City was in the mood to celebrate something.

Amid the celebrations, we saw all manner of exhibitions, walking tours, articles, lectures, and...

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