The story of how one woman’s long love affair with New York’s Central Park led her to organize its rescue from a state of serious decline, returning it to the beautiful place of recreational opportunity and spiritual sustenance that it is today.
Elizabeth Barlow Rogers opens with a quick survey of her early life–a middle-class upbringing in Texas; college at Wellesley, marriage, a master’s degree in city planning at Yale. And then her move to New York, where she starts a family and, when she finds being a mother and a housewife is not enough, pours herself into the protection and enhancement of the city’s green spaces. Interwoven into her own story is a comprehensive history of Central Park: its design and construction as a scenic masterpiece; the alterations of each succeeding era; the addition of numerous facilities for sports and play; and finally, the “anything goes” phase of the 1960s and 70s, which was often fun but nearly destroyed the park. The two narratives continue to entwine as she finds a job in the administration of Central Park, founds the Central Park Conservancy, and transforms both the park and herself–a transformation that has led to the writing of her many books, to travels that have taken her to parks and gardens around the world, and to solidifying the prestige of one of New York’s most conspicuous landmarks.