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Home > Archive > Russell Page Archive: The Mall, Central Park

Russell Page Archive: The Mall, Central Park

In the late 1960s, Page was approached to suggest improvements for the Mall, a 19th century tree-lined promenade in the heart of New York’s Central Park. His designs, which included a coral pink fountain, were never realised as the renovation of the park did not take place until the 1970s.

  • The Mall, Central Park, Plan A

    RP/1/14/29/3

    February 1969

    105.5 x 51 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil and ink design on tracing paper dated February 1969, marked ‘A, The Mall, Central Park, New York, First Draft, scale 1/16 = 1 foot’. The plan shows Page’s design for the southern end of the Mall; it connects with RP/1/14/29/1 and RP/1/14/29/5 to show the entire scheme.

  • The Mall, Central Park, Plan B

    RP/1/14/29/1

    February [1969]

    46 x 104.5 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A dyeline design marked ‘The Mall, Central Park, New York, First Draft, Scale 1/16” = 1 foot’. Although it is dated February 1939, this is presumably an error and should read 1969. It is the middle section of the three drawings that together show the complete design for the Mall (RP/1/14/29/3 and RP/1/14/29/5 show the southern and northern ends).

  • The Mall, Central Park, Plan B

    RP/1/14/29/4

    February 1969

    51.1 x 104.3 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil and ink design on tracing paper dated February 1969, marked ‘The Mall, Central Park, New York, First Draft, scale 1/16” = 1 foot’. This is a marked-up version of RP/1/14/29/1.

  • The Mall, Central Park, Plan C

    RP/1/14/29/5

    February 1969

    75.5 x 102.5 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil and ink design on tracing paper dated February 1969, marked ‘C, The Mall, Central Park, New York, First Draft, scale 1/6” = 1 foot’. The plan shows the proposed design for the northern end of the Mall (it connects with Plan A (RP/1/14/29/3) and Plan B (RP/1/14/29/1) to show the whole site). There are notes about planting, lighting and the ground material (asphalt as elsewhere). It also includes a cross section of the suggested seating and steps.

  • The Mall, Central Park, Northern End Plan

    RP/1/14/29/6

    March 1969

    71 x 87.5 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A dyeline design dated 14 March 1969, marked ‘The Mall, Central Park, Northern End, First Draft, Scale 1/16” = 1 foot’. Like RP/1/14/29/6, the plan shows the proposed design for the northern end of the Mall. It follows the same overall design as plan C, although some of the details vary.

  • The Mall, Central Park, Fountain Design

    RP/1/14/29/7

    1969

    63 x 75.5 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil design on tracing paper dated 1969, marked ‘The Mall, Central Park, New York, scale ¼” = 1’, Sketch designs for Fountain at the South end of The Mall’. Two elevation designs for the new fountain are shown, with a written explanation: “The upper one would be in coral pink plastic, it is a simplified version of the fountain in Hieronyous van Aken’s painting ‘The Garden of Delights’ now in The Prado, Madrid.” The lower one would be made of Tennessee Marble with a star made of Perspex or gilt.

  • The Mall, Central Park, Fountain Design Redrawn

    RP/1/14/29/8

    [1969 or 1970]

    63 x 75.5 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil design on tracing paper, marked ‘Fountain redrawn at ½” is 1 foot scale, Fountain from Jardin des Délices by Jerome Bosch’. This elevation of the fountain is undated, but is likely to have been executed in 1969 or early 1970. It is possible that it is a redrawn version of RP/1/14/29/9. A handwritten note reveals that the design was traced from the Bosch painting, and scaled up accordingly.

  • The Mall, Central Park, Fountain Elevation

    RP/1/14/29/9

    February 1970

    61 x 75.5 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil design on tracing paper dated February 1970, marked, ‘Central Park, Elevation of Proposed Fountain, Scale ½” = 1 Foot, after Hieronymus Bosch’.

The Mall, Central Park, New York, New York 

1969 to 1970 

Archive of Garden Design Ref: RP/1/14/29

Page’s drawings for revitalising the Central Park Mall show the full stretch of the lengthy pedestrian promenadeThe designs built on the 19th century structure, which was lined with American elm trees. At the northern end of the thoroughfare, next to the existing Naumberg BandshellPage suggested a slightly lowered, circular flooring design with new seating, as well as a curved raised bed (see RP/1/14/29/5)These stone features would be softened by evergreen hedges and drifts of roses. The most interesting aspect of the designs, however, was for a new fountain at the southern end of the Mall (see RP/1/14/29/3)An initial drawing presents two variations: a simpler one, similar to an obelisk, to be made of marble topped with a star of either gilt or Perspex, and a more elaborate option made of coral pink plastic, envisioned as a simplified version of the fountain in Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Delights (RP/1/14/29/7). Two further drawings of the ‘Bosch’ fountain (RP/1/14/29/8 and RP/1/14/29/9) suggest this was the preferred option.  

The project remains something of a mystery. Little is known about the circumstances which led Page to submit his designs Gabriella van Zuylen states that it was at the request of Mrs Albert Lasker that he draw up the plans but gives no further details of the commission (222-223). The park, designed in the mid 19th century as a civic space by agriculturalist Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux, was, by the early 20th century in much need of restoration. Serious decline was stalled slightly while Robert Moses was Park Commissioner (from 1934 to 1960). Moses secured funding to revamp the landscaping and deal with the decaying structures. Following his departure, however, the lack of an ongoing strategy for maintaining the vast space left the park in a sorry state. It is highly probable that Mary Lasker would have recognised the need for action. She and her husband Albert had established their foundation in 1942; it primarily supported medical research but also promoted urban beautification. Among other initiatives, in the late 1960s, the Laskers gave 300,000 daffodils to Central Park. Page certainly knew Mary Lasker. It was she who, in the mid 1960s, introduced Page to Mrs Lyndon Johnson, then First Lady of the United States, who asked him to advise on landscaping schemes in Washington D.C., including for a national botanic garden (Archive of Garden Design: RP/1/14/27).  Later, in 1980, Page designed a garden for the Laskers at their home Field Point in Greenwich Connecticut (Archive of Garden Design: RP/1/14/16).  

In the event, it was not until later in the 1970s that plans to improve the park came to fruition, with the creation of a Central Park Board of Guardians, so Page’s designs were never implemented. 

Literature

Nemy, Enid. “Mary Lasker: Still Determined to Beautify the City and Nation.” New York Times, 28 April 1974, p. 62. 

van Zuylen, Gabriella and Marina Schinz. The Gardens of Russell PageFrances Lincoln Ltd, 2008.