1902 Encyclopedia > New York City > Parks, Museums and Galleries.

New York City
(Part 13)

Parks, Museums and Galleries.

The city is well supplied with parks and public gardens. There are in all thirty of these, including small open squares. The principal are the Battery, at the southernmost point of Manhattan island, containing 21 acres; the City-Hall Park, containing 6; Washington Square, 8; Union Square 3 _; Tompkins Square, 10 _; Madison Square, 6 _ Reservoir Square, 4 _; Mount Morris Square, 20. The chief is, however, the Central Park, lying nearly in the center of the island, containing 843 acres; it is 2 _ miles long by half a mile wide. It was laid out in 1858, and is considered a masterpiece of landscape gardening. It contains the building of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, immediately in front of which stands the obelisk brought in 1880 from Alexandria. Outside the Central Park, but within Manhattan Square, a small addition recently made to it on the west side, stands also the American Museum of Natural History, which like the Museum of Art, is the property of a private corporation.

The National Academy of Design, situated at Fourth Avenue and Twenty-Third Street, has a frontage of 80 feet and a depth of 98 feet 9 inches. The exterior is Venetian; the material used is grey and white marble and blue stone. The first and second stories contain offices, lecture-rooms, and rooms for art schools. On the third are large exhibition rooms, lighted from above. Every year one exhibition of oil paintings and one of water colors are given, and in later years supplementary exhibitions have been added. The art schools are free, and are open to both sexes.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was chartered by the legislature in 1870. It is managed by a board of officers, comprising the comptroller of the city, the president of the department of public parks, the president of the National Academy of Design, and certain private citizens who are members of its corporation. The museums building, opened in 1880, was erected by the park department, at a cost of about $500,000 and is situated in the Central Park, near Fifth Avenue and Eighty-Third Street. It measures 218 by 95 feet. The material is red brick with sandstone trimmings. Among its valuable possessions are the Blodgett collection of pictures, the Cesnola collection of articles taken from the Cypriote cities and tombs, two paintings by Rubens, two by Van Dyck, and many other works of eminent masters. The museum is open to the public free, on Wednesday, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. On the other days an admission fee of 25 cents is charged.

The American Museum of Natural History was incorporated by the legislature in 1869, and its present building was opened in 1877. It is situated in Manhattan Square. The exterior is of red brick with yellow sandstone trimmings. It is four stories high, and each of its halls measures 170 feet in length by 60 in width. It is governed by a board of twenty-five trustees. The building was erected by the park department, which has charge of it and the surrounding grounds. It is open free. Among its possession are the Veneaux collection of natural history specimens, the museum of Prince maximilian of Neuwied, the Elliot collection of the birds of North America, the Jay collection of shells, the James Hall collection of geological specimens of New York State, the Bement specimens of the Stones Age of Denmark, the De Morgan collection of stone implements from the valley of the Somme in France, and the Squire and Davis collection from the Mississippi valley.

The Cooper Institute, or "Union for the Advancement of Science and Art," occupies a huge brown stone building at the junction of Third and Fourth Avenues, the gift of Peter Cooper, who erected it in 1857 at a cost of over $600,000, and further endowed the union with $200,000 for the support of a library, reading-room, and school of science and art, all of which are free, and were largely attended by young men and young women of the working classes. Its evening schools are attended by over 3000 students annually, and in the women’s art school instruction is given gratuitously to 350 pupils yearly. The library contains 15,000 volumes, a notable feature being a complete and fully indexed set of the reports of the United States patent office. The reading-room is supplied with about 300 periodicals and newspapers, and is frequented daily by over 2500 readers. No one instrumentality is doing more than the Cooper Union for the instruction of the working classes in the city.

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