By Sara Cedar Miller
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What would New York City be without Central Park? It would be bigger, surely. There would be 843 more acres available to support more iron and more steel, more brick and mortar, more cement and concrete, and most certainly, more stress and anxiety. Happily, the Park exists today as a living and breathing work of art thanks to the vision and creativity of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Central Park is humongous and I must admit that I have only scratched the surface when it comes to discovering the many layers of its’ beauty.
In “Seeing Central Park,” Sara Cedar Miller, dissects the Park into five sections, beginning at the South end. Statues, sculptures, buildings, ponds, ball fields and the like are all beautifully photographed in the guide. The author provides a brief history of each work of art and each attraction, then, pinpoints its’ location on the map.
For me, the Guide is not just enlightening as to the origins of all the wonderful things I’ve seen in the Park, it is a roadmap to all of the things I’ve managed to miss over the years. For instance, there is a sculpture of an Alaskan Husky, named Balto, in the Park. Balto’s claim to fame is that he successfully led a team of dogsledders and their mushers into the town of Nome, Alaska in the early winter of 1925. On board the sled was a much needed diphtheria anti-toxin serum. Balto saved the day and thus earned an honorary statue of himself in Central Park. History testifies to the fact that Balto was the only living creature in Central Park history who ever attended the unveiling of his own statue. He was there, not in the flesh but in the fur. As the story goes, Balto was less than impressed with all of the speechifying that accompanied the unveiling of his likeness. He apparently paid no attention what-so-ever to any of the dignitaries in attendance and he was even accused of picking a fight with another dog.
Atta boy, Balto! At least he didn’t confuse the statue of himself with a fire hydrant.
According to my handy guide to Central Park, Balto can be found on the East side of the Park, between 66th and 67th Streets. Go give him a nice scritch between his ears.