By J. Jean Robertson
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THE DETESTED JOB OF “GRUBBING” One of the most hated jobs during the early weeks and months of clearing the park was “grubbing,” removing the thick and often noxious underbrush that surrounded the plot’s foul-smelling swamps. “Grubbers” made every effort to avoid contact between their uncovered skin and the poison ivy and sumac that flourished near the park’s many bogs and marshes. One grubbing gang made a critical mistake, however, when they decided to dispose of the uprooted vines and shrubs by burning them on a huge bonfi re.
THE GREENSWARD PLAN: RE-CREATING THE RURAL EXPERIENCE IN THE CITY It is evident from their Greensward Plan that Olmsted and Vaux placed great importance on moving park visitors out of their dreary urban surroundings and into the park’s romantic “rural” environment as quickly as possible. Central Park’s primary entrance was to be situated at the southeastern corner of the long narrow rectangle of land, near the bustling intersection of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street. To shift visitors’ attention 41 42 NEW YORK CITY’S CENTRAL PARK away from the noisy thoroughfares and drab buildings that bordered the entrance, Olmsted and Vaux had the main drive into the park run diagonally into the center of the half-milewide site.
According to author Eugene Kinkead in Central Park: The Birth, Decline, and Renewal of a National Treasure, not all of the park’s residents went quietly. To convince the hangers- on to leave, Kinkead writes, “The Central Park Police was formed, consisting of a captain, three sergeants, and fi fteen men. The battle was quickly joined. ” By October 1, however, the last of Central Park’s 1,600 residents had vacated their homes; work on New York City’s great public improvement project could fi nally begin.