• Elm Park, in Worcester, Massachusetts, early 1900s. The park, purchased in 1854 using public funds, is recognized as one of the first purchases of land for a public park in the US, and was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

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    Lake in Elm Park, Worcester, Mass
    • Date
    • 1898 - 1931
    • Description
    • First appearance of 'Phostint' tradename.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/
    • Partner
    • The New York Public Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection. The New York Public Library

  • Huntington Falls is one of two artificial waterfalls in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California. Created in the early 1900s, it tumbles over sculpted rocks into man-made Stow Lake. Golden Gate Park was originally an expanse of sand and shore dunes. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

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    Huntington Falls, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif
    • Date
    • 1898 - 1931
    • Description
    • Last series bearing Detroit Photographic Company imprint.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/
    • Partner
    • The New York Public Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection. The New York Public Library

  • A note on the back of a stereoscope image of flower beds and a greenhouse in Chicago's Lincoln Park: "The great beauty of Lincoln Park is not due to original gifts of nature, as is the case with nearly all other famous parks of the world, but is essentially artificial and is a triumph of man's skill over adverse natural conditions." Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

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    Flower beds and Greenhouse, Lincoln Park, Chicago, Ill. U.S.A
    • Creator
    • Keystone View Company.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/
    • Partner
    • The New York Public Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection. The New York Public Library

Many of the early public parks were built in burgeoning cities as a means of dealing with the pressures of urbanization and industrialization. Land was already becoming scarce and expensive and the expanses affordable and available for park development were often not attractive for other uses—swamps, marshes, ravines, and the like. Not naturally picturesque, they required manipulation to become the scenic pastoral settings toward which early park planners strove.

Planners would manipulate the existing environment to create more pleasing settings, doing things like dredging marshes and swamps to create lakes or grading the land to create rolling meadows. In New York's Central Park, more gunpowder was used blasting rocky ridges to change the topography than was later used in the entire Battle of Gettysburg.

The eventual effect of the picturesque landscape, secluded walks, and sheltering trees and shrubs was to stand in contrast with the bustling, crowded city from which the park was to provide respite.