Sunday, May 9, 2010

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

Some of my favorite things are things that just make sense, when the overall composition fits together to create this harmonious juxtaposition. The good, the bad, the ugly all working together, oh it just makes me smile.  I know what you are thinking sometimes things that don't make sense are wonderful and I am sure I will write something later that agrees.  But that is another post and not this one. This one is because I have been thinking about my favorite places and circumstances that created some of my favorite places. It is no surprise that NYC tops this list.   These little five boroughs have such a great history of doing great things while at the same time making some big mistakes - but we wont say that too loud.  Like every great city when they nail the good ones they really nail them.  Take Central Park, what a great story of taking something that use to not be the place to go (unless of course you were a squatter and needed some place to sleep)

I mean can you even picture all of the shacks inside what you know now as one of the most filmed and photographed park.  Some how someone had the vision to turn it into one of the most famous parks of all time, and the first landscaped parks in the country. 

Then again when you have Olmsted & Vaux working together it was only a matter of of time before it became a National Historic Landmark.   Now granted many people lost their homes to create this park and emanate domain was used and we all know those words are just plain evil, like nails on a chalk board evil.  It happened we wrote it down in history and we hope that people realize the wrongs and think before they build and see how to get the same results with less damage.  At least that is what  happens in my perfect world, so shh just let me believe in that dream for a moment.

When I lived in NYC and need to just walk back into my dream world I would head to the park. More importantly, I would head to CPW (Central Park West) and to quote the NYT architecture critic Paul Goldberger when talking about the buildings in that make up CPW  they"fit together the same way the ones in that hypothetical Main Street do, and for the same reason. For more than a hundred years, their architects honor the unspoken agreement to work together, to line their buildings up with each other and to work in a consistent scale with materials that are compatible." Now tell me that doesn't bring you the warm and fuzzies!  I know I drank the potion and fallen down the rabbit hole. Just please give me a Mad Hatter before a Jabberwocky.

Now I realize that Alice is really in CPE but you have to walk through CPW and find her wonderland and its all about the journey to get you to where you need to go, so just go with me here

The thing about fairy-tales and picture perfect getaway's is what happens when you leave.  Can you ever find your second perfect getaway.  When I moved to Denver everyone told me that I would find this place again is Washington Park (aka Wash Park) and you know they are most likely right if we are doing apples to apples of Central Park and Wash Park. I wont get into that whole comparison today. Here are a few things I have heard.
  • There is a difference between Wash Park and Wash Park East (hello Central Park East and West)
  • It has a boat house (I don't think it is a restaurant)
  • It was designed between 1899 and 1908 (CP opened in 1859)
  • Olmsted Jr. has his own contribution to the Park (check) 
  • Its a big rectangle (Check) 
  • Some even say in the summer it feels like Central Park ( Concerts in the park? I am pretty sure there are movies)
Although I have to just take these good folks word cause I have not really hung out there much.  Plus I am not really sure that I can lay in the park and see the skyline, and that was one of my favorite things. Will have to check that in this summer and get back to you on that one.

However, I have found my current Central Park replacement here in Denver, just in a little different format, Commons Park.  Now Commons Park is no where near as old as Central Park.  I mean Central Park opened in 1859, Commons Park around 2000.  So we have years of history and development that brought us this park.  Just to fill in a little perspective, Commons Park is located in what is known as the Central Platte Valley District.  It is at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. So if you are an ocean girl living in a landlocked state and you need to see a running currant of water this is where you go. This is also known as the city's birthplace in 1858. Yep you read that right when NYC was using eminent domain to build Central Park,  Denver was being born.  The other day I looked into how my possible CP replacement came about.  This park
use to look like this
Yep that would be an electrical substation there since the 1950s.  How did this would be brownfield become a strong option for my new favorite space.  There are many people that have written about the whole redevelopment of this area and they will so a much better job then I will, but the skinny.  It was a great public/private partnership that was years in the making.  School children donated penny's,  the whole town came together, architects, landscape architects, city planners, artist, you name it they pitched in their time, talents,  and energy to bring this area back to life.  When something has that much love in it the energy of the place is always amazing.  If you love a good urban redevelopment story I highly recommend reading more about this park in two locations:
1)  Landscapeonline  - these guys are the landscape architects and they will take you through a history and all the amazing local plants thy used and break down why they did what they did, plus they have great pictures
2) Commons Park is not just a park there are great buildings that surround it and the neighborhood butts up to Union Station (then Grand Central smaller scale and out west) and that area is currently working on their redevelopment. To learn more about the buildings and Union Station check out DenverInfill.

For now I am going to leave you with some of my own pictures of the park.
This is one of the bridges that takes you into the park
Yep that is a guy surfing with a rope tied to the bridge above. Not sure if that is really called surfing anymore
That white tower on the left is Six Flags, yep a Six Flags downtown

So get out there and enjoy your local park and next time you do give a little thanks to the people that made it happen. Cause sometimes it does take a village. 


* so all the wonderful Central Park photos came from the folks at and the overview shots of Commons Park come from Landscapeonline check both of them out for more information.


  1. Sigh... riverfront. I love seeing pictures of Central Park during the Depression, etc and thinking about all those shanty towns shacks. I mean shanty towns are bad but it's interesting to imagine... you know what I mean. ; )

  2. I was commenting to DMagee the other day about how lucky Melbournians are to have so many wonderful large parks and green belts. Proactive planners here who understand the value of a stroll in the park and being able to bike to work from the suburbs.

    The only down side is that you have to particularly careful in the Spring. Many bike / canoe / blade / dog etc accidents are caused by the newly arrived Poms and Canooks, who think that 15C is warm, and half nakedly bathe in the sun, exposing their florescent white limbs and blinding Australian eyes. Bring sunnies.