Looking south over Cherry Hill c. 1870. The Bethesda Terrace is at far left; the Bow Bridge at far right. The greatest park in the World was no mean feat. It’s not like they just built around it and left it alone. In fact, it was probably the greatest act of landscaping in the history. More gunpowder was used to excavate it than in the entire battle of Gettysburg. 270,000 trees and shrubs were planted and 6 million bricks were laid by 20,000 workers over the course of 10 years. The total cost of $10 million was more than 3 times the city’s annual budget in 1860.
But New Yorkers got immediate use out of it. Shortly after opening the Mall in 1859, thousands came out to practice the new sport of the day: Ice-skating. Here they are by moonlight in front of the Bethesda Terrace.