June 24, 2016

THE PARKS: An Introduction

First in a series of posts about the two parks that define Tudor City. Here's a bullet-point history:

✴ The two private parks are integral to Fred French's original plan for the complex, though some say he initially considers them placeholders for future development. He soon recognizes their unique worth, and they remain parks - and advertising fodder ‒ thereafter.

✴North Park opens in 1927, concurrent with the arrival of No. 45 and the Manor. Around the same time, the southern park debuts as an 18-hole miniature golf course, but when the putt-putt craze abates, it becomes the South Park in 1930.

✴Starting in 1948, the construction of the U.N. greatly impacts the neighborhood. The parks' width is narrowed by 22 feet when Prospect Place is widened (and renamed Tudor City Place). The original iron fencing and English-style garden furniture are removed, and a rustic split-rail fence installed.

✴In the 1950s, two public playgrounds open, also part of the overall neighborhood upgrade via the U.N.

✴The parks have a brush with demolition in the 1980s, when developer Harry Helmsley announces plans to replace them with skyscrapers. After a lengthy court battle, the courts rule them an "essential service" of the neighborhood and Helmsley retreats.

✴The parks are landmarked as part of the Tudor City Historic District in 1988. Under the auspices of the Trust for Public Land, today they're owned and managed by Tudor City Greens, a non-profit organization.

Above, the North Park, circa 1930, when it was more lawn than park. There's a fountain in the oval gravel walkway leading to a vine-covered pergola outfitted with wooden benches.View looks south along Tudor City Place. The cobblestone street adds some rusticity, and parking doesn't seem to be a problem.

South Park, 1942. Originally the site of a much-ballyhooed mini-golf course, it reverted to a park/lawn similar to its northern cousin in 1930. View faces east (the entrance to No. 25, Tudor Tower, at upper right). The gazebo and pitched-roof gatehouse are in keeping with the park's English-style landscaping.

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