Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/119

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107
BOTANICAL GARDENS.

only sixty-seven acres, and has nothing like the diversity of formation that the Central Park contains.

The plan for making Central Park, like those parks, a botanical garden as well, has existed since its foundation in 1857,[1] and has come up again from time to time; a costly beginning was projected under the Tweed régime, and the foundations were laid for a large glass house, by which the little lake on the east side of the park between Seventy-third and Seventy-fourth Streets was to be roofed for the cultivation of Victoria regia and other fresh-water plants. The money that was appropriated found takers enough, but no building came out of it.

Much might be accomplished in the Central Park with its rich flora under expert and artistic administration, without great cost, if only the majority of the trees and shrubs were marked with their botanical and English names, as is done in the squares of Philadelphia, Boston, and other cities; and the people of the city might thus be put in the way of becoming acquainted with at least the native trees and bushes, and excited to some interest in botany. The daily thousands of summer visitors pass by these abundant groups of plants without any information to their names, and without any means or motive for informing themselves respecting these objects that make the park attractive and beautiful. This, however, is one of the most important purposes of the botanical gardens of our time; and the Central Park could fulfill it as well as and even better than Regent's Park and Kensington Garden and the plant-houses in Hyde Park in London.

Of the eight hundred and forty acres in the Central Park, four

  1. It may be of interest to mention here that after the once famous Hamilton Garden near Philadelphia, which was managed for three years toward the end of the last century by the famous botanist, Friedrich Pursh, New York has had the first botanical garden in North America. It was established in 1801 by Dr. David Hosack, a physician, who came to this country from Scotland, on a tract of about twenty acres, which he bought from the city. It was situated several miles north of the city at the time, on the place of the present square between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh Streets. The wooded, hilly land was cleared and laid out and surrounded by a stone wall, along which the tall forest-trees were allowed to remain. In 1806 the garden was under high cultivation, and contained over fifteen hundred species of American useful, medicinal, and ornamental plants, a good hot-house, and an audience-room for botanical teaching. In 1806 and 1807 two hot-houses were added, and a number of West Indian and European plants were put under cultivation. A catalogue printed in 1807 gave the names of two thousand species. The garden—which Dr. Hosack had named the Elgin Garden, after his Scottish home—was regularly taken care of during the following years by the owner and some wealthy lovers of plants; but was sold in 1810, for want of means to carry it on, to the State of New York, for seventy-three thousand dollars. With this, skillful direction of the garden seems to have come to an end. It was committed in turn to the Regents of the University of New York, the faculty of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and finally to Columbia College. This wealthy corporation, by an arrangement with the State Legislature in 1816, annexed the garden, which had fallen into decay, and with this the once widely known Elgin Botanical Garden, of New York, ceased to be.