Completed in 1876, smack in the middle of Manhattan, Central Park extends from 59th to 110th streets, and provides residents (and street-weary visitors) with a much-needed refuge from big-city life. The poet and newspaper editor William Cullen Bryant had the idea for an open public space in 1844 and spent seven years trying to persuade City Hall to carry it out. Eventually, 840 desolate and swampy acres north of the city limits were set aside. The two architects commissioned to design the landscape, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, planned a complete illusion of the countryside in the heart of Manhattan – even then growing at a fantastic rate. Despite changes in and around the park, the sense of captured nature largely survives. For general park information, call t 212/310-6600, or visit w www.centralparknyc.org.