I attend the garden and forest book club at the Central Park Arsenal. In addition to gardens and forests, the chosen books are about nature and ecology. My ignorance is profound so each book introduces me to a new world. Some of the recent ones have been Heinrich’s The Trees in my Forest, Rhodes’s John James Audubon: The Making of an American and Marris’s Rambunctious Garden.
The Arsenal, built between 1847 and 1851, predates Central Park. Originally, it was a munitions supply depot before it became part of the park. Very lady-like guns decorate the central stairway. On its walls are 1930 WPA murals and on the third floor, until recently, was the drawing that won Frederick Law Olmstead the contest to design the park. Known as the Greensward Plan it was the original plan created by Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. It was chosen by the Central Park Commissioners in 1858.
Breathing a sigh of relief once the elevator has heaved itself to the book club on the third floor, I go through the Arsenal Gallery which usually features photography and art that emphasizes the environment, urban topics and the history of the Park. There are interesting and off beat talks such as the one I attended about dying cemeteries in Staten Island.