Nestled behind the Naumberg Bandshell at one end of the Rumsay Playfield is the beautiful and rustic Wisteria Pergola. This impressive structure made of rugged old beams and lattice and is laced with thick wisteria vines which bloom pretty lavender flowers in the spring.
Designed and engineered by park designers Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, this 130 foot long 25 foot wide pergola was unlike any other on the eastern seaboard. The sheer size of the structure alarmed the rank and file pergola community, who declared Vaux and Olmstead to be “outlaws and charlatans who fly in the face of conventional garden feature design.”
Vaux, who left England years earlier to escape the oppressive rules and strict regulations of the upper-class British pergola society, loved the negative reviews his and Olmstead’s design was receiving from detractors. “European pergolists are still living in the 18th century,” Vaux announced as construction of the Wisteria Pergola began. “I told them years ago they were headed towards extinction with their refusal to accept new ideas, and they cancelled my subscription to Pergola Quarterly and revoked my membership to the London Pergola Club. They never even let me clean out my locker!”
Despite anonymous threats to scuttle the completion of Olmstead and Vaux’s maverick vision, the Wisteria Pergola was completed in 1863 without incident. Olmstead and Vaux continued to head the design team of Central Park until they were forced out in 1877 due to changes in park administration, which some believe were made possible by hefty bribes from those vengeful bastards at the Greater New York Pergola Consortium.