The park was established in 1857 on 778 acres (315 ha) of land acquired by the city. In 1858, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and architect/landscape designer Calvert Vaux won a design competition to improve and expand the park with a plan they titled the "Greensward Plan". Construction began the same year, and the park's first area was opened to the public in the winter of 1858. Construction north of the park continued during the American Civil War in the 1860s, and the park was expanded to its current size in 1873. After a period of decline in the early 20th century, Robert Moses started a program to clean up Central Park. Another decline in the late 20th century spurred the creation of the Central Park Conservancy in 1980, which refurbished many parts of the park during the 1980s and 1990s.
Central Park was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1963, which in April 2017 placed it on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage sites. The park, managed for decades by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, is currently managed by the Central Park Conservancy under contract with the municipal government in a public-private partnership. The Conservancy is a non-profit organization that contributes 75 percent of Central Park's $65 million annual budget and is responsible for all basic care of the 843-acre park.
The park first appeared in the opening stage, complete with its Hooverville (a shanty village made for hobos and street-urchins, and were common at the time) and the Central-Park-Zoo.
Later Kong and Ann Darrow visited the park, where they played on a frozen pond for a bit until the army found them.