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Gilded Age Landscape Design of "the First Theme Park in the Country".
Superb chromolithograph landscape design map, showing the layout for Starin's Glen Island in Long Island Sound, off New Rochelle. The print is the work of Franz Xaver Heissinger, a renowned German landscape architect who spent the latter half of his career working on major Gilded Age products.
The plan features five islands, altogether one park linked by bridges and a ferry. The islands have pavilions, fountains, winding paths, and gardens brought together in a highly-designed and heavily-manicured master plan.
The print itself is reflective of the maximalist arcadian design of the park it depicts; the central image is surrounded by 13 inset architectural profiles framed with a repeat botanical design.
Starin's Glen Island
Heissinger's design deserves recognition for its role in the development of a very American institution, the theme park. In Westchester: the American Suburb, Starin's Glen Island is referred to as "Disneyworld on the Sound": The Wikipedia entry for the park underlines that it was the first theme park in the country:
Starin's Glen Island was a summer resort in the community of New Rochelle in Westchester County, New York, developed by shipping magnate and U.S. Congressman John H. Starin in the late 1800s. Starin's resort, referred to as "America's pleasure grounds" and "Disneyworld on the Sound", was the first theme park in the country. The park's original design exhibited the five cultures of the western world on individual islands linked together with piers and causeways. The extreme popularity of the park resulted in a building boom in New Rochelle in the first decade of the twentieth century.'
As other similar parks were being built around the same time, it's unclear that Starin's Glen Island was definitively the earliest theme park in the nation. But regardless of who can claim that title, the present plan is among the earliest layouts of the theme park type.
Franz Xaver Heissinger was a landscape architect who began his career in Munich. He seems to have been active in Switzerland planning parks and gardens in the Luzern area in the mid-1860s.
By 1873, he was commissioned to design a plan for the new city of Helvetia (Schweizer-Siedlung) and also exhibited his plans at the Vienna Exhibition in 1873.
He would later move to New York, where he designed a number of hotel gardens, parks, and similar installations.
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