One of the reasons that Central Park is so beautiful is because no new buildings are permitted within its perimeters. Despite numerous proposals for restaurants and entertainment or sports venues, if they can’t be accommodated within existing structures, they are refused.
Although the original structures were built to house items as diverse as sheep, weaponry and toy boats, with the help of restoration they are still in use today, although their function may have changed.
Below is The Arsenal, which predates the construction of the Park. It was built as a munitions supply depot in 1851 and now houses the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. If you go inside, don’t miss the 1930s WPA murals in the lobby. You can even see the drawing of the original Park Plan on the third floor if you make an appointment.
This is The Dairy, which didn’t house cows, but was a source of fresh milk and snacks for children in the 19th century. It lived a brief, depressing life as a maintenance shed before restoration in the 1980s transformed it into the Park’s first visitors center.
This is the beautiful Kerbs Boathouse at the Conservatory Water, just off of Fifth Avenue at 74th Street. The original wooden boathouse, which fell apart in the 1950s, was replaced with this pretty little brick structure. It houses toy sailboats, which navigate the adjacent pond. This is where E.B. White’s mouse, Stuart Little, sailed his boat.
Although Cleopatra’s Needle isn’t a building, I’ve included it because it’s striking and unusual. Its base is held up by metal crabs, holding their arms and claws aloft. It was received as a gift from Egypt in 1881. Its sides are covered in hieroglyphics, which are sadly deteriorating from acid rain.
Throughout the Park you’ll find a handful of places to shelter from the rain, known as Rustic Shelters. They’re built to appear as if they’ve been assembled from branches and are totally charming. This one is perched on a rock outcropping just east of Fifth Avenue at 68th Street.
One of my favorite places in Central Park is the Bandshell, just south of Bethesda Terrace at 72nd Street in the middle of the park. It’s used for many events, from live opera on warm summer nights to a stage for impromptu performances. Martin Luther King gave a speech here once, and both Irving Berlin and Duke Ellington have graced its stage. You never know what’s happening at the Bandshell!
Here’s a winter shot from the other side.
I’ll finish with a shot of The Carousel, which is one of the largest carousels in the US and receives about 250,000 visitors every year. Who doesn’t love a carousel that you can ride for $3.00? This beauty is the fourth to grace the Park since 1871, two of which burned down. This 1908 treasure was found abandoned on Coney Island and transplanted here. In the picture below it’s all closed up for the day.
When it’s open, the music lures you in, along with the 57 gorgeous hand carved horses, which are considered to be outstanding examples of American folk art. One day I’ll write a post about carousel horses because they’re so beautiful!