Who named the gates of Central Park?

When Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were just about done building Central Park in the early 1860s, there was one more thing to consider: the entrances.

While rich New Yorkers desired grand, ornate gates like in the urban parks in London and Paris, Olmsted and Vaux opted for low sandstone openings—symbolizing an accessible city refuge that would be open to all.

They chose names for the 20 planned entrances that referenced who would use the park, reports an 1864 Harper’s article:

“The first broad generalization will be something like this: Artisan, Artist, Merchant, Scholar. Descending to subdivision of these heads we shall have Cultivator or Agriculturalist, Hunter, Fisherman, Woodman, Minor, Mariner, Warrior, Engineer, Inventor, Explorer.”

Actually almost all did end up as official names, though most weren’t carved into the sandstone entrances until the 1990s.

Women’s Gate is at 72nd Street and Central Park West; Scholars’ Gate at Fifth Avenue and 60th Street. A complete list is here.

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14 Responses to “Who named the gates of Central Park?”

  1. Cully Says:

    Having put quite a bit of study into this there are some interesting misunderstandings about the Gates out there. The Greensward Map, published and sold by the Greensward Foundation, has a few of the gates misplaced or misnamed, calling the Gate of All Saints the Prophets Gate, and adding the entirely fictitious Students Gate. Several places online list the entrance to the Conservatory Garden as the Vanderbilt Gate, though there is no sign for it, and I can find no evidence of it ever being called that. A commemorative booklet quoting Olmstead’s reasoning behind each occupation, published and distributed in 1926 by the Central Park Association calls the Warriors Gate the Army and Navy Gate. My personal favorite is the press release for Christo’s “Gates” instillation refers to the gates and names an Emigrants Gate and an Explorers Gate, neither of which exist.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks! My favorite gate is Strangers Gate at 106th Street and CPW. It sounds so ominous today, but in the 1860s, perhaps it referred to non-New Yorkers.

  3. chas1133 Says:

    or bodes of those things to come!

  4. Cully Says:

    Olmstead: “The city, although metropolitan by position, is cosmopolitan in its associations and sympathies, and is ever ready to extend a courteous welcome to all peaceably disposed “Strangers” or “Foreigners” who may be led by inclination or business to spend their time within its boundaries; this welcome being offered, however, not merely a matter or courtesy but as a recognition of that fact that it is highly important, both to the general and particular interests of the whole nation, that its cities should be visited, and its institutions studied and comprehended by intelligent and industrious travelers from other countries, for by such means only can unworthy prejudices be removed, and incorrect estimates rectified.”

    Quoted in the 1926 pamphlet I mentioned above, originally taken from the 1866 Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Central Park. The pamphlet erroneously places the Strangers Gate at 110 and Eighth Ave.

  5. wildnewyork Says:

    Interesting, thanks for posting.

  6. Ruth Edebohls Says:

    Great post – I love your site. Always so much great information and great illustrations. Hate to nitpick, but it’s Olmsted, not Olmstead (a very common mistake).

  7. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks! I’ll change the text.

  8. Quid plura? | "...in our defense, silence." Says:

    [...] Ephemeral New York spots “subway mosaics that supply a little history” and answers the question, “Who named the gates of Central Park?” [...]

  9. Michael Miscione Says:

    First of all, Olmsted and Vaux were nowhere “just about done building Central Park in the early 1860s.” Secondly, Frederick Law Olmsted did not — I repeat, DID NOT — name the gates of the park. This article and the worshipful comments that follow are yet another example of how people blindly attribute everything in the park to Olmsted. The names were chosen by a committee, consisting of three members of the Central Park Commission: H.G. Stebbins, C.H. Russell, and Andrew H. Green. They also authored the quote that Cully wrongly attributes to Olmsted (you will find it in the 1861 — not 1866 — Central Park Annual Report, on page 132). Once again, Andrew H. Green, the real driving force behind the creation of the park, gets forgotten by the “Cult of Olmsted.” ~ Michael Miscione, the Manhattan Borough Historian

  10. Michael Miscione Says:

    A clarification to a cite in my above post is in order. The quote came from the Fifth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Central Park. It mostly concerned the work that took place in 1861, but it was published in 1862.

  11. Altair Says:

    odd names

  12. Kevin C Says:

    On the subject of the gates, when was the Hunter’s Gate and the transverse road relocated from 79th Street to 81st street?

    (and when was Naturalist’s Gate named?)

    • Kevin C Says:

      I found a partial answer to my question: the entrance to the drive at 77th and the diversion of the transverse road to 81st Streets was completed in October and November 1882, as part of the development of the Museum of Natural History and Manhattan Square. Prior to 1882, the #2 transverse road came out at 79th. [the New York Times reported the completion 1 October 1882].

  13. Enter Here: The Gates of Central Park | nyrealestated Says:

    […] but names were assigned to many of the entrances around the park. In a comment on an article at Ephemeral New York, Manhattan borough historian (which sounds like a great job) Michael Miscione says that the names […]

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