The Central Park Reservoir (renamed for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1994) has always inspired New Yorkers—who gaze at it, jog around it, and got their water from it between 1862 to 1993, when it was deemed obsolete.
And on a grim note, many city residents were also inspired to jump the four-foot cast-iron fence around it and commit suicide.
That original fence “was sufficient to prevent anyone from accidentally falling into the reservoir, but did not prevent self-destruction,” a March 10, 1926 New York Times piece explained it gently.
“Few months pass that police of the Arsenal Station in the park are not called upon to make a report of death by drowning in the reservoir.”
As a result of all the suicides, city officials later that year put up a 10-foot chain link fence with barbed wire at the top.
[Photo at top right, from a 1999 City Review article; undated NYPL photo, above left ]
Sure it stopped people from hurling themselves into the water. But it was also ugly.
Calls were made for it to be taken down in the 1990s, but it wasn’t until 2003 that the Parks Department replaced it with a copy of the original 1862 fence—the one encircling the Reservoir today (above photo).
Tags: 1920s New York, building Central Park, Central Park history, Central Park Reservoir, Central Park Reservoir fence, jacqueline kennedy onassis reservoir, New York landmarks, suicides in Central Park