Below is a 1920 photograph of Cleopatra’s Needle, the nickname for the 68-foot ancient Egyptian obelisk that has stood off of about East 80th Street in Central Park since 1881.
Turns out it was offered to the United States in 1869 as a gift from an Egyptian leader who wanted to cultivate trade between the two nations. It’s part of a pair; the other obelisk was given to London.
The US-bound obelisk stayed in Egypt until railroad titan and New Yorker William K. Vanderbilt put up the dough to bring it across the Atlantic and assemble it in Central Park.
That was a delicate task. The granite monument weighed almost 250 tons. It took 32 horses to move just the pedestal from the Hudson River pier to Fifth Avenue. A special trestle had to be built to bring it from Fifth Avenue to the park.
And despite it’s name, it has nothing to do with Cleopatra. The obelisk was built more than 3,000 years ago, predating her existence.
Here’s Cleopatra’s Needle in Alexandria, Egypt, before being shipped to Central Park. It may be the oldest object in New York City, charming and perplexing park-goers for over a century.