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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26 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].

      • Richard Says:

        Actually, the transverse road #2 (79th St) entrance on Central Park West was not aligned with 81st Street until sometime after 1954. You can clearly see the entrance is south of 81st by a short way on the 1954 USGS 1954/1956/1959 Central Park Quadrangle map. When I was very young I remember them finishing up on the north wall, sidewalk of the transverse.

      • Kevin C. Says:

        Richard –

        Thanks for your ground-truth! I had in the past looked at the USGS maps of 1947 and 1956, both of which show the traverse drive intersecting CPW about 200′ south of 81st Street entrance to the West Drive. I should not have questioned the accuracy of those maps.

      • Richard Says:

        I’ve been trying to hammer down the date for the re-routing of transverse #2 from south of 81st to alignment with 81st. I found one of Norman Garbush’s maps of Manhattan that shows the transverse south and also shows the Polo Grounds, which were demolished in mid-1964, so it’s likely that the change was made sometime between 1963 and 1965. I was born in 1959 so my memory of seeing the tail-end of the construction is accurate.

        BTW – There was an additional un-named gate on Central Park West between 87th & 88th that was removed 10 or 15 years ago when they added an entrance on the north side of transverse number 3. I’ve been looking for photos of it and have found nothing.

      • Kevin C. Says:

        I imagine that finding the precise date for the mid-century work might be done in the Municipal Archives’ records. But your earlier note sent me to the USGS aerial photos (single photo series) for more evidence; those are on-line. Unfortunately the single frame series is only episodic, and from the late 1930s into the early 1960s. The 1954 image shows #2 intersecting CPW south of 81st, as you’ve already noted.

        There are obvious alterations in the fabric of the wall along CPW. Dating those changes is another matter, of course.

  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 […]

  14. Jonathan W. Phillips (former artist in residence CP - 1986-89) Says:

    The map drawn by Oscar Hingichs, 172 William Street, NY.

    Copyright July 2, 1875, describes and lists the gates as they existed then in Central Park in the following order. I have included and noted all spelling and grammar issues on the original map.

    South (West to East descending):

    1. The Circle: Merchants Gate
    2. Artisans Gate
    3. Artists Gate
    4. Scholars Gate (S.I.C. – plural not possessive)

    East (South to North ascending):

    5. Children’s Gate (E 64th St. site of the Armory and Menagerie)
    6. Inventers Gate (S.I.C. again plural and misspelled E. 72nd St.)
    7. Miners Gate (E. 79th St.)
    8. Engineers Gate (E. 90th St.)
    9. Woodmans Gate (E. 96th St.)
    10. Girls Gate (E. 102nd St. – Conservancy still “The Nursary”)

    North (East to West ascending):

    11. Pioneers Gate (E. 110th St.)
    12. Farmers Gate (Sixth Ave.)
    13. Warriors Gate (Seventh Ave.)
    14. Strangers Gate (Eighth Ave.)

    West (North to South descending):

    15. Boys Gate (W. 100th St.)
    16. All Saints Gate (W. 96th St.)
    17. Mariners Gate (W. 85th St.)
    18. Hunters Gate (W. 79th St. – The Ramble opposite Museum of Nat. Hist.)
    19. Womans Gate (S.I.C. neither plural nor possessive – W. 72nd St.)

    I have a jpf file scan of the map for upload if ENY is interested.

  15. Jonathan W. Phillips (former artist in residence CP - 1986-89) Says:

    BTW – not listed in my list is the East 76th Street Gate that was added at the behest of Robert Moses.

    Omitted or missing from the list provided in the New York Times article by my friend Doug Martin is the “Inventor’s Gate” misspelled as “Inventers” on the Hingich’s map. It was undoubtedly designated such as nearby is the statue of Samuel Finley Breese Morse, a painter of modest talent who gained wide fame for his invention of the code language that gained popular usage on the telegraph.

    The Hingrich map, also omits the possessive apostrophe for “Childrens” gate. My instinctive editing typed it in as “Children’s.”

    • edlaing Says:

      When was the ‘Naturalist’s Gate’ on Central Park West named?


      A committee* of the Commissioners reported on ‘the nomenclature of the gates of the park’ in the Fifth Annual Report:

      “A list of twenty names is thus obtained that seems to be somewhat appropriate for the object in view. We have the Artizan, the Artist, the Merchant, the Scholar, the Cultivator, the Warrior, the Mariner, the . Engineer, the Hunter, the Fisherman, the Woodman, the Miner, the Explorer, the Inventor, the Foreigner, the Boys, the Girls, the Women, the Children, and All Saints”

      that was April 1862. Obviously, not the last word.

      [Stebbins, Russell & Green]

      • Jonathan W. Phillips (former artist in residence CP - 1986-89) Says:

        The Naturalist’s Gate seems to be the same location as the “Hunter’s Gate” in front of the New York Museum of Natural History, and I am going to guess that this was a decision that Henry Stern had some durm to strang in, as Teddy Roosevelt would have been the hunter who helped fill the museum, but others would have looked for a gentler description of the activity that provided the carcases for taxidermy to to the capable artistry or Carl Akeley and others.

        As for the “twenty” gates . . . show me the “twenty” without using the extra gate cut by Robert Moses at E.76th St. I get 19 from the 1875 map. I really don’t feel any personal stake in this question. I’m just observing from the records I have at my disposal, with all due respect to any data others are able to uncover.

      • edlaing Says:

        as I wrote, the list drawn up by the Commission’s sub-committee of Stebbins, Russell & Green – which is what I was citing – was obviously not the last word…

      • Jonathan W. Phillips (former artist in residence CP - 1986-89) Says:

        Got it. The last word is whatever the current Parks Commissioner and Conservancy decides to declare. Agreed. The notion of reviving the names of the gates was a point of interest to Henry Stern and perhaps less so since he retired.

        There were a lot of interesting personalities who were advocating the names being suggested to the various committees that formed leading up to and including the implementation of the final designs upon Central Park. There was the evolving matter of differentiating between the gates for pedestrians and transportation, certainly. And no one envisioned the world of competing pedestrians, walkers, runners, skaters, skate boarders, bikers, horses, bicycles, cars, motorcycles, Segways, etc.

        There were the devotees of Shakespeare, the nut who let the starlings loose in America, the champions of Emerson, Thomas Cole, Thoreau, Teddy Roosevelt, Henry George. They all were in some way at the opposite end of the spectrum of another. Then there was Boss Tweed and Tammany v. the reformers and the like of Charles Patrick Daly who championed Olmsted & Vaux.

        Rather remarkable it all got done. I’m just wondering what that 20th gate might have been.

      • edlaing Says:

        offhand, I don’t see anything in the 1875 Guide that relates to the 1862 ‘fisherman’ designation.

        as you must know, the design of the entries along 59th was contested at least into the 1870s, with alternate (and finally shelved) designs from R. M. Hunt. entries were improved from pedestrian or equestrian into carriage routes, and some new routes into the park were opened along Eighth Ave after it was re-graded and developed…

  16. Jonathan W. Phillips (former artist in residence CP - 1986-89) Says:

    Yes – part of the interaction had to do with the changes to the Interborough Rapid Transit routes when John Hylan- became mayor and successfully pushed through these lines as ‘competition.’ A lot of the questions along the 59th Street corridor were renewed also during the days of the 59th Street crosstown rail line from 1892 -1908.

    In 1928, August Hecksher proposal for beautifying “the eighteen historic entrances” to Central Park was referenced in brief item in the Time. (06-23-1926 p27, col. 4, item 3), which was apparently discussed at the “Uptown Club,” then at 17 E. 42nd St.

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