A “Victorian folly” in the middle of Central Park

Aside from many beautiful churches, there’s not a lot of Medieval-style architecture in New York City.

But there is Belvedere Castle, a Gothic structure in the middle of Central Park with a stone facade and turrets that’s meant to invoke the idea of a romantic Medieval villa.


Like so much of the nature-inspired yet artificial park, it was created purely out of Victorian folly, with no other purpose than to enchant visitors.

“Calvert Vaux, co-designer of Central Park, created the miniature castle in 1869 as one of its many whimsical structures intended as a lookout to the reservoir to the north (now the Great Lawn) and the Ramble to the south,” states the Central Park Conservatory.

CentralparkbelvedereBuilt as an open-air structure without doors or windows on a part of the park called Vista Rock, it almost looks as if the castle is rising out of the rock itself.

Belvedere Castle was called into service in 1919, when the United States Weather Bureau moved its observatory there. As the castle and the park fell into disrepair in the 1970s and 1980s, the weather bureau departed to another compound in the park.

It’s now a renovated and spiffed up visitor’s center and nature center, and climbing the winding stone steps leads to a wonderful vantage point to “take the view,” as Victorian-era New Yorkers would have said.

[Photo: Central Park Conservatory]

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14 Responses to “A “Victorian folly” in the middle of Central Park”

  1. OyiaBrown Says:

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  2. ronfrankl Says:

    I’ve read that the miniature castle was designed to appear as a full-sized building when viewed from a distance. I think it succeds admirably.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I agree. It’s amazing how small it actually is when you get there!

      • mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

        Small? But it shows off the castle very well, I think. When I was last there, the Weather station was up and running with a confused looking guy looking at me and changing the weather machines. I also was looking confused back at him. Who knows what that was about?

  3. jbjourneyer Says:

    Reblogged this on Journeyer and commented:
    Very cool history about Belvedere Castle in Central Park. I always wondered…

  4. kean Says:

    Wow I always wondered what this place was and if I could ever visit it! I might have to give this a chance asap šŸ™‚

  5. JB Says:

    “Built without walls”? Huh?

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Yikes, I meant without doors (or windows). Fixed!

  7. Bob_in_MA Says:

    That’s a great place to meet birders on hawk watch, too. šŸ˜‰

  8. petey Says:

    i grew up not too far away and we used to dare each other to climb the walls. it is in fact possible, but if you fell it was hard, hard rock below.

  9. Beth Says:

    A tourist just tried climbing the rocks a couple of months ago. He fell, broke his arm and was arrested.

  10. Bicycling Through Central Park | Fabulous 50's Says:

    […] A “Victorian folly” in the middle of Central Park (ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com) […]

  11. Just how bad was Central Park in the 1970s? | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] look at this image of Belvedere castle. In the 1970s, meteorologists who read data from the weather instruments there were planning to […]

  12. How Central Park got its Shakespeare Garden | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] this lovely green space of quiet and peace near Belvedere Castle isn’t just any garden in the […]

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