The sheep pen turned restaurant in Central Park

From 1934 to 2010, Tavern on the Green was the kind of touristy New York restaurant that a lot of city residents shunned.


But the place had surprising roots in post–Civil War New York.

The gabled Victorian building where diners once feasted and danced (in the 1950s, at least, according to the back of this postcard) was constructed as sheepfold for a flock of sheep that grazed, yep, today’s Sheep Meadow.


Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the park’s designers, created a pastoral landscape—and 200 or so sheep hanging around and keeping the grass clipped certainly gave the park the feel of a retreat from urban life.

In 1934, the sheep got the boot by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, who had other ideas about how Central Park should serve the city.


Plus, on a more gruesome note, apparently there were fears that the hungry, desperate men who built a Depression-era Hooverville in the park would kill and eat the flock!

[Bottom photo: sheep grazing and cutting the lawn, about 1910]

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