An awe-inspiring arch in Central Park’s North Woods

Most of Central Park is a pleasure ground of playgrounds, pathways, gentle hills, and rolling meadows. As you head north at about 102nd Street, however, much of the terrain transforms into a woodland wildlife landscape with thick woods, waterfalls, and a ravine.

Amid this more rustic, secluded environment—intentionally designed by co-creators Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux to feel like the deep woods of the Catskills or Adirondacks—is Central Park’s most incredible bridge.

Huddlestone Arch isn’t the biggest of the park’s 36 bridges, and it’s not necessarily the prettiest. But it’s the one that takes its stones straight from the park itself and earns top prize as an engineering feat.

The enormous boulders that make up the arch, placed together by hand, stay in place not because of mortar or other supporting material but gravity.

The boulders are arranged so they “huddle” together and keep their place, making the bridge strong enough to support the East Drive above it and act as a gateway to the Loch, the stream that winds its way through the ravine.

Huddlestone Arch in 1895

“Only gravity and pressure keep the massive boulders in place,” explains the Central Park Conservatory.

Huddlestone Arch was completed in 1866, and it’s parallel to roughly 107th Street closer to Fifth Avenue. On the other side of the arch is the Lasker Rink and Harlem Meer. The Rink is currently under construction, and right now the arch is fenced off. The footpaths to the arch are accessible.

Much of Central Park may be an illusion; Olmsted and Vaux brilliantly recreate unspoiled nature across the park’s 843 often rocky acres. But if you’re feeling adventurous and can’t get to New Paltz, this awe-inspiring engineering marvel is waiting for you.

[Third image: MCNY X2010.11.1274]

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3 Responses to “An awe-inspiring arch in Central Park’s North Woods”

  1. countrypaul Says:

    Great discovery! Let’s hope they reope it – too many interesting places get closed off for “public safety” and then remain lost to the public.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I agree—it’s in a part of the park not as many people explore but definitely worth the adventure.

  2. velovixen Says:

    It’s interesting how much the park changes from one area to another.

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