Posts Tagged ‘Central Park lake’

How a “Ladies Pavilion” ended up in Central Park

June 19, 2017

With its ornate roof and gingerbread house motifs, the Ladies Pavilion is straight out of the Victorian era—a cast-iron, open-air structure for catching a breeze on the Lake in Central Park.

It’s also relatively hard to get to, accessible by rowboat to a rock formation called Hernshead or on foot via the woodsy footpaths along the Lake inside the Ramble.

Designed by Jacob Wray Mould, the architect behind many park structures, the pavilion fits in well with the Victorian style of nearby bridges and fountains. But it’s actually only been here since the early 20th century.

How did it end up in on the Lake? Built in 1871, the Ladies Pavilion was originally a trolley shelter at the park entrance at Eighth Avenue and 59th Street, wrote Ada Louise Huxtable in a 1973 New York Times piece.

This might be it in the 1895 illustration, above, from Munsey’s Magazine.

“This intersection, north of Manhattan’s developed residential and commercial areas, became a transportation hub for Central Park visitors, many of whom had to travel great distances from their homes to enjoy the park’s offerings,” according to the University of Vermont’s Historic Preservation Program.

When the Maine monument was installed at this corner in 1912, the trolley shelter was moved to Hernshead.

Perhaps it went here because this was once the site of the Ladies’ Cottage (above right), where female ice skaters congregated between the Lake and the Ladies’ Skating Pond, which was drained in 1930. (Early Central Park had lots of sex-segregated areas, so a pond for women was not unusual.)

“The popularity of skating on the Lake well into the middle of the 20th century, and the care taken to move the Ladies Pavilion rather than demolish it, suggests that it was well-used and appreciated by park patrons,” states the UVM page.

These days, in a gender-neutral era the Victorians would have found horrifying, the Ladies Pavilion doesn’t seem to have any specifically female connotations.

But it is considered an especially romantic part of Central Park and has become a popular place for weddings.

For more about the building of Central Park and the park’s early years, read The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910.

[Second and third images: NYPL; fourth image: nyc-architecture.com]

Would you do laundry in the Central Park lake?

May 22, 2017

Would you wash your clothes by hand in the lake in Central Park? These three women did it, and they had a reason.

December 16, 1949—the day the photo was taken—was “dry Friday” in New York City. Thanks to a severe drought that left upstate reservoirs at 34 percent capacity, city residents were forbidden to shave, bathe, or do any other activity that day if it required water.

These three women—Copacabana girls, part of the East Side nightclub’s famous chorus girl lineup, per the caption on the photo—are demonstrating their patriotic duty to do laundry without any running water.

The loveliest Victorian bridge in Central Park

August 17, 2015

Named for its graceful shape reminiscent of a violin bow, Central Park’s Bow Bridge has always been a park favorite and a lovely remnant of the Victorian city (seen here in a turn of the century postcard).

Bowbridgecentralparkpostcard

See the urns at the entrance to the bridge on the right? These and six other urns decorating the bridge when it was built around 1860 disappeared mysteriously in the 1920s.

Craftsmen working from original photos made replicas of the urns, and they went back in 2008, restoring Bow Bridge to its original romantic glory.

The Central Park Mall in color in 1914

February 2, 2012

That’s what the postmark says, but the photograph the card is based on probably dates to several years earlier.

The caption on the back of the card notes that “here are the residences of some of New York’s wealthiest families.”

The dazzling tiles of a Central Park ceiling

November 26, 2011

New York has lots of beautiful ballroom, bar, and lobby ceilings. One of the most magical is at the Bethesda Arcade—the arched walkway in the center of the park that brings you to Bethesda Fountain and the Central Park Lake.

It’s an enchanting place to go when the weather gets dreary, a colorful antidote to gray winter days. [above photo from centralparknyc.org]

“Installed in 1869, there are more than 15,000 colorful, patterned encaustic tiles, made by England’s famed Minton Tile Company,” states centralparknyc.org.

Encaustic tiles, originally created to cover the floors of European cathedrals, are made of individually colored clays pressed and fired into the tile to form the design. Bethesda Arcade is the only place in the world where Minton ceramic tiles are used for a ceiling.”

Dirty and weathered over time, the tiles were taken down in the 1980s and put in storage until 2007, when the newly restored Arcade was reopened to the public.

What happened to Central Park’s Swan Bridge?

November 7, 2011

This vintage postcard, stamped July 1928, shows off a really breathtaking part of Central Park, with boaters and swans on the lake and people sitting along benches.

But wait, isn’t that Bow Bridge—the one the postcard calls Swan Bridge? As far as I can tell, there’s never been a Swan Bridge or Swan Island in the park.

Bow Bridge was always the name for the 60-foot cast-iron bridge that gets its moniker from its gentle bow shape, reminiscent of the bow of an archer or violinist, explains centralparknyc.org.

An Iroquois Indian canoes in Central Park

July 28, 2011

It’s all a very culturally insensitive stunt from the 1920s, apparently. According to the caption on the back of this Getty Images photo, with the city skyline in view:

“Often romanticized, native people were hired to help promote New York events and locales. In 1927, amid much fanfare, So-Tsien-O-Wa-Ne (Chief Great Fire), a local Iroquois man, began patrolling Central Park’s lake in a canoe.”

A New York Times article from April 16 of that year has this to say:

“The Indian, an Iroquois, is to glide hither and thither around the three-mile stretch of water, preserve order, and lend local color. . . . He has lived for some years in Brooklyn, although born on a reservation in Montreal. On duty, Chief Great Fire will be attired in the usual buckskin clothes with plenty of feathers attached.”

It’s not the first time the city has officially sanctioned putting a human being more or less on display, as this story, of a man who lived for a short time in the Bronx Zoo, reveals.

The old Victorian boathouse of Central Park

June 22, 2011

“Boating on the lake has been a popular pastime from the Park’s earliest days,” states the Central Park Conservatory’s website.

Yet the Lake didn’t get a proper boathouse until 1874, when Calvert Vaux designed this one in the 1907 postcard below.

“With its charming Victorian touches, the building also featured a second-story terrace that afforded beautiful views of the Ramble,” explains the Conservatory.

“A popular draw for more than 80 years, the boathouse fell into disrepair by 1950 and was soon torn down. The iconic Loeb Boathouse that New Yorkers and visitors know so well today opened at the Lake’s northeastern tip in 1954, financed by philanthropist Carol M. Loeb.”

When Manhattan parks featured lovers’ lanes

July 19, 2010

This 1908 postcard, of “Lover’s Lane” in Riverside Park, doesn’t say exactly where it is along the river—and a search for it came up empty. 

But the curvy path sure looks like a sweet place to stroll or sit, as the couple far off on a bench demonstrate.

Central Park also had a Lovers’ Lane, as seen in these circa-1896 photos. 

According to a 1931 New York Times article, this narrow road ran “from east to west, just to the north of the 79th Street Transverse Road and south of the lake site.”

[Photo below from the NYPL digital collection]


Here’s the history of a colonial-era Lovers’ Lane in Brooklyn Heights.

A gorgeous day at Bethesda Fountain

May 6, 2009

Rowing in Central Park’s lake and gathering on Bethesda Terrace appear to have been as popular 100 years ago as they are today.

bethesdafountain

The fountain, unveiled in 1873, is topped by a sculpture called “Angel of the Waters,” by Emma Stebbins. She was the first woman commissioned to create art in a city park.