Harlem Meer

Harlem Meer

The northern end of the park was the last to be constructed as the blocks from 106th to 110th Sts. were the last to be purchased. Nestled up in the north east corner is the Harlem Meer, at 11 acres the second largest manmade body of water inside the park and, since its renovation during the mid-nineties, considered to be one of the loveliest.

Meer is a Dutch word meaning lake and is a nod to the original Dutch roots of the name Harlem. The creation of the Meer itself was not near as straightforward a process. While Olmsted’s brilliance in design is celebrated universally his abilities as a manager, especially dealing with the arcane parochialism (nice way of saying corruption) that constituted much of New York’s political landscape at the time, were relatively pedestrian. By 1861 the comptroller Andrew H. Green was in charge of most of the day to day operations involved in the construction of the park, while Olmsted was relegated to a more advisory position. Green was able to complete construction of the northern end of park under budget. He faithfully executed Olmsted and Vaux’s plan to retain the northern end’s rugged topography. What was once a swamp was now the lovely Harlem Meer, to which was added the naturally beautiful waterfall at the end of the Ravine.

By the early 1950’s the Meer had exchanged it’s easy going charm for a more fenced in, concrete aproned look. But in 1993, the Meer’s shoreline was returned to Olmsted’s original vision. Now you can see families gathering during the day and early evening to take advantage of this very relaxing setting. Surrounding the Meer are some of the Park’s most impressive trees: oak, bald cypress, beech, and ginkgo (some of which are considered heritage trees which were probably there before the park was built.)

Around the Meer there are a great variety of family-related activities: catch-and-release fishing; two playgrounds with water features; Park-related tours and exhibits and talks at The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center; the nearby Conservatory Garden; and Lasker Rink for skating or swimming.
There is a summer jazz festival every year and dancing on the terrace at 110th Street adjacent to The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center while the sun goes down.

Location: Eastside from 106th to 110th Street