The Sheep Meadow in Central Park derives its name from a flock of sheep that occupied the lawn during the first part of this century. A sheepfold was constructed just across the drive at the western edge of the meadow to house this unique flock of urban herbivores. Their off-Broadway run came to an end in 1934 when uber-commissioner Robert Moses had them shipped off to Prospect Park. The shepherd was assigned to the lion house at the Central Park Zoo, which presumably was a job upgrade. The sheepfold was then converted into a restaurant, which we now know as Tavern on the Green.
The first incarnation of Tavern on the Green — the restaurant — was launched on October 20, 1934, with a coachman in full regalia at the door. In the late 1930s the building was taken over by the Civilian Patrol Corps as its headquarters until 1943, when the management of the nearby Claremont Inn on Riverside Drive took it over and renovated it to become a year-round restaurant. By the 1950s, Tavern on the Green was showing some wear and tear and the brilliant designer Raymond Loewy was engaged to renovate the building, yet again — a process which resulted in the addition of the Elm Room (now the Park Room), named after the tree it wrapped around. In the seventies the restaurant was once again renovated. Hand-hewn rafters re-emerged and the soaring vaulted ceilings above them reappeared after being hidden for decades by ordinary plaster. The Elm, Rafters, and Chestnut Rooms were paneled in exceedingly rare wormy chestnut. In the Crystal and Terrace Rooms, rustic baroque gave way to flights of rococo fancy.
Always a fantastic work in progress, Tavern on the Green underwent yet another renovation in 1988 to expand its popular Tavern Store, relocate the bar, and create the lovely Park Room and Garden.
Later, the Crystal Garden that overlooks the Sheep Meadow was remodeled to accommodate dancing during the summer months. And, in 1993, a celebrated “Menagerie of Topiaries”, created by the Hollywood wizards who fashioned the fantastic greenery for the hit film EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, took up residence in Tavern’s gardens.
Three years later, during the summer of 1996, Tavern’s treasured topiaries were given another Crystal Garden attraction to keep watch over, a 40-foot bar fashioned from trees harvested from New York City parks. Tavern’s Garden Bar gives new life to trees that have died or been cut down for safety or landscaping purposes. The sheep would be proud.
Location: West Side between 66th and 67th Streets
* CLOSED until further notice.