Conservatory Water

Conservatory Water at Central Park
John B. Moore
Conservatory Water in Central Park.

Whether you have a radio powered sailboat or a wind-powered sloop, model sail boating at the Conservatory Water is a delight for participants and observers; be them adults, children or, in one case, a rather notable rodent.

The site is named for a rather massive conservatory that was included in the original plans by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. In the course of its construction city budget cuts forced them to reconsider and instead create an American version the model boat ponds they had seen in Paris. Today radio powered boats as well as uniquely constructed sailboats with large wind driven sails stream across the shimmering waters. A serious sport for many adults it is not uncommon to see little children staring in awe at grown men who have brought their intricate creations to the pond for a sail. The Kerbs Boat House located directly behind the Conservatory Water is a storage house for many large power drive sailboats that can be rented throughout the sailing season.

The area around the pond is home of some of the park’s loveliest foliage. These include Lebanon Cedars, willows, pine and beech trees. It also features the park’s largest display of spring blossoming Cherry Trees, besides the stands on either side of the reservoir. The surrounding benches are the perfect place for either a brief respite from your park site-seeing tour or a more contemplative visit, relaxing while you watch the tiny white sails tacking against the breeze. If you actually hear tiny voices shouting out the commands Lenox Hill Hospital is only a few blocks away.

Nearby you can also find two of the Park’s most popular statues, especially with children. At the northern end is the sculpture of Alice, of Wonderland fame, with all her favorite tea party playmates, and at the western edge a statue of master story teller Hans Christian Andersen.

Conservatory Water is also the staging area for a dedicated group of bird watchers that have been tracking the life of Pale Male and his mate Lola, a pair of Hawks, that have made there home on a ledge on a nearby building.

Location: East Side from 72nd to 75th Street

Details: Kerbs Boathouse Café and Central Park Sailboat Concession (where, if you haven’t brought your own yacht, you can rent one. Blue Blazer is optional)

An Unbirthday Party in Central Park

At the northern end of Conservatory Water you will find yourself at perhaps the least exclusive soiree in Manhattan, a party where everyone is the guest of honor 364 days a year. It is, of course, Central Park’s permanent installation of its very own unbirthday party.

Alice In Wonderland

Alice In Wonderland

Probably the park’s most beloved sculpture, it is a depiction in bronze of a group of our favorite characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Perched stage center upon an enormous mushroom, Alice holds court. Grouped around her are the other unlikely invitees to the party. They include: The Mad Hatter (rumored to be a caricature of the patron that sponsored the piece), The March Hare, The Cheshire Cat, The White Rabbit, Alice’s Cat Dinah and, of course, the bashful Dormouse.

To honor his wife Margarita, Philanthropist George Delacorte commissioned the sculpture from José de Creeft in 1959. His design is patterned on the illustrations drawn by John Tenniel for the first edition of the book. Alice herself is said to resemble de Creeft’s daughter, Donna. De Creeft also included lines from Mrs. Delacorte’s favorite poem, “The Jabberwocky.” You can find them engraved in a granite circle around his work:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe

Besides being an intricate and engaging piece of modern sculpture the eleven-foot statue also possesses equal parts of warmth and whimsy. This is evidenced by the glowing patina created by the many thousands of tiny hands that have flowed over the characters for the past four decades. It would seem that the only thing missing from the party is a twinkling bat.

Location: East 74th Street, north of Conservatory Water