Gapstow Bridge

Gapstow Bridge

Gapstow Bridge

Bearing a striking resemblance to the Ponte di San Francesco in San Remo, Italy, Gapstow Bridge is yet another example of traditional architecture in Central Park. The stone span curves gracefully over the narrow neck of the Pond. Facing south, it offers the quintessential view of the city, with the Plaza Hotel and other towers rising behind the backdrop of trees reflected, amidst the ducks, in the waters of the Pond.

Olmsted and Vaux anticipated 125 years ago that Manhattan’s buildings would one day rise around the empty lots by the park, but they could in no way envision the extent of the city’s vertical ascent. Today, whether reflecting skyscrapers or simply taken on its own merits, the Pond is a very integral part of Central Park.

The northerly view from the bridge is marred by the sight of the Wollman rink which replaced part of the Pond in 1951 with an ice-skating rink and a crescent-shaped brick bunker. Built on a lake bottom without proper underpinnings, with the result that it repeatedly settled, the rink was replaced by the present one in 1987.

Originally, Gapstow was a wooden bridge supported by the unique feature of a large segmental arch of wood on the north and south sides, both arches springing from ledges on the stone abutments. Along the wood walkway of the bridge the railings were of cast iron. Each of the repeated motifs was composed of a half circle topped by a pointed arch, with the spandrel spaces filled by verticals to meet the hand railing. The center section set off by the intersection of the support arch was figured with three cinquefoils.

Gapstow was a unique design using wood and cast-iron trimming, drawn for this commanding site over the Pond, in the picturesque landscape of the Park. It was to last a little more than a score of years. Conjecture has it that wear and tear were simply too much.

The current stone replacement, designed by Howard & Caudwell in 1896, is built of unadorned Manhattan schist. It spans 44 feet of water at its base with a 12-foot high arch, and it has imposing 76-foot long sidewalls extending the full length of the bridge.

Belvedere Castle – Function, Form and Romance

Belvedere Castle in Central Park

Belvedere Castle in Central Park

Sitting high atop Vista Rock (the second highest natural elevation in the park) Belvedere Castle provides a panoramic view in almost every direction. It is also perhaps the most magical monument in Central Park, one that combines function, form and romance – all in one convenient, central location.

Designed originally in 1865 by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould as a Victorian “Folly” (A fantasy building) that would provide an overlook to the scenic splendors around it. The views include the Delacorte Theater, home to the very popular Shakespeare in the Park series, the newly-restored, 55-acre Great Lawn, once one of the Park’s original reservoirs and, directly below, Turtle Pond.

Besides offering breathtaking views the Castle also serves as a weather station, in fact whenever you see a local news broadcast that gives the temperature in Central Park, the readings are taken at Belvedere Castle. It also serves as the Henry Luce Nature Observatory. Inside are collections of natural history artifacts (skeletons, papier mache birds) as well as microscopes and telescopes, all designed to give young visitors an insight into methodology of naturalists. Aspiring scientists can borrow field packs that contain binoculars, reference material, maps, and notepaper, which can all be used to explore the Ramble, or to study the aquatic life from the edge of Turtle Pond. And lastly the Castle is also the favorite haunt of many of Central Park’s cadre of dedicated bird watchers, a great place to catch a glimpse of hawks, kestrels or osprey.

Location: Mid-Park at 79th Street

Details: (212) 772-0210

Hours: 10am-5pm, Tuesday- Sunday