New York City. Manhattan. Unquestionably one of the great cities in the world. True New Yorkers would say it’s unquestionably The Greatest City in the world. Many find it a mecca for museums, shopping, theaters, and restaurants. Others, who prefer a difference kind of lifestyle, find it loud, overcrowded and dirty. I’ll leave that discussion for sociological and political blogs.
There is one part of New York City that almost anyone would agree is amazing: Central Park. 843 acres (341 ha) of some of the most valuable real estate in the country, if not the world, which has been dedicated for use as a public park since 1857, expanded to its current size in 1873, and enjoyed by something like 40 million people each year. It has had its ups and downs during its history, sometimes allowed to fall into decay, sometimes a high-crime area, but, by and large, it has been and continues to be a safe, well-maintained respite for anyone who lives in or visits the city who wants to get away from the Concrete Jungle and spend some time with trees, grass, ponds, and squirrels.
Entire books can, and, indeed, have, been written documenting the sights, sounds and history of the park.
I will not attempt to write a comprehensive treatise on Central Park in one blog post, but I took my camera with me (of course!) on a recent visit and will share some of the images I made over a couple of autumn days walking through the park. If you just want to see the pictures sit back with a glass or cup of your favorite beverage and watch the gallery just below this paragraph. Below the gallery, I will discuss some of the images and the significance of their content in more detail.
Want to learn more about some of the pictures in the slideshow? Read on!
We entered the park through the Engineer’s Gate at 90th and 5th.
There are 20 named gates at various entrances to the park. According to the Central Park Conservancy, these gates are dedicated to “the vocations and groups who made New York City the great metropolis that it had become.” This includes women, artisans, pioneers and, at this gate, engineers. The entrance is essentially an extension of East 90th Street running into the park. It is flanked on both sides with the pictured pillar inscribed with the name of Mayor John Purroy Mitchel (July 19, 1879 – July 6, 1918). He was mayor of New York from 1914 to 1917. If you walk through the gate about 100 yards (about 90 m), you’ll see a plaque honoring the mayor and a golden bust of his head. You can see pictures of that memorial and read a few interesting snippets about his life and death here.
Climbing the steps behind the Mayor John Purroy Mitchel Memorial puts you on the Shuman Running Track which winds all the way around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.
The reservoir covers most of the park in the quadrant between 86th Street to the south, 97th Street to the north, Central Park West to the west and 5th Avenue to the east. You can enjoy nice views of many of the buildings, some famous and/or historic, surrounding the park as you walk around the track. The image below shows the twin-towered, Emery Roth designed, Art Deco building at 300 West Central Park.
Known as The El Dorado Building, it was built in 1931 and remains a premium property today. You might be able to buy a place for just over $2 million, but prices quickly approach $10 million and over, especially of you want a view of the park. On the left edge of the image above and on the right in the image below, you can see the green patina of the copper-topped roof of The St. Urban, 285 Central Park West. It was built in 1902 and currently has 56 units on 12 floors. Some of them include wine cellars and maid’s quarters if those amenities are important to you.
As you can see, the reservoir is large as is the panorama of expensive real estate around it.
In the image below, you can see 295 West Central Park right in between the green-roofed St. Urban and the twin-towered El Dorado. This is a rental apartment building built in 1941 with over 130 units on 19 floors. It offers high-end, full service living with rents on the order of $3,000 to $5,000 per month.
Just to the left of the St. Urban with the unique stair-stepped upper floors is the 279 Central Park West Condominium Building. It holds 38 units on 23 stories, most boasting great views of the park and, of course, multi-million dollar price tags. Built in 1988, it is a relatively new addition to the neighborhood.
Even if you are a dedicated student of architecture, however, you will do yourself a terrible disservice if you walk around the running track just looking at the buildings. The reservoir is surrounded by beautiful trees and bushes as well.
There are also plenty of waterbirds, including common sea gulls and Mallard ducks, but also more unusual species.
Wandering out into other parts of the park, you’ll find colorfully-coded waste cans for trash, plastic and paper.
The late fall color of the leaves added a nice backdrop.
Rocks, tress, shrubs, and various forms of fungi and algae come together to paint pictures all through the park.
There are broad paths shared by walkers, runners and bike riders that are generally well lit at night and often lined with benches where you can rest, read, chat with a friend or just enjoy some (relatively) fresh air.
The fences of the left of the image above enclose tennis courts, one of many areas set aside for outdoor sports.
Strolling on, there were plenty of fall berries, leaves and colors to enjoy along the west side of the park.
You can also gain a different perspective on the St. Urban and 279 Central Park West condominium buildings.
You’ll also pass the Safari Playground, featuring concrete animals that kids love to play on and around.
And what kid (of any age) doesn’t enjoy a swing set?
A wooden fence lines a path leading up a stairway to the area where the Delacourt outdoor theater is located.
The path to the right of the picture above leads to the Shakespeare Garden.
There are several plaques scattered through the Shakespeare Garden with relevant quotes from his plays. This is probably the best known:
Next to the Shakespeare garden is a wooden Swedish Cottage.
The cottage was originally part of the Centennial Exposition (1876) in Philadelphia. After the Exposition closed, the cottage, which is modeled after a traditional Swedish schoolhouse, was purchased and moved to Central Park where it has remained. It has been used various ways over its almost 150 years in the park. For the last 40 years, it has served as the home of the city’s Marionette Theater, which entertains around 40,000 children every summer.
Did I mention there are lots of squirrels playing in the park?
Another lake in Central Park is called simply, The Lake.
You can rent a rowboat to fish in or simply enjoy being on the water.
You can also walk across the beautiful Bow Bridge—or just admire it from afar.
The Loews Boathouse Restaurant is also located on The Lake and we decided to stop in for a late lunch. I’ll cover that experience in a separate post.
Since this was late November, dusk came early. As the left the park, the World War I Memorial was already lit up for the night.
The bronze sculpture features seven larger-than life “doughboys” (as WWI infantry soldiers were called). It was donated by the Seventh Regiment New York 107th United States Infantry Memorial Committee and was dedicated September 27, 1927. The sculptor, Karl Illava, was an art student in New York when he joined the Seventh Infantry of New York, which became the 107th United States Infantry Unit. When he came home after the war, he was commissioned almost immediately to design the memorial. Much of his career was spent designing memorials, and this is by far his most famous work.
No matter whether you love New York or hate it, should you find yourself in the City That Never Sleeps, try to carve out some time to spend in Central Park. You deserve it.
The author is a member of the Amazon Affiliate program but otherwise has no affiliation with any of the businesses or products described in this article.
All images were taken with a Sony Alpha a6500 camera and a Sony-Zeiss SEL1670Z Vario-Tessar T E 16-70mm (24-105mm full frame equivalent) F/4 ZA OSS lens or Sony 35mm (52mm full frame equivalent) F/1.8 E-Mount Lens using ambient light. Post-processing in Adobe Lightroom® and Adobe Photoshop® with Nik/Google and Skylum® Luminar® plugins.