In 1867, Central Park designer and architect Calvert Vaux (1824-1895) created an observation tower atop Vista Rock to overlook the old reservoir that is now the Great Lawn. The Gothic-style Castle was designed as a landmark for the pedestrian park visitor. The castle’s United States flag could be seen from the Mall, drawing the walkers down to Bethesda Terrace, over Bow Bridge, and through the Ramble to the castle itself.
The original plans for the building included another elaborate two-story structure on the site of today’s pavilion, but financial concerns halted construction and left the castle in its present state. Portions of the castle are made from the same type of schist as the Vista Rock, creating the illusion of a castle rising out of the park itself. Its light colored stone trim is made of granite quarried from Quincy, Massachusetts. Its roofs are made of colored slate from Vermont, Virginia, and New York.
Belvedere Castle was once an open-air structure, with no doors or windows. This changed in 1919 when the United States Weather Bureau moved the Central Park Observatory to the castle. Until that time, weather measurements were taken from the Arsenal at Fifth Avenue and 64th Street where Dr. Daniel Draper founded a meteorological observatory in 1869. The Weather Bureau took over the operation in 1911, and moved it here eight years later, enclosing the castle and altering the turret’s shape to accommodate their scientific instruments.
In the early 1960s, the Weather Bureau replaced the lab with automated instruments and closed the castle offices. The empty building was left to deteriorate until 1983, when the Central Park Conservancy replaced the original turret, rebuilt the pavilions, and converted the castle into a visitor’s center. The Henry Luce Nature Observatory in the castle, created in 1996, provides interactive nature exhibits inside the castle as well as bird-watching kits, which can be used throughout the park.
Directions to Central Park
Know Before You Go
There are currently 2 service interruptions affecting access within this park.
As of April 27, Central Park's Bow Bridge is closed to the public for structural work and a fresh coat of paint. The work is expected to last three to four months. Removing the old paint will require wrapping the bridge in a tent-like structure to prevent debris from falling into the water. Along with repainting, the work will include replacing the wooden decking, fixing several beams on the underside of the span, and reinforcing approaches at either end.
Anticipated Completion: Summer 2015
Starting June 29, 2015, Central Park Drives north of 72nd Street will be permanently car-free. For more information, please visit on.nyc.gov/1MOAh40.
Central Park Weather
- NYC Parks Celebrates A Decade Since Unveiling The Gates In Central Park, Looks Forward To Art In Parks In 2015
- This Weekend In Parks
- Tomorrow's World: The New York World's Fairs And Flushing Meadows Park On View At The Arsenal Gallery
- Exhibition: Living Landmarks
- Central Park Tour: Northern Welcome Tour
- Shakespeare in the Park: Cymbeline
- Summer Streets
- NYRR Team Championships: Men (5M)
- Baseball Fields
- Basketball Courts
- Bicycling and Greenways
- Dog-friendly Areas
- Fitness Equipment
- Great Trees
- Handball Courts
- Historic Houses
- Horseback Riding Trails
- Ice Skating Rinks
- Nature Centers
- Outdoor Pools
- Paddleboat Rentals
- Recreation Centers
- Soccer Fields
- Spray Showers
- Tennis Courts
- Volleyball Courts
- Wi-Fi Hot Spots
- Zoos and Aquariums
Know when to go:
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