Animal sculptures abound in Central Park, but the largest concentration can be found in or near the Wildlife Center. In 1934, the first year of Commissioner Robert Moses’s administration, modern brick buildings replaced the dilapidated wooden Menagerie. Officially renamed the Central Park Zoo, decoration for the new buildings included elegant limestone bas reliefs and niches displaying whimsical bronze animals by Brooklyn-born sculptor Frederick George Richard Roth (1872 – 1944). Roth, noted for his animal sculptures, was subsequently named chief sculptor of Parks & Recreation. His sculpture of the Alaskan dog-sled hero Balto, at 67th Street near Fifth Avenue, commissioned in 1925, is his most famous Central Park work. Two years later he created Dancing Goat and Honey Bear, placed respectively at the southern and northern external niches of the zoo. Both function as fountains and feature miniature frogs and birds spouting water at the base of the animals. The bear and the goat dance and whimsically extend their tongues to catch insects that may be passing by.
The bas relief friezes featured on the buildings of the Wildlife Center depict the simple forms of animals drawn in stone. The delightful representation of antelopes, lions and wolves are animals that were once featured in the former Central Park Zoo. The monkey frieze over the entrance to the Zoo School, formerly the Monkey House, depicts a fanciful scene of a mother protecting her young while another monkey chases a butterfly. Over the entrance to the Zoo Gallery, formerly the Bird House, Roth sculpted an imposing eagle with outspread wings. The relationship between the artist’s bird and the eagle already in place over the entrance to the Arsenal was evident to Roth. Whereas Roth’s eagle represents the animal in his natural habitat, the one on the Arsenal—a former military structure and now headquarters of New York City Parks & Recreation—emphasizes the eagle as the iconic symbol of America.
Tigress and Cubs, by Auguste Cain, was presented to the Park in 1866. This piece has a character different from the other sculptures in the area. Where Roth strove to portray animals in a fanciful and light-hearted manner, other mid-nineteenth century sculptors like Caine preferred to depict the fierce qualities often associated with them. Auguste Cain was a student of Antoine-Louis Bayre, the most influential animalier in France, as this realistic school of sculptors was called. Here we see the tigress with tense muscles and bared fangs proudly presenting a dead peacock in her mouth to her young cubs eagerly awaiting their next meal. The sculpture, originally placed in a rural park setting, was moved to the newly renovated zoo in 1934.
- Location: Entrance to Arsenal; 5th Avenue at 64th Street
- Architect: Gargani and Son
- Description: Tablets (2)
- Materials: Bronze
- Dimensions: H: 1'1" W: 1'4 ½"
- Dedicated: 1939
- Donor: Purchase
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
- Summer Streets
- NYRR Team Championships: Men (5M)
- NYRR Team Championships: Women (5M)
- Stories at the Statue of Hans Christian Andersen
- Central Park Tour: Conservatory Garden
- 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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