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Central Park

The Bridges of Central Park - Bow Bridge

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

When Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) and Calvert Vaux (1824-1895) designed Central Park in 1858, they developed an innovative interwoven transportation system of pedestrian paths, bridle trails, and carriage drives. Since the park is only one-half mile wide, the designers had to create a compact system of bridges and arches that allowed for separate levels of pathways. Vaux and his assistant Jacob Wrey Mould (1825-1886) created 35 unique structures, each with its own distinct style. They used brick, granite, marble, cast iron, and rustic wood and fashioned rusticated gneiss boulders out of the rock outcrops. Subsequent changes in the system of paths led to tearing down three of the original arches and the construction of four others.

Bow Bridge, shaped like an archer's bow, was built between 1859 and 1862. It connects the Ramble and Cherry Hill, and spans more than 60 feet of the Lake. Because the south bank was higher than the north, construction of the cast iron bridge included raising the height of its northern abutment. Janes, Kirkland, and Co., the firm responsible for the dome of The Capitol in Washington, D.C., did the ironwork for the span of Bow Bridge. Vaux and Mould created the ornamental iron railing that incorporates elements of Gothic, Neo-Classical, and Renaissance design.

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