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Central Park

The Bridges of Central Park - Glen Span

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 found it necessary 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 natural rock outcrops. Subsequent changes in the path system led to tearing down three of the original arches and the construction of four others.

Glen Span, is one of two rustic arches that form the boundaries of the Ravine, a wooded area in the northern end of the park. Completed in 1865, the bridge was partially rebuilt 20 years later, replacing wooden trestles with rustic stone. The picturesque arch is made of light gray gneiss. The simple ornamentation consists of geometrically shaped stones and decorative grottos embedded in the underpass. Glen Span and Huddlestone Arch, the other archway in the Ravine, are slightly sunken into the park landscape in order to preserve the integrity of the forest setting.

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