Central Park

Lehman Gates

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

Who is this monument named for?

The zoo was first known as the Lehman Zoo for Children, as funds for its construction were given by former New York Governor Herbert H. Lehman (1878-1963, governor 1933-1942) and his wife Edith on their 50th wedding anniversary.

How was this created?

This striking gateway, designed by Edward Coe Embury (1906 -1990) with sculpture by Paul Manship (1885-1966), was created as part of Central Park’s children’s zoo which opened in 1961.

The gateway’s most notable feature is the bronze tableau that straddles three piers made of Swenson green granite. Manship’s fanciful sculpture shows a boy prancing with goats, to the music of panpipes played by two smaller boys seated at either end. Birds roost on the stylized vine that arches over the two entrance portals.

Notable 20th-century sculptor Paul Manship’s most famous work in New York City is the Art Deco-styled, gilded Prometheus at Rockefeller Center, completed in 1934. For the New York World’s Fair of 1939-40 at Flushing Meadows, he created an enormous sundial entitled Time and the Fates as well as four fountain sculptures called Moods of Time. Manship’s Armillary Sphere created for the World’s Fair of 1964-65 was bequeathed as a permanent feature of Flushing Meadows Corona Park only to be stolen in 1980.

Manship’s elaborate Rainey Gates were installed in 1934 at the north entrance of the Bronx Zoo. They show a menagerie of animals, some of which Manship modeled after inhabitants of the zoo in the late 1920s. His renderings of bears were used on the piers at the Rainey Gates, as well as a posthumous large-scale casting placed in 1990 at the Pat Hoffman Playground in Central Park at East 79th Street.

On Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Manship created the sculptural flagstaff base for the Alfred E. Smith Playground, which again adopted the artist’s common motifs of deer, birds, and bears. In 1953 Manship sculpted ornate gates on the theme of Aesop’s Fables for the William Church Osborn Playground (now the site of the Metropolitan Museum’s Temple of Dendur). Later vandalized, and long in storage, the gates were restored by the Central Park Conservancy and reinstalled in 2009 at the entrance to the Ancient Playground at Fifth Avenue and 85th Street.

In 1997, the landscape of the 1960’s-era children’s zoo–perhaps best remembered for the larger-than-life play features of Jonah’s Whale and Noah’s Ark–was replaced with a more naturalistic woodlands design by Quennell Rothschild. The redesigned zoo was named for Laurence A. Tisch, who sponsored its construction. The sculptural gateway has remained throughout these changes and serves as an enduring example of the power of Manship’s art to inspire and delight many generations.

During 2018, the Central Park Conservancy’s monument conservation staff disassembled the bronze, and cleaned and recoated it since it had not been treated since the 1980s. Manship’s sculpture was reinstalled, the granite columns were cleaned, and the letters were gilded.

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Ice Skating Rinks
Harlem Meer Center (formerly Lasker Rink)

The Harlem Meer Center is closed in order to rebuild the facility to increase access to nearby communities and enhance year-round programming. For more information, visit Central Park Conservancy's Rebuilding Harlem Meer Center page.
Anticipated Completion: Spring 2024

Outdoor Pools
Harlem Meer Center

The Harlem Meer Center is closed in order to rebuild the facility to increase access to nearby communities and enhance year-round programming. For more information, visit Central Park Conservancy's Rebuilding Harlem Meer Center page.
Anticipated Completion: Spring 2024

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