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Central Park

The Bridges of Central Park: Balcony 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 separate levels of pathways. Vaux and his assistant Jacob Wrey Mould (1825-1886) created 35 uniquely ornamented bridges of varying materials: brick, granite, marble, cast iron, rustic wood, and rusticated gneiss boulders, fashioned out of the rock outcrops. Modification to the path system over the years has resulted in the creation of four additional arches and the destruction of three original ones.

Olmsted and Vaux named this Balcony Bridge in the hope that its small balconies with stone benches would be an ideal resting place for visitors to pause and observe the landscape. It spans the part of the lake that was Ladies' Pond in the 1870s, an area reserved for female ice skaters and their guests. The pond was filled in during the 1930s, when ice skating on the lake was no longer popular. Balcony Bridge is made of Manhattan schist and mountain greywacke. Its balconies are only on the eastern face, and it is one of only two bridges in the park to feature asymmetrical sides.

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