One of the most beloved monuments in the parks of New York City, this musical clock hovers above the arcade between the Wildlife Center and the Children's Zoo. A gift of publisher and philanthropist George T. Delacorte (1894–1991), it was dedicated in 1965.
Delacorte, whose many gifts to the City of New York include the Alice in Wonderland statue (1959) and the Delacorte Theater (1962) in Central Park as well as fountains in Bowling Green Park (1977) and Columbus Circle (1965), conceived of the clock as a modern version of belfries in churches and city halls dating back to the Middle Ages.
Designer Fernando Texidor collaborated with architect Edward Coe Embury (son of the 1934 zoo’s designer, Aymar Embury II) to create a brick arcaded bridge between the Monkey House (now the Zoo School) and the main Central Park Zoo quadrangle to house the clock and its animal sculpture carousel. Italian sculptor Andrea Spadini (1912–1983) crafted the whimsical bronze sculptures, which depict a penguin, kangaroo, bear, elephant, goat, and hippo parading with a variety of musical instruments as well as two monkeys with mallets that strike the bell.
Each day between eight in the morning and six in the evening, the clock--now digitally programmed--plays one of thirty-two nursery rhyme tunes on the hour. On the half-hour, the mechanical performance is a bit shorter. The animals rotate on a track around the clock and each also turns on an axis. On June 24, 1965, the clock was officially unveiled before a large crowd of spectators and dignitaries, including Parks Commissioner Newbold Morris, former Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, and Manhattan Borough President Constance Watley.
In 1995, the Central Park Conservancy supervised a restoration of the clock and sculptures, financed through an endowment established by the family of Mr. Delacorte in 1993.
Delacorte Clock Details
- Location: Main walkway between Zoo and Children's Zoo
- Sculptor: Andrea Spadini
- Architect: Edward C. Embury
- Description: Three-tiered mechanical clock; bottom level has six animal figures marching around clock tower in igrillwork frame; clock faces above the animals; clock tower topped by two monkeys and bell; clock is on top of arched gateway; two plaques
- Materials: Animals and bell--bronze; Grillwork--iron; Gateway--brick and limestone
- Dimensions: H: 18'6" W: 23'4" D: 5'9"; Each plaque H: 7" W: 9"
- Cast: 1965
- Dedicated: June 24, 1965
- Donor: George T. Delacorte / George Delacorte Fund
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