Bethesda Terrace, 1870s. Photo by Augustus Hepp via Museum of the City of New York
A few years after Central Park was completed, Augustus Hepp, the head gardener for the park was commissioned by the U. S. Secretary of State William Maxwell Evarts to create a portfolio of images – which appear today in a striking blue color. These images, available in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York, were originally used to American politicians to “convince their Continental counterparts that New York was not just an industrial powerhouse but also a mature and cultured city that could create great urban parks on par with those in Europe,” writes Sean Corcoran from the Museum. These photographs were even given as a gift to the French government in 1879.
Original Metropolitan Museum of Art building in Central Park
The images are digitized from 40 large format cyanotypes, and the chemical process gives it the blue tinge. Among the photographs, you’ll see the original Romanesque revival-style Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park (which is still enclosed within today’s Neoclassical building), Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Terrace, and much of the landscaped grounds.
The Bow Bridge
The Swedish Cottage
You’ll also see buildings and bridges that no longer exist, like McGown’s Pass Tavern that closed in 1915, the original boathouse designed by Central Park designers Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, the lost Marble Arch (literally buried), and the first version of the Gapstow Bridge, an iron and wood structure by Jacob Wrey Mould. It was replaced in 1897.
McGown’s Pass Tavern
Original boathouse which was replaced by the current boathouse in 1954
Lost Marble Arch, located across from Bethesda Terrace
The original Gapstow Bridge
Here are some additional photographs:
Cleopatra’s Needle, the Obelisk Moved from Egypt
Bethesda Terrace staircases
The Lake with The Dakota and the original building of the American Museum of Natural History in the background
A wooden bridge
The Mineral Springs Pavilion
Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of Central Park and vintage photographs of NYC Museums Under Construction.
Tickets to Central Park Horse and Carriage Tour with Lunch/Dinner at Tavern on the Green can be purchased here.