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Belvedere Castle Central Park photo by Rachel Fawn Alban

In 1858, the City of New York held a design competition for Central Park. The winning plan, by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, was named the ‘Greensward Plan,’ and featured an English style landscape with meadows, lakes, hills, winding pedestrian paths, and many trees to block the view of city buildings.

Over the years, the park has evolved from the original plan due to changing administrations and in response to the changing needs of New Yorkers. In this post, we look at some quirky and surprising details in the park that were not a part of the original Greensward Plan, yet have become a part of its history and character. For more secrets of Central Park, make sure to also join us for our upcoming tour:

Secrets of Central Park Walking Tour

1. Sheep Meadow

Sheep in Central Park 1930 From Herbert Mitchell Collection Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sheep grazing in Central Park in 1930 (From the Herbert Mitchell Collection/Metropolitan Museum of Art)

At the insistence of the Park’s Commissioners (and despite considerable objections by Olmsted and Vaux), this area was marked as a parade ground for military drills on the original Greensward plan. However, by 1864, the designers had reclaimed the open space and transitioned it into a beautiful meadow and a grazing area for 200 sheep, called ‘The Green’. According to the NYC Parks and Recreation Department, the designers suggested that the sheep enhanced the Romantic English quality of the park, as well as maintained the lawn.

Sheep's Meadow, photo by Rachel Fawn Alban

In 1934, the sheep were eventually moved to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, possibly to avoid being used for food by people during The Great Depression. The former Sheepfold, which had housed sheep and shepherd, was converted into the restaurant The Tavern on the Green.

Where to find it: Above is a photo of Sheep Meadow today, on the West Side from 66th to 69th Streets. See more vintage photos of sheep in Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park here.

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3 Responses
  1. For those living in the Upper East Side , nothing is prettier than exploring Central Park in the springtime. After all that walking around, check out some of the neat eateries that pop up. I recommend the Rogue Tomate’s Cart in the Park. You can end the day with an upscale picnic by the zoo!

  2. j flanagan Reply

    Is there an good walking tour book for central park you can reccommend

    Thanks

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