10. The Great Lawn Used to Be a Reservoir
Today, the Great Lawn is 55-acres of lush green space, but it looked very different during the first few decades of the park’s existence. From 1842 until 1931 the space where Great Lawn is now, the geographical center of Central Park, was the York Hill receiving reservoir. The reservoir received fresh water from Westchester’s Croton River through the Croton Aqueduct system. which then travelled on to the distributing reservoir on the site of today’s Bryant Park.
When the reservoir was decommissioned in 1931, it was filled in with excavation material from Rockefeller Center and the Eighth Avenue subway. Before it was decided to go with Olmsted and Vaux’s original vision of a rural retreat, proposals were submitted to use the space for everything from a World War I memorial to a space for airport landing pad. Eventually, in 1937 an oval lawn was created and baseball diamonds started popping up in the 1950s.
You can still see elements of the reservoir when you walk by the 86th Street police station inside the park, one of the many historic ruins and remnants inside Central Park. You can even see a rock wall from the reservoir inside the new police station’s conference room.