Courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

After more than a year of renovations, the historic Belvedere Castle in New York City’s Central Park will finally re-open to the public. This Friday, June 28th will mark the end of the Central Park Conservancy‘s fifteen month long, $12 million restoration of the iconic site. Since its opening in 1872, the Belvedere has held its place among New York’s architectural beauties, drawing visitors for both its historical value and its gorgeous views from the park’s second highest point. With a fitting name which means “beautiful view” in Italian, it’s no wonder Belvedere draws a million visitors every year. In honor of the castle in the heart of the big city, here is a list of ten little known facts about Belvedere Castle and its renovation.

1. The Belvedere Replaced a Tower the Herald Tribune Called an “Eye-sore”

Rendering of the proposed Belvedere by Olmsted, Vaux & Co., Courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

The Belvedere’s designers conceived of it as a “folly,” a building with no purpose other than its aesthetic appeal. It was built over the top of an older bell tower that had served a functional use for the nearby reservoir. Perhaps its purpose of getting its predecessor out of the way was important–the bell tower was so ugly that Clarence Cook, an important art critic at the time for the New York Herald Tribune, called the original structure an “eye-sore” in his column. When the more elaborate and fairytale-like castle replaced the tower, its view was called a “panorama,” and the castle became another incredible architectural transformation in New York.

 

Belvedere was constructed using Manhattan schist, a naturally occurring rock that is responsible for much of the natural geography of Manhattan and is the same type that makes up Vista Rock – the castle’s base. This is why the castle appears to be emerging straight from its rocky foundation. The light colored trim is made from granite quarried in Massachusetts.

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