Belvedere Castle sits upon Vista Rock, the second highest natural elevation [Summit Rock, at 83rd Street overlooking
Central Park Westis higher.] in Central Park, New York City. It was designed as an additional feature of the Central Park "Greensward" plan by Calvert Vauxand the sculptor Jacob Wrey Mould, when the team of Olmsted, Vaux and Mould were reappointed to oversee the park's construction once again in 1865. The Croton Aqueductboard transferred ownership of the site to the Park in 1867 and the existing fire tower was demolished. [Rogers 1987:115.] Belvedere Castle was built in 1869, using Manhattan schistfrom excavations elsewhere in the park, dressed with gray granite. The castle provided a feature—a folly—that capped the natural-looking woodlands of The Ramble, as seen from the formal Bethesda Terrace. As the plantings matured, the castle has disappeared from its original intended viewpoint.
Balancing the mass of the main castle structure, Vaux's original design [The design, published in a lithograph, is illustrated in Rosenzweig and Blackmar 1992:203.] had called for a more weighty Manhattan
schistand granitestructure with a corner tower with conical cap, with the existing lookout over parapet walls between them. To reduce costs it was revised, before Olmsted and Vaux were dismissed a second time, in November 1870, and completed under the new Tammany Hallregime [Rosenzweig and Blackmar 1992:269f.] as an open painted wood pavilion.
When it was built, the view from Belvedere Castle provided a vista over the rectangular receiving reservoir, which has been replaced by the Great Lawn, [The Croton Reservoir was filled in with City building rubble, beginning with spoil from construction of the
IND Eighth Avenue Linefrom 1930 and completed in 1934.] an oval of turf with eight baseball diamonds, loosely defined by plantings of trees in clumps in the manner of the English landscape garden, and, at the foot of Vista Rock, the Turtle Pond, redesigned in 1997 as a naturalistic planting, in which no single vantage-point reveals the water's full extent. Sunken concrete shelving at varying depths provide ideal water depths for shoreline plants such as lizard's tail, bullrush, turtlehead, and blueflag iris. The success of habitat for birds, insects, amphibians, and reptiles is embodied in sightings of species of dragon-fly not previously sighted in Central Park.The castle housed the New York Meteorological Observatory, which was taken over by the United States Weather Bureau in 1912. It is still the site at which meteorological data is collected for Central Park.The two fanciful wooden pavilions deteriorated without painting and upkeep and were removed before 1900. [Ca. 1900 photograph in Barlow 1987:114 illustration.] Belvedere Castle, the object of much vandalism and deterioration, was closed to the public in the 1960s. It was restored and reopened by the Central Park Conservancy on May 1, 1983. In 1995, the Conservancy's Historic Preservation Crew replaced the painted wooden loggiaof the castle, working from Vaux's designs, on the granite piers and walls that had survived.
Belvedere Castle was used in exterior shots of the castle where
Count Von Countlived on Sesame Street. [http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Count_von_Count%27s_Castle]
*Rogers, Elizabeth Barlow et al., 1987. "Rebuilding Central Park: A Management and Restoration Plan" (MIT Press for the Central Park Conservancy).
*Rosenzweig, Roy and Elizabeth Blackmar, 1992. "The Park and the People" (Cornell University Press)
* [http://www.centralparknyc.org/site/PageServer?pagename=virtualpark_thegreatlawn_belvederecastle Central Park Conservancy:Belvedere Castle]
* [http://www.centralparknyc.org/site/PageServer?pagename=virtualpark_thegreatlawn_turtlepond Central Park Conservancy: Turtle Pond]
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