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View from Belvedere Castle, Central Park, Winter, New York City 7 | by Vivienne Gucwa
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View from Belvedere Castle, Central Park, Winter, New York City 7

Winter. Central Park, New York City.


"Belvedere Castle covers the summit of Vista Rock, the second highest natural elevation in Central Park, New York City. It was designed as an additional feature of the Central Park "Greensward" plan by Calvert Vaux and the sculptor Jacob Wrey Mould, after the team of Olmsted, Vaux and Mould had been reappointed to oversee the park's construction once again in 1865. The Croton Aqueduct board transferred to the Park ownership of the site, which overlooked the Lower Reservoir, in 1867, and the existing fire tower was demolished. Belvedere Castle was built in 1869, using Manhattan schist from 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 had called for a more weighty Manhattan schist and granite structure 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 Hall regime 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When it was built, the view from Belvedere Castle provided a vista over the rectangular receiving reservoir, which has been replaced by the Great Lawn, an oval of turf with eight baseball diamonds, loosely defined by plantings of trees in clumps in the manner of the English landscape garden,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.

Mould's bronze cockatrice in a transom of the Castle




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Taken on January 26, 2011