NEW YORK, NY - The iconic Central Park has the familiar Great Lawn, Sheep Meadow, Strawberry Fields, and a zoo, too. Yet on a brisk Sunday in late December, a Meetup group met for a tour of some lesser known points of interest at the north end of the green space in the center of Manhattan.
Central Park, comprised of approximately 750 acres, was designed by agriculturalist Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux after they won a competition in 1858.
This Sunday’s 4-mile tour of almost 40 met at the Museum of the City of New York, located on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street. From there the group cut into the park through the Vanderbilt Gate into the Conservatory Garden. The wrought iron gate that was made in France was gifted to the city by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Tour guide Bruce stopped at the Untermyer Fountain that features Walter Schott's Three Dancing Maidens. The garden is said to be a real treat when the tulips and the Korean chrysanthemums are in bloom.
As you wind your way to the overlook at Fort Clinton, you pass a plaque placed in honor of Detective Steven D. McDonald, who was shot in 1986 by a 15-year old boy he later forgave. Det. McDonald had been paralyzed from the neck down, and spent his life making speeches about forgiveness. He died in 2017, and the dedication of the plaque was made in July 2018.
The Fort Clinton overlook was named for DeWitt Clinton, who was the mayor of New York during the War of 1812. It was then that a fortification was built on the site to ward off a British attack on the city. The Central Park Conservancy rebuilt the overlook in 2014, and installed two cannons.
From there, the tour headed to the oldest building in Central Park, the Blockhouse, the only remaining fortification still standing. It once held a cannon, but today the Blockhouse is empty. Find it on the West Side at 109th Street and Central Park West.
The gang visited another military fortification site from the War of 1812 called Nutter’s Battery, named after Valentine Nutter, a local landowner.
The group encountered a cascading waterfall that is part of the Loch, Scottish for lake, that winds through the Ravine. From there, Bruce brought everyone under the Huddlestone Arch. Built in 1866, the arch is made up of giant, uncut boulders and held in place by just gravity and pressure, and it is constructed without the use of mortar or other binding material. It was designed by Calvert Vaux. Find it mid-park at 105th Street.
Bruce took the group up some slightly muddy trails, and after descending, he walked us under the 1865 built Glen Span Arch. It was originally made of wooden trestles that were later replaced with gneiss rock. As you pass through walking south, you notice a grotto to your right, and you emerge to a see a waterfall pool. Find it on the West Side at 102nd Street.
The walking tour stopped at Seneca Village, where in 1825 Andrew Williams and Epiphany Davis were the first African Americans to purchase land in the area, from West 82nd to West 85th streets between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Not long after, trustees of the AME Zion Church followed suit, buying eight lots of nearby land.
Bruce then took everyone to Summit Rock, the highest natural elevation in the park. The site, according to the Central Park Conservatory, "originally commanded a view across the Hudson River to the New Jersey Palisades, making it a logical place for Olmsted and Vaux to provide both a carriage and pedestrian overlook."
If you are looking for a walking or hiking day trip with some fun folks, check out groups on Meetup.com.