Central Park is a National Historic Landmark of the United States. The 778 hectare park is located in Manhattan, New York City or as it is famously known, “The Big Apple”. This is one of the most popular places to visit in the world and every tourist who has been to New York can attest to that. It is the most visited urban park in the United States, recording a whopping 40 million visitors in 2013.
Central Park has to offer so many great sights and landmarks to see and check out. One of them is Belvedere Castle. As its Italian name suggests “beautiful view”, the castle offers namely a breathtaking perspective of the park. This whimsical structure is placed on the second highest point in Central Park. It looks on the reservoir to the north (now the Great Lawn) and the Ramble to the south. You can see the Delacorte Theater and Turtle Pond as well!
The park has been kept alive by its numerous historical sites, which generate a lot of tourism and interestingly, a lot of attention from Hollywood as well. The park hosts a number of attractions that, over the years, have led to a rise in the number of films shot in Central Park. A particularly popular tourist attraction site is the beautifully built Belvedere Castle.
In terms of architecture, the Belvedere Castle is considered a folly. A folly is a building constructed primarily for beautification purposes. It is often meant to look very extravagant and contrast starkly with the surrounding environment. True to form, Belvedere is a name of Italian origin which means “beautiful view” or “panoramic”.
The Belvedere Castle has existed since the late 1800s when it was designed by Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. It was built as a Victorian folly in 1969 bearing both Gothic and Romanesque designs. The classical design was tailored for a schist and granite structure, which was more suitable for the Manhattan landscape, boasting of features such as corner towers with conical caps and between them, a lookout over the parapet walls.
Originally, the Belvedere Castle in Central Park was just a shell with a beautiful stone facade, a grand turret and even a flag, which made it a very attractive feature of Central Park. It also had no functional doors or windows as its design was mainly for aesthetic appeal. A feature of its original design was two wooden pavilions that were quite fancy. However,due to negligence their condition deteriorated rapidly and they had to be removed in 1900.
From 1919 on Belvedere Castle has been chiefly used to house the New York Meteorological Observatory with wind equipment being positioned on the main tower of the castle. The Belvedere is built on the park’s second-highest natural elevation, which is the Vista Rock. It was originally overlooking the reservoir on the north side (currently the Great Lawn) and the Ramble to the south.
In 1983, due to its state of deterioration, the Central Park Conservancy closed the castle for renovations. It was remodeled to house the Henry Luce Nature Observatory where a number of historical artifacts pertaining to nature can be viewed by nature lovers. This is also when the castle became the bird-watchers’ haven it has been since then.
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