Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Bridges and Arches of Central Park - Part 2

This is a continuation of my previous blog where my friend Angel and I walked through fifteen of the thirty bridges and arches in Central Park. This article will be about the next fifteen bridges and arches. I will continue to link them with their specific pages from Bridges of Central Park as the book contains detailed descriptions.

The last bridge we covered in Part 1 of this blog was the Ramble Bridge, and while we were in the area, we saw one of the rustic bridges which has a view of the Lake. A lot of people were crowding on the bridge and when I tried to see why, this was what I saw.

A black-crowned night heron stalking prey!  

We didn't try to find the other rustic bridge as it was deep inside the Ramble near the Azalea Pond. What we did was skirt the Ramble's edge along the Lake until we came to the most famous bridge in the park, the graceful Bow Bridge.
Bow Bridge, so familiar to all friends of the park, stands today as the most revered of all the Central Park bridges. The grace and style of the balustrade and the story of cannon balls set in its base somehow set Bow Bridge apart. Like the others, it is in scale and harmony with the surroundings, connecting the Ramble and Cherry Hill with a graceful arch over 60 feet of the Lake. Original plans for the abutments' interior note the presence of cannon balls as movable bearings at the Ramble end of the span, to allow the cast iron to expand and contract. Unitized girders span 87 feet, with an expansion differential of 2 to 3 inches from the hottest summer day to the depths of winter's cold. The bridge is 15 feet 8 inches wide and its arch rises 9 feet 6 inches above the level of the Lake. Some 19 drawings survive in the Municipal Archives.
The span was constructed in 1859-60, with ironwork provided by Janes, Kirtland & Co. While work was underway, the company won the contract for the dome of The Capitol in Washington, D.C. Bow Bridge was rushed to completion, with minor changes made to save time. In 1862, the railing was in place.

The above photo was taken a month before, on a beautiful spring day. A week after I took that photo, the bridge was closed for restoration workOn the day of our walk, the southern end of the bridge was covered with tarp which the gondolier deftly avoided as he proceeded to steer his passengers along the lake. 

There is a small piece of land which juts out in the Ramble that has a great view of both the Bow Bridge and the Terrace Bridge across the Lake.
From an upper terrace, grand stairways on either side descend to an esplanade or "water terrace" below. At its center is the famous Bethesda Fountain. Above the fountain's several basins and iridescent cascade, above its clustered cherubs, stands the Angel of the Waters. Taken together the Bethesda is the city's greatest fountain.The bridge, so far as it serves to carry the carriage road and walk over the entrance from the Mall to the Lake, has a height of 16 feet, a span of 29 feet, and a breadth of roadway of 45 feet. The roadway is supported on wrought iron girders 24 inches in depth, ranged 6 feet 11 1/4 inches apart, and connected with brick arches. The girders rest upon a portion of the main sidewalls of the Terrace structure.

A closer view of the arches. 

And I have to mention its famous ceiling. It is the only place in the world where Minton tiles are used for a ceiling.
The large ceiling was the chief visual element. It was covered with brilliant encaustic tiles made by the Minton Company of Stoke-on-Trent, England. Jacob Wrey Mould who worked with Vaux on the decoration was obviously inspired by Moorish work.Minton tile was once also considered for the floor here, much as it is found today on many floors in the United States Capitol. What is here today are panels of red tile bordered with strips of bluish granite, the whole installed in 1910.
Here's a photo taken at blue hour last winter. See how pretty the ceiling is!

After walking through the Ramble, we realized we had to go back south so we can cross off Trefoil Arch and Willowdell Arch from the list. But first things first! We had a lunch break at the Conservatory Water with this view.

I could stay here all day and watch the kids try to steer the model boats. Ahh, the simple joys of childhood!

We then proceeded south to the Trefoil Arch, the only arch whose ends have distinctively different shapes.
The eastern side of Trefoil Arch has one of the most distinctive facades of all park archways. A round trefoil, which explains the name, frames the archway entrance in the Gothic style with not one, but two focal points equidistant from the center, a trefoil being an ornament in a three-lobe pattern. Most surprising of all is that the revetment is brownstone throughout. In a generation when brownstone, from the banks of the Passaic and Connecticut Rivers, spread throughout the city and beyond, it was not the favored stone for the park bridges.
The tunnel inside is lined with common brick under wood sheathing. Cast iron was used for the east railing. Trefoil was completed in 1862 on the designs of Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould.Trefoil is under the East Drive on the path leading from Conservatory Pond to the Lake and Boathouse, in line with 73rd and 74th Streets. Its span is 15 feet 10 inches between abutments, with the highest point 11 feet 9 inches above the path. The underpass is 66 feet and the railing 110 feet long. 

The view from the rounded end of the arch. Isn't that pretty?

Then we set off to find Balto. The dog's statue is near the Willowdell Arch.
Willowdell is a sandstone-and-brick segmental arch located at the East Drive on the latitude of 67th Street between Fifth Avenue and the Mall. Its red-brick facing and sandstone trim give it a resemblance to Driprock, its counterpart at the Center Drive.
Willowdell's archway is only 49 feet long, measuring 14 feet 10 inches across and 9 feet 10 inches high. Weathering inside the archway from wind-whipped rain has eroded mortar and created some efflorescence. Outside the eastern portal is a statue dedicated to the dog Balto. It was given to the city to commemorate the efforts of Alaskan sled dogs who transported diphtheria serum across Alaska. 

The Bridges of Central Park further state:
The archway has bench seating in the wall arcades. A center niche on the north side once contained a fountain, now broken. The idea was to give mothers a place to rest and relax with their children in tow, though it seems doubtful that the echoes under an archway could give any mother relief from boisterous youngsters for too long.
I've seen that broken fountain in previous walks, it's on the left side of this photo, the second arch from the left on this photo.

Here's a closer shot.

Then we headed back north again to look for our twentieth bridge for the day, Glade Arch.
Glade Arch, near Fifth Avenue and 79th Street, is among the first of Calvert Vaux's designs. Like Denesmouth, further south, the low elliptical span was constructed with a light-colored New Brunswick sandstone. It measures 29 feet 6 inches across and is 10 feet high. The underpassage is 50 feet 7 inches, and the balustrade extends for 95 feet.

I love this arch, it's kind of hidden but that opening above leads the walker to Cedar Hill, a very good spot for a picnic during the summer, and a great sledding area in the winter. 

Glade Arch's interior vault is made of red Philadelphia brick.

From Glade Arch, we followed the path past Cedar Hill and crossed the 79th Street Transverse and made our way towards Greywacke Arch.
Gray sandstone and North River greywacke from the Hudson Valley alternate with brownstone from the banks of the Passaic in New Jersey. The surface of the greywacke is tooled, that of the brownstone bush hammered. The earthy gray and brown colors form a contrasting, decorative pattern that accents the horseshoe contours of the arch and the brownstone-incised molding above. The pointed ornamental sculpture is featured on both elevations. The iron railing is in an abstract pattern. The underpass vault is in red brick with white brick inserts. Abutments are fully covered. The span is 11 feet 3 inches high at its apex, and 18 feet 3 inches between abutments, while the passage underneath is 56 feet long.
From Fifth Avenue, the arch is the gateway to the Great Lawn and there is always a lot of foot traffic, like the day of our walk so I wasn't able to take a good shot. Here's a photo from a previous walk, the alternating sandstone and greywacke look so pretty.

The arch's underpass is one of my faves, look at that unique design!

Just a few steps away from Greywacke Arch is The Obelisk the oldest man-made object in Central Park, and the oldest outdoor monument in New York City. We stopped by briefly to take a rest from the heat when something in one of the trees caught my eye .. a robin's nest!

That was so cool!

Then we're off again walking north towards The Reservoir. Around The Reservoir are three of the park's remaining cast-iron bridges, but we were only able to go to the Southeast Reservoir Bridge.
Reached easily from the Fifth Avenue and 85th Street entrance to the park, Southeast Reservoir Bridge is one of three cast-iron spans over the bridle path in the vicinity of the Reservoir.Much trafficked, it links the Reservoir footpath, a crossing at the drive, and paths coming from two popular park entrances.The 33-foot long span has a height clearance of 10 feet 3 inches, a moderate size for a cast-iron arch. The span was erected at one-fifth the cost of a stone span, one explanation for the popularity of cast iron in the last century.

It was a grey and cloudy day, I think it made The Reservoir look prettier. Agree?

From The Reservoir, we passed through the North Meadow until we reached Springbanks Arch, one of the gateways to The Ravine in the North Woods.
Springbanks Arch, with a striking resemblance to some of the archway facades at Regent's Park in London, is a shaped-stone and brick-masonry structure located at the north flank of the North Meadow on the latitude of 102nd Street. A short flight of uneven slab steps leads down to its underpass. Its semicircular arch is segmented with rough stone from the Hudson River Valley. Narrow, long, but with little headroom, the archway measures 17 feet 5 inches across, 9 feet 2 inches high and 71 feet long. Red brick lines the passage. A modified entablature follows the shape of the arch at the center and extends outward along the revetments that curve at right angles into the soil. The abutments are covered with soil and planting. A cast-iron railing on the south side is 50 feet 8 inches long.

Just a little bit further from that end of the arch is one of the rustic bridges in the North Woods. I love it here, it's so peaceful, you'd never know you're in the middle of the city.

Across this rustic bridge is Glen Span Arch, the gateway between The Pool and The Ravine.
The arch is built of large-sized, light-gray gneiss, roughly dressed and laid in ashlar. Boulders are piled randomly around the boulder abutments placed at the time of original construction. Ornamental detail includes a belt course at the spring line, some pentagonally shaped voussoirs and upright members on each side of the east-arch elevation.The span width is 16 feet with a height of 18 feet 6 inches. The underpassage is some 50 feet alongside the brook. The sidewalls on top are 65 feet long.Within the underpass are wide archways to either side. The one to the south by the path is shallow, the north one deep. Purely decorative, these grottos are vestigial remains of a popular device of the Picturesque style.

Those ladies in colorful gowns are from And All Directions I Come to You presented by Lauri Stallings + Glo. It is part of Drifting in Daylight, a free exhibition at the north end of the park of eight site-specific artworks that promises to engage all of your senses. The exhibition ended on June 20, 2015.

A lot of people were watching the performance so it was hard to take a good shot of the entire Glen Span Arch. Here's a shot from last winter, see how pretty the arch is in the snow.

At the other end of The Loch is I think one of the park's best kept secrets, one of its waterfalls.

Facing this waterfall is the third gateway to The Ravine, the Huddlestone Arch.
Of all the archways in Central Park, Huddlestone is the most picturesque. To sit at Huddlestone's southern portal on a spring day in the Ravine is not to be in New York, but in a country setting where forsythia abounds and the sound of a gently flowing brook soothes the spirit.The bridge is striking for the immense size of its boulders. One lodged in the base is reputed to weigh close to one hundred tons.
Vaux's instructions to the men building Huddlestone were to choose boulders lying around the park that were most reminiscent of untamed nature. Unlike many bridges further south in the park with precisely cut stone in ordered patterns or with delicate ironwork, the boulders of Huddlestone Bridge look as if they were brought together by some natural phenomenon that just happened to leave a 22-foot wide, 10-foot high arch. 

According to the park website, the arch was constructed without the use of mortar or other binding material, and only gravity and pressure keep the massive boulders in place. Wow!

The above photo was taken from the north end of the arch looking south to the Ravine. Here's one taken on a misty and foggy winter day, this time from the south end of the arch.

The north end of the Huddlestone led to the Harlem Meer. It looked so pretty the day of our walk.

By this time we have walked the entire length of the park, from south to north. From the Meer, we turned westward which would lead us to the northernmost arch of the park, Mountcliff Arch.
As the other two to the south, Claremont Arch and Eaglevale Bridge, it is built of gneiss in rockface ashlar. Material and handling are suitably rugged for this end of the park, which has its steepest slope along with a nearby cliff. It is a big bridge, being 102 feet long and 48 feet high, with a Tuscan arch some 16 feet high and 21 feet wide.

A few blocks south of Mountcliff Arch was the last arch we visited that day, Claremont Arch.
The bridge at Central Park West and 90th Street had no name. As it is over this bridge that the cavaliers enter the park, and as the Claremont Riding Academy at 175 West 89th Street is the only survivor of the many stables once found around the park, it seems appropriate to adopt the Academy's name, which was originally that of a country house that once stood north of Grant's Tomb.
The bridge has an arch approximately 8 feet high, 9 feet 4 inches wide, and 58 feet long, the length explained by its being beneath the access road. The stone is Manhattan schist in rockface ashlar. The parapet walls, also of schist, are about forty feet long. The bridge has unusual elevations in that, horizontally, they take the shape of an elongated S. 
Claremont Arch is the other arch that is closed-off to the public and is currently used as a storage area.

When we first started to plan out our walk, Angel and I were thinking we'll try walking to half of the park's arches and bridges. Well, it was a very productive day! We were able to visit 27 arches and bridges in about eight hours of walking.

We missed just three: Winterdale Arch, and the two other bridges around the Reservoir bridle path, the Southwest Reservoir Bridge, and my favorite, the Gothic Bridge. I'll share below photos of these bridges that I've taken during previous walks in the park.

Winterdale Arch is along the West Drive by 82nd Street.
Winterdale Arch was so named because it was part of what was known as the Winter Drive. On both sides in this stretch were planted evergreens for winter color. The imposing breadth of its arched opening is enough to host both the bridle path and a pedestrian path separated by an ordinary pipe rail fence running under the dark hollow.
The wide, elliptical arch has a span of 45 feet 6 inches, the largest span of all the stone and brick bridges, and a height of only 12 feet 3 inches. The arch is faced with smooth Maine granite and set in regular ashlar sandstone moldings that follow its contours. Buttresses to either side of the arch curve down to low supporting walls with posts treated as stylized urns. The interior vault and walls are lined with Philadelphia pressed brick interspersed with Milwaukee white brick in a cross pattern.

Winterdale in winter, that sure looks pretty!

The Southwest Reservoir Bridge is just several meters north of Winterdale Arch. There are only few instances when the area below the bridge is void of vehicles as it is close to the Central Park Police Precinct and police vehicles are always parked by the bridge. Luckily, I have a shot of the bridge without any vehicles parked below so you all can see how intricate the details are.
The stone abutments, substantially below ground, support the 38-foot, 2-inch-wide and 10-foot, 9-inch-high arch and a 72-foot span with openwork ornament. The floral scrolls of the cast-iron spandrels and railing reflect an innovative motif of interlacing leaves and curling forms. The posts have tops in the shape of modified urns.

Completing Central Park's bridges and arches is the Gothic Bridge or Bridge No. 28, located at the middle northern end of the Reservoir.
This famous cast-iron bridge, designed by Calvert Vaux and erected near the north gatehouse of the Reservoir by 94th Street, was long known simply by number. Yet, it seemed somehow deserving of a name and has lately received one, appropriately, "Gothic Bridge."
The cast-iron spandrels are developed like Gothic windows modified into windblown curves conforming to the oval contours of the arch. Floral crockets adorn the inside of the curves. Graceful and distinctive, the archway is 37 feet 5 inches at its widest point and reaches a height of 15 feet 3 inches.
Gothic Bridge is 11 feet 7 inches wide and has a 93-foot railing. It was manufactured by the J. B. & W. W. Cornell Ironworks. The abutments are of Manhattan schist from the park.The third of the cast-iron bridges around the Reservoir, like the other two, permits visitors to avoid crossing the bridle path. Equestrian traffic today hardly mandates the presence of the bridge, but it remains as a fanciful addition to the landscape, for the visitor's delight.

It sure is one lovely bridge!

I hope you enjoyed walking with us as we went from bridge to bridge, arch to arch. I'll end this post with this panoramic shot I took while we were walking along The Lake that day.

Central Park is one beautiful place, and its bridges and arches make it more charming and easy to make memories in. I consider myself lucky that I am able to enjoy the park and walk there as often as I want to. Hope you all could get the chance to see and walk across its bridges and arches!

Check out more photos of the park's bridges and arches in my Flickr album: Central Park Bridges


  1. I love the chronicling part of this blog as well as the great pictures you've taken to go with each one (much more info than just at flickr alone) but it will take me a while to try to digest it so, slow and steady .... Enjoy this spring in NYC as well! :>)Bev

    1. Thank you so much Bev! Love all the park's bridges and arches, I try to take a pic or two each weekend to add to the collection :-) Have a great spring season, too!

  2. I think Gothic Bridge is my very favorite bridge - I love the curves. It reminds me of delicate lace. What it must have been like to ride around Central Park in the 1800s in a horse-drawn carriage! I love how you have photos in both winter/fall and spring/summer time. Yes, the snow on the tree branches/plants/bridges is beautiful. The park must sound quiet/still after a recent snowfall when folks are curled up in their warm homes. You have brought Central Park to a lady from Maryland. Thank you. Linda

    1. Thanks so much Linda! The park is such a magical place, no matter the season. I always count myself lucky to be able to enjoy it as often as I can. Hope you get a chance to visit!