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Central Park Conservancy Blog


Celebrating (and Preserving) the Statues and Monuments of Central Park

On February 11, a crowd of thousands in their winter warmest will gather at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park to witness a shimmering spectacle: using saws, picks, and chisels, the ice-carving artists of Okamoto Studio will transform more than 6,000 pounds of ice into a replica of the Park’s beloved Alice in Wonderland statue.

This is the crowd-pleasing centerpiece of the Central Park Conservancy’s 6th Annual Ice Festival, a winter celebration of the more than fifty statues and monuments that reside in Central Park — and the Conservancy’s commitment to preserving them.

In its collection, Central Park boasts some truly remarkable gems including the first New York sculpture commissioned to a female artist (Emma Stebbins’ Angel of the Waters) and a bench that doubles as a sundial (the Waldo Hutchins Memorial bench).

Join us in celebrating some of the most beloved monuments in New York City.

In 1859, the first permanent sculpture was installed in Central Park, featuring the bust of Johann C.F. von Schiller. Since Schiller was a Romantic dramatist, nature poet, and philosopher, the statue was originally placed in the Ramble — an area complementary to his works and philosophy. Today, Schiller’s bust can be found on the Mall, but a bench in the Ramble marks the spot where the statue originally resided.

The newest permanent sculpture in the Park is the Group of Bears statue, by renowned American artist Paul Manship. This sculpture of three bears was added to the Park in 1990 and currently resides in the playground at East 79th Street. You can also find a version of this statue at the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art (among other works by Manship) in the Charles Engelhard Court of the American Wing. Manship's other works in Central Park include the Osborn Gates at Ancient Playground and the Lehman Gates at the Tisch Children's Zoo.

Though there are 22 statues of historical male figures in Central Park’s 843 acres, there have been none of real-life women ― until now. “Herstory” will be made when monuments of two extraordinary women, suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, make their debut at the southeast corner of West 77th Street and Central Park West, near the entrance to the Park.

The beloved Alice in Wonderland, Balto, and Hans Christian Andersen statues are especially popular amongst the Park’s younger crowd. These statues have all welcomed some wear from the hands of Park-goers, as evidenced by their particularly smooth and shiny surfaces, but the ability to get up close and personal with the statues can be revelatory. Hans Christian Andersen, sculpted by Georg Lober in 1956, holds a secret! If you look close in the palm of Hans’ left hand, Lober inscribed a note of devotion and encouragement to his wife Nellie.

Dating back to 1450 B.C., the Obelisk is the oldest man-made object in Central Park and the oldest outdoor monument in New York City. Nicknamed Cleopatra’s Needle, it was originally carved on the banks of the Nile. After it arrived in America in 1880, it took six months to transfer the Obelisk from the Hudson River into the Park, where it was finally turned upright for all to enjoy.

From 2013 through 2014, the Conservancy completed a comprehensive project to clean and conserve the monument. Although the primary purpose was to enable further study of the monument and promote its long-term preservation, cleaning the monument had the most dramatic outcome, revealing its granite surface and hieroglyphs that had been obscured by decades of dirt and pollution.

All of the Park’s statues and monuments require yearly upkeep to help them stay looking resplendent. Join us at our Ice Festival on February 11 to learn more about the Conservancy’s preservation efforts and celebrate the Park’s statues. Matt Reiley, the Conservancy’s Associate Director of Conservation, will share some of the tricks of his particular trade: making sure Central Park’s statues are preserved for generations of Park visitors.