Vote to Give Cleopatra's Needle 3,400 More Years

Cleopatra's Needle
The 3,400-year-old Obelisk is one of 40 sites selected for Partners in Preservation 2012.

The Central Park Conservancy needs your help to preserve the Park's oldest attraction.

The Obelisk, known since its 1881 installation as "Cleopatra's Needle", is one of 40 sites selected from a pool of over 500 for Partners in Preservation 2012 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The top three sites, selected by popular vote, will receive $250,000 each for restoration projects. You can vote every day, once per day, until May 21. This is a great and free opportunity to support the Conservancy and Central Park!

Cleopatra's Needle was a gift from Egypt, and its arrival in 1881 was seen as a coming-of-age moment for New York as a world class city on the level of Paris and London. In fact, London is home to a twin Obelisk, also known as Cleopatra's Needle. "It would be absurd," a reporter wrote at the time "for the people of any great city to hope to be happy without the Egyptian Obelisk."

William Vanderbilt, philanthropist and son of railroad mogul Cornelius Vanderbilt, paid for the Obelisk's journey across the Atlantic. It took 112 days to move the 244-ton granite monument from the banks of the Hudson River to its current home at East 81st Street, right behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Obelisk was inched by laborers along parallel beams, aided by roll boxes and a pile-driver engine. Thousands of New Yorkers gathered to watch as the Needle was erected on January 22, 1881. Before being turned upright, a time capsule was buried beneath the base. It included copies of the 1870 United States census, the Bible, Webster's Dictionary, the complete works of Shakespeare, the Declaration of Independence, and a guide to Egypt. William Henry Hurlbert, who initiated the Obelisk project, also buried a small box. To this day, no one but Hurlbert knows what the box contains.

Partially burned and toppled for 500 years, Cleopatra's Needle sustained damage before arriving in New York. Though the Obelisk has been inspected each year since the Conservancy's inception, a full-scale inspection and cleaning has not been undertaken since 1983. A $250,000 Partners in Preservation grant would enable the Conservancy to perform necessary conservation work for the 3,400-year-old Obelisk, including site protection, constructing a free-standing scaffolding for expert inspection, re-adhering and stabilizing crumbling portions of the Needle's stone, and a full cleaning.

Please support our restoration efforts and vote for Cleopatra's Needle. You can cast your vote once a day, every day, until May 21.

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Things to See

  • Shakespeare Garden

    Shakespeare Garden is a four-acre landscape is named for the famed English poet and playwright. The garden is features flowers and plants mentioned in his poems and plays, with small bronze plaques scattered throughout the garden with quotes from the Bard.