This green 55-acre area is the geographical center of Central Park, and one of the most famous lawns in the world. It is located Mid-Park from 79th to 85th Street.
The site of the present-day Great Lawn was not always the pastoral meadow we see today. From 1842-1931, the area served as the York Hill receiving reservoir, part of the Croton Aqueduct system that first brought fresh water to New York City. The system leveraged water from Westchester’s Croton River (thirty eight miles upstate) to the York Hill reservoir, and then on to the distributing reservoir on the site of today’s Bryant Park. The arrival of fresh water in New York City was one of the most important public health advances of the 19th Century, and today New York can claim the title of "the world's oldest continuously running urban water supply."
When Central Park was established and designed in the 1850s, Olmsted and Vaux detested the harsh rectangular shape of the reservoir, and installed large plantings along its tall stone walls in an attempt to camouflage the site. Its design was anathemic to their plan for curvilinear paths and naturalistic landscapes.
The reservoir was decommissioned in 1931 and filled with excavation material from Rockefeller Center and the Eighth Avenue subway. A flurry of site proposals soon followed. Suggestions included a World War I memorial, airport landing pads, a sports arena, an opera house, underground parking garages, and even a vault to store motion pictures. Olmsted and Vaux's vision of a rural retreat ultimately prevailed, and a lush oval lawn opened on the site in 1937 with baseball diamonds added in the 1950s.
Through the years, the Great Lawn played host to memorable performances by Simon and Garfunkel, Diana Ross, Bon Jovi, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York Philharmonic. Unfortunately, such large gatherings and unregulated use through the 1960s and 70s left the oval a "Great Dust Bowl." In 1997, Central Park Conservancy completed a major two-year restoration of the Great Lawn to its original splendor.
Please note: Dogs are not allowed on the Great Lawn. See our Dog Owner’s Guide to Central Park for details on off leash hours, dog-friendly drinking fountains, and other important information for dog owners.
Each winter, the Great Lawn closes for the season. This allows our turf crew to provide much-needed care for the landscape, ensuring that it will be ready for the influx of visitors come spring. For specific information about when the Great Lawn will re-open in the spring, please visit the Alerts and Closures page or follow us on Twitter.